While traveling through Wisconsin back in September, I stopped at a Christmas-themed store. The parking lot was full.
I asked the owner if they were having a sale. She responded that Christmas is now a year-round business, and business was booming.
Holiday shopping seems to get earlier every year. Call me “old fashioned,” but I still wait until December to buy gifts.
Are you a late shopper who has a fly fishing friend or family member to get something for — with a budget under $50? There are literally hundreds of non-tackle gift options, with items ranging from artwork to books to clothing to fish-themed dog bedding and even fly-themed wind-chimes.
But if you’re looking for something of practical use, here are a few sure-fire suggestions.
- Stripping guards
Fly anglers retrieve line by stripping it through their index and middle finger. After a day of fishing, line abrasion can leave cuts or burns on these fingers — especially while in the salt, or on sandy creeks.
Stripping guards fit over the fingers. They’re lightweight, quick-drying and breathable. Most are SPF-rated as well. Guards come in a pack of five, and prices range from $6 to $9. These have become as important to my fishing as caps and sunglasses.
- Floating sunglasses
We all love our Costas, Smiths, Oakleys, etc. But lanyards can be a royal pain at times. It’s one thing to drop your Costas while wading a creek: It’s another to lose them in 15 feet of water.
Fortunately for those situations, floating polarized sunglasses have arrived. Makers include Wave, Rheos, Floating Eyewear, Mako and others. Best colors for fly fishing are amber, yellow and vermilion. Prices range from $25 to $50.
More expensive models are available, but from experience with two brands under $50, there’s no need to spend more.
Sometimes known by one of the brand names (Buffs), these lightweight, UV-protected fabric tubes fit around your neck. But they can be worn in a multitude of ways to protect your head, ears and face from the cold, or harmful sun.
Many fly fishers own one — just one. Trust me, every fly angler needs several. I keep one each in my cold water, warm water and saltwater bags. I also keep a spare in my camping backpack, and one in my glove compartment. I use them for fishing, hiking, mowing grass and any other outdoor activity.
Gaiters come in an infinite number of colors and skins. Fly shops sell the ones most popular with fly anglers, featuring images of redfish, bass, tarpon, trout, etc..
Makers include Buff, Simms, Huk and many others, and prices range from $10 to $30.
- Simms Challenger Pouch
This might be the most useful item I own. This 8-inch by 7-inch pouch is great for holding spools, tippets, a camera, finger guards or any other items I don’t want loose in my large gear bag.
It can also hold up to four fly reels.
The pouch features dual zippers for better access and a transparent front that makes it easy to identify what’s inside. MSRP is only $15.
- Seal line 4L Hip Pack
I absolutely love my Orvis lumbar pack — except when it rains. Waterproof hip packs have only recently entered the market, and can be pricey.
The exception is the Seal Line 4L Seal Pak. It’s small (3 x 8 inches), lightweight and PVC free. It sells for just $49, in part because it uses a roll-top closure instead of high-priced waterproof zippers. However, it does have a front zippered compartment for quick access to items.
The Seal Pak comes in five colors, and can also be converted to a shoulder sling.
I don’t own the Seal Line brand, but a similar one that has been discontinued. It’s been invaluable on hiking trips, and on frequent kayak fishing trips, to save my camera and phone.
- Rubber net
If your loved one does any catch-and-release fishing — as they should — then they owe it to the fish to use a smooth rubber net. According to biologists, those knotted-string-and-nylon nets we’ve used for decades removes a lot of fish slime — slime that protects against parasites and fungus.
Like anything in our sport, rubber nets can be pricey. Fortunately, there are numerous options under $40. Most have wooden frames, but a few have anodized aluminum frames for use in saltwater. I prefer the clear nets, as they’re more UV-resistant.
- LED cordless fly tying light
If you have a loved one who ties flies, check this out. Sold under several brand names, this lightweight gooseneck light clamps to a standard 3/8-inch vise stem.
The light that comes with it is often the Nebo brand that runs on AAA batteries. I switched out my Nebo 180 lumen circular 4x zoom for a Nebo Lil Larry (linear, 250 lumen) and it works even better. Using rechargeable batteries, I get about six hours of strong light.
If you sometimes tie in situations where electricity isn’t available or an extension cord isn’t practical, then this is a must-have. Prices range from $20 to $30.
Tips for fly fishing in December
Another cold and wet winter is forecasted for Louisiana. That’s okay, because crappie love crappy weather. So find those deep brush piles and hit ‘em with Fluff Butts, Silli Butts and Crappie Candies on a long leader.
For redfish anglers, dark days and clear water mean dark and neutral patterns will be the rule. Bottom flies like the LaFleur’s Charlie in purple or black, Haleys Comet in purple, Bissett’s Cajun Crustacean and Borski Slider will all be good choices.
In calmer conditions, bring out the poppers. There’s nothing like seeing those pumpkins blow up on a surface fly. While any popper or gurgler will work, the new Double Barrel Popper from Flying Fishmen Company is proving to be deadly on the poisson rouge.
Speckled trout will be hitting those same poppers on calm days, either early, late or in overcast conditions. On sunny days, go with the LSU Clousers (purple, gold, white) under a VOSI.
Another kind of trout gets lots of attention this month — the “rainbeaux” trout.
Sometime before Christmas, ponds across the state will get stocked with cold-water rainbow trout. Those include several in East Baton Rouge and statewide under the LDWF “Get Out and Fish” community fishing program. Nothing is as exciting as hooking these colorful fish and watching them jump.
Until they get used to the insect life of the ponds, minnows will be their main diet. For this reason, woolybuggers in olive and black are a sure bet.
While rainbow trout can get very big, the ones stocked will be mostly 9 to 14 inches. A 5-weight outfit is all you need. But for more fun, try a lighter rod like a 2 or 3-weight.