12 Days of Christmas Gift Ideas – Sweaty Waders Style – Day 10

The Humble Gift Card

Fly fishers can be a difficult group to shop for. The longer they’ve been in the sport, the more gear they’re likely to have. Which is not to say that they don’t want more (they really, really do), just that knowing what they might lack can be tough. Maybe you’ve been lucky; maybe they’ve been dropping hints for the last couple of months. But even then, getting just the right gift can be a minefield. Say they want a new rod. What weight? Do they prefer a fast-action rod, or one that’s got a little more flex? Do they like a softer tip on their rod, or not? Which rod would fit best with their particular casting style? You get the picture.

Genuine Brown Trout Skin (ok, not really)

Genuine Brown Trout Skin (ok, not really)

Don’t throw up your hands in frustration. There’s nothing wrong with resorting to the confused shopper’s best friend, the gift card. Yes, it’s fun to have something tangible to unwrap on Christmas morning. And most fly shops will happily make exchanges if you didn’t choose just the right gift. But why not give your angler the enjoyment of shopping for exactly what they want the most. Your average angler is going to jump at the chance to hang out in a fly shop and peruse all of the goods, especially with “money” to burn in their pocket.

Beginner, intermediate, expert. Any fly fisher would appreciate the thoughtful present of a gift card at his or her favorite fly shop.

12 Days of Christmas Gift Ideas – Sweaty Waders Style – Day 9

Lust-After Gifts

Looking for a gift for an angler who’s been very, very good? Want to really up the ante in your gift giving? The recipient won’t be able to thank you enough if you pop for one of the following ideas.

Sage One

Sage One

High-end fly rods are an experienced angler’s dream gift. There’s nothing quite like unwrapping one of these beautiful fishing tools. You’re not going to get off cheap; top-end rods retail right around $800. As with more modestly-priced rods, there are a number of great options on the market. Three we like a lot are the Sage One, the Scott Radian, and the Winston BIIIx. All are fast-action rods, built with the best components out there. Buying a rod for the frequent spring creek or small water angler? Consider Sage’s slow-action Circa. Or look into the hand-crafted beauty of a classic bamboo rod, such as those from Sweetgrass. Saltwater anglers would love to receive the aptly named Sage Salt. Want to give the ultimate? How about the Sage One Elite ($1295), which sports a titanium reel seat and a spare tip.

Tibor Signature

Tibor Signature

We already mentioned a few high-end options in our post about reels, such as the Hatch Finatic, the Abel Super Series, and the Ross F1. A gift of any of those would be met with great fanfare. Another reel that would excite your recipient, particularly if they’re fishing saltwater, is the Tibor Signature ($685-$865, depending on size). It can be engraved with the recipient’s name, as well as with various fish species (at an extra charge). New this year is a trout-sized (5-6 weight) version. Yum!

Simms G4Z Waders

Simms G4Z Waders

Do they need a new pair of waders? The Simms G4Zs ($799.95) are the ultimate pair of waders on the market. They’re durable, highly breathable, and come with all the bells and whistles. Of note is the extra-long waterproof zipper, which eases the often-difficult task of donning and removing waders (and is mighty handy when seeking quick relief).

Original art work, a new drift boat, a first-edition copy of the angler’s favorite classic fishing book….

Big Alaska 'Bows Like Streamers

Big Alaska ‘Bows Like Streamers!

Or why not send your loved one (and perhaps yourself as well) on the fishing trip of a lifetime? Maybe to someplace warm this winter, such as Belize, the Bahamas, or Brazil. Or next summer, to Alaska or, to really splurge, to Mongolia to fish for the world’s largest trout species, the taimen. Give the gift of life-long fishing memories!

12 Days of Christmas Gift Ideas – Sweaty Waders Style – Day 8

Give the Gift of Conservation

Trout depend on cold, clear, clean water to survive and thrive. In many, if not most, watersheds, those vital characteristics are constantly under threat. As anglers, we must remain vigilant if we wish our children and grandchildren to have the same (or better) fishing opportunities as we have enjoyed. Consider giving the gift of stewardship. Most anglers would appreciate a gift membership in a fisheries conservation organization or a donation made on their behalf.

430525_164447230333542_770104657_nTrout Unlimited is the most obvious choice for a national coldwater fisheries conservation organization. Give a gift membership. Membership includes a subscription to Trout magazine, an annual calendar, and membership in the nearest local chapter, which allows the recipient to participate in informational meetings and volunteer opportunities such as river cleanups. While you’re at it, get yourself a membership and plan to attend chapter events with the gift recipient. Is your

Not a fan of TU? There are a number of other organizations, both local and national, that focus either directly or indirectly on fisheries conservation. The International Federation of Fly Fishers, for example, has conservation as part of its mission. Do an internet search or ask other anglers, and you might turn up an organization that is fighting for the conservation of a local watershed or fish species.

NoPebbleMine_From Vector RGB.websitePrefer to make a donation in the recipient’s behalf? Again, there are numerous organizations that could use financial assistance, ranging from TU to the fight against the Pebble Mine in Alaska to local conservation groups. Choose one that the recipient would support and send them a card detailing the contribution and its intent. Give by giving back!

12 Days of Christmas Gift Ideas – Sweaty Waders Style – Day 7

Give the Gift of (Fly Fishing) Art

Rainbow Royal Wulff by Derek DeYoung

Rainbow Royal Wulff by Derek DeYoung

Not all gifts for anglers need to be for use on the stream (or even particularly useful). Fly fishing is an inherently beautiful activity. The quarry are themselves pleasing to the eye (especially to the angler), fly fishing tends to be pursued in attractive places, and the act of casting a fly is beautiful to watch. Not surprisingly, artists of all ilks, painters, photographers, even sculptors, have been drawn to fishing and fish as a subject matter. And most anglers would be thrilled to have an image of their beloved sport to hang on the wall.

Yellowstone-RiverNot all fly shops carry art, but some do. It’s worth a visit to your favorite shop to see if they have any paintings or photos on the walls. If they do, those images are more than likely to be from local artists and to portray fishing in the area. You might be able to find a portrayal of your recipient’s favorite stream or fish species. Another place to look would be galleries in areas where fly fishing is a big deal. Most galleries and artists these days have at least some of their work displayed online. A web search for art or photography in the local (or not-so-local) fly fishing mecca may turn up some gems. Looking for a memento of last summer’s fly fishing trip? Try calling a fly shop in that region and ask them if they can refer you to an artist or gallery in the area. It might take some leg work to find the perfect art to grace your wall, but it’s well worth the effort.

Original art (especially paintings) is, of course, pretty pricey. But most painters do prints of some sort for the more budget-minded. Some of these, such as prints on canvas, can look surprisingly similar to an original painting. Other types of prints, such as prints on metal, may have aesthetic qualities that you don’t find in the original. Signed and numbered prints can themselves be priced in the multiple hundreds of dollars. Still too steep for your budget? Some paintings and photographs can be found in a poster format. A framed poster can still look pretty classy.

OBOOK_ABOOK_109660Visual art isn’t your only option. Fly fishing has also drawn the literary sort. The essay, in particular, has been used by many fine authors to explore the thoughtful side of fly fishing. There are a plethora of books of essays in print that would be appreciated by the reading angler. Authors to look for range from the classic (Hemingway, Sparse Grey Hackle) to the more contemporary (John Gierach, Ted Leeson, Nick Lyons). These are only a sampling. Your local fly shop may carry some favorite titles, and a search on Amazon is sure to turn up something that your angler hasn’t yet read. In addition to essays, you may discover everything from short stories to mystery novels. Something for every reader.

Have a favorite fly fishing artist or author? Please post a comment to help others find the perfect artistic gift!

12 Days of Christmas Gift Ideas – Sweaty Waders Style – Day 6

A Beginner’s “Kit”

Does your gift recipient already have a rod, reel, and line? That’s not quite all they’ll need to get started in our great sport. Or maybe you’re looking for a lower-priced gift or some stocking stuffers for a beginner or intermediate angler. Read on. Today we’ll point out some of the essential gear that every fly angler needs. Think of it as a beginner’s fly fishing kit, in both senses of the word. Some of these gifts would also be great gifts for a more advanced angler who already has the basics. We’ll try to point some of those out as we go.

OBOOK_DOUGS_104248Let’s get started with instruction. Nothing is quite as good as a patient personal instructor, whether that person is a parent, a fishing buddy, or a paid instructor (more on that in a later post). But books and DVDs are great augmenters to such instruction. There are a number of very good instruction books out there for the beginning angler, including manuals by Orvis and L.L. Bean. The Curtis Creek Manifesto is one book that is surprisingly good in spite of, or perhaps because of, its comic-book format. It goes over all of the basics in a humorous presentation. Want something more serious and in-depth. We really like An Introduction to Fly Fishing for Trout, by Mark D. Williams and W. Chad McPhail. It’ll get the starting fly fisher on the water quickly, but also has great tips for the more advanced angler. Books can help the beginner learn to cast, but DVDs might be even better for that part of the learning process, as they visually demonstrate the necessary techniques. Joan Wulff’s Dynamics of Fly Casting is one such DVD, but there are numerous other good ones out there.

Royal Wulff

Royal Wulff

In order to fly fish, you need flies! And no angler can have too many, so flies make a great gift for even the most advanced angler. Pick out a good selection for the local area, or, if you’re not confident at doing that, have a fly shop employee do the selecting. Give them a number or a dollar value and let them choose some favorites. That’s why they earn the big bucks! Present the flies in a nice fly box and you’ve got yourself a gift that will be appreciated by any angler.

Abel Nippers

Abel Nippers

A few small accessories are also helpful, or even necessary, to fly fish successfully. Leaders and tippet, nippers, forceps, dry fly floatant, strike indicators, split shot, and the lot. Don’t know what any of these are? Again, feel free to go into your local fly shop and ask them to point you in the right direction. Or, again, you could give the fly shop employee a dollar value and ask them to put together a beginner’s package. Looking for a good stocking stuffer for an avid angler? Consider getting them a more expensive version of a basic tool than the recipient would purchase for himself or herself. For example, Abel’s nippers ($50-60) are sturdy, finely machined, look sweet (they come in multiple colors), and can cleanly cut even the thickest tippet material. Functional and pretty; better than the glorified fingernail clippers that most anglers use.

Fishpond Waterdance Guide Pack

Fishpond Waterdance Guide Pack

Finally, your angler will need something to carry all of this stuff. The classic fly fishing vest used to be the thing, but most anglers these days opt for a chest or hip pack. A beginner won’t have accumulated quite as much equipment or a bunch of boxes of flies. So he or she could go with a relatively simple, smaller pack such as Fishpond’s Flint Hills Lumbar Pack ($54.95). Someone who has been fishing for a while will probably need more room. Fishpond’s Waterdance Guide Pack (99.95) is one of our favorites. Waterproof packs are very nice and keep your gear dry in the rain (or during a short unplanned swim). Consider Sage’s Technical Small Waist Pack ($150; or its large cousin, $250), as well as waterproof packs by Fishpond, Simms, and Patagonia.

Catch you tomorrow (ouch!).

12 Days of Christmas Gift Ideas – Sweaty Waders Style – Day 5

The Reel Deal, Part 2

In yesterday’s post, Paul explained some of the things to think (or ask) about when making a reel purchase. Today, I’ll mention a few specific reels that we like here at Sweetwater Fly Shop. As with our post about specific rods to consider, this represents just a sampling of the quality reels that are on the market. But it should at least give you an idea of what’s out there, what you’re likely to pay, and the like. I should mention that all of the reels I’ll talk about today have disk drags. Click and pawl drags are pretty specialized for smaller fish on smaller creeks or lakes. We’re assuming here that you’re looking for a more versatile reel that can be used for a variety of fishing situations.

First off, what do you get by paying more? Less weight, for one. As with rods, more expensive reels tend to be lighter. That’s going to be particularly important if the gift recipient has a light (more expensive) rod. A reel should balance well with the rod that it’ll be used on. Think of the rod as a lever with the grip hand as the fulcrum. It’s going to take less weight at the reel end to balance out the weight of a light rod. Ok, enough physics. You’re also going to tend to get a more complex drag system, and a sealed drag as well. That doesn’t always translate into a better drag, but it sometimes does. A better drag tends to be smoother, with less start-up inertia. To put it another way, it’s less likely to “grab,” potentially breaking the leader when there’s a big fish pulling on the other end. Finally, there’s aesthetics. More expensive reels tend to look fancier, and less purely functional. If beauty is one of your considerations, you’re likely to pay a bit more. By the way, the prices quoted below, except for saltwater reels, are for the reel model sized to hold a 5-weight line.

Most reels sold today are large arbor reels. Which is to say that the spool around which the line is wound is bigger (wider) than on a small arbor reel. That allows faster line retrieval and helps prevent the line from “setting up” in loops. The primary downside is that a large arbor reel doesn’t hold as much backing. Some purists prefer small arbor reels, but such reels are relatively hard to find and in general the advantages of a large arbor reel outweigh the disadvantages.

What’s the bottom end of the price range? I’d say it’s right around $100, if you want to give a reel that’s unlikely to cause the recipient any difficulties in the near future. You might find a perfectly good reel for less than that, but it’s going to be hit or miss.

Redington Surge

Redington Surge

What can you get for around $100? A perfectly decent reel, especially for trout fishing. It’s likely to be cast, rather than machined. One such reel that we’ve had good luck with is the Redington Surge ($79.95), which has proven to be durable and comes with a lifetime warranty. Another reel worth looking at is Lamson’s new Liquid ($99.95), which can be outfitted with a colored “sleeve” ($9.95) for extra color “pop.” Extra bonus – the drag components are made in the U.S., though the rest of the reel is imported. You might also consider the Ross Flyrise ($110.00), which has the same drag system as some of Ross’ much more expensive reels.


Ross CLA

Spend a bit more, and you’re likely to get a fully machined reel and one that is a bit more pleasing to the eye. The Redington Rise is a workhorse that sports many of our rental rods. And it comes in 3 different colors, if your recipient might want to make a statement. The Ross CLA ($200) has been a best-seller here at the shop and possesses many of the features of their higher-end reels. If you’re looking for an affordable saltwater reel, take a look at the Redington Delta ($199.95-$259.95), which has an anodized finish to resist corrosion.


Hatch Finatic

 We’re getting up to the premium reels, a gift that would thrill a more experienced angler. High on our list is the Ross Evolution LT ($299), a very light and stylish reel with a bomber drag. Want a little edgier look? The Nautilus FWX  ($275) is another reel that we’re high on. It, too, is extremely light and has a very smooth sealed drag with very little start-up inertia. Want to give your angler a truly “lust-after” reel? The Ross F1 ($530) and Hatch Finatic ($450) are both machining masterpieces that boost the latest and greatest in drag design and that look pretty sweet as well. They also both come in larger sizes that make them great saltwater reels.

Any questions about rods or reels? Feel free to email us here at Sweetwater Fly Shop.

12 Days of Christmas Gift Ideas – Sweaty Waders Style – Day 4

The Reel Deal

Reels, like rods, come in several price points from inexpensive to, sometimes, pretty expensive. So, how do you know where to begin searching for a reel-y good Christmas present (That was bad, I know).

Nautilus FWX

Nautilus FWX

There are several ways to begin your search. First, determine how much you want to spend on your loved one (maybe your favorite loved one is yourself, then this will be easier).

Second, think of where that loved one likes to fish. Is it small water for small fish? Big rivers for larger fish? Saltwater? What kind of fish do they most often pursue: warmwater species, trout, salmon and steelhead? The answers to these questions will help you find the perfect reel.

If inexpensive is your primary factor then either you’re being a smart, frugal shopper or you may want to call the person for which you’re shopping a liked-one rather than a loved-one. Being honest is always the best choice.

Reels can be broken into two categories a couple of ways: type of drag system and method of construction. Their are two ways to construct a metal reel: pour a cast reel into a mold or cut one from a solid piece of metal (machined).

Cast reels are less expensive than machined reels because machining is more labor intensive. Machined reels are generally cleaner looking than cast ones. But the primary supposed advantage of a machined reel over a cast one is strength of materials. Machined reels are stronger. But 99% of the time that really doesn’t matter. And if you run either type of reel over with your car, you’ll be crushed and so will they.

If the person you’re shopping for is primarily a saltwater fisher then a cheap reel really isn’t an option. Salt water is corrosive, quickly destroying metal that isn’t design to withstand it. So at the very least, you’ll want an anodized reel with a sealed drag system. These reels are almost always machined.

Anodizing creates a coating on the metal’s surface, through a chemical process, that protects the metal from scratches and dings, but also from salt water. Sealed drag systems prevent sand on other objects from entering the drag and destroying it.

Saltwater fishers and those who fish brawling rivers for salmon and steelhead also need reels with a greater capacity for holding backing and fly line. These big fish have more room to run in their larger watery abodes, and you don’t want your reel to run out of line.

Larger reels with great capacity generally cost more than smaller ones. You’ll also want to make sure the reel has a strong drag with a large surface area. Big fish in big water pull harder and longer than small fish in small water. That makes a reel’s drag system very important for these types of fly fishers.

Knowing all of this, you still don’t have to break the bank to buy a reel for a saltwater or steelhead and salmon fisher. But be aware that it will probably cost at least a couple hundred dollars for a decent reel in this category, though you can spend much, much more if you want to.

There are many more reel options for the trout and bass fisher. I know some fine anglers who insist that a trout reel is little more than a line holder and that drag systems are unimportant. And if you fish small water for small trout, that may be true. But even if you only hope of catching a large trout or bass someday, then your reel’s drag system should at least be considered.

There are two main categories of drag systems: click and pawl and disk drags. There are many types of “disk drags” but for our purposes here we’ll lump them all together.

Click and pawl drags are the simplest type. They are often (but not always) built into inexpensive reels. They basically work like putting a baseball card into the spokes on a bicycle. Only in a reel, the card is meant to cause friction against the spokes, causing the reel to turn slowly thereby tiring a fish.

Disk drags come in many forms. Just like building a better mouse trap, it seems as though each year another reel company hits the scene with yet another disk drag built a little differently or out of supposed better materials. But all of these reels usually have one thing in common: they cost more.

Reel prices generally run from around $100 to $500 or more, depending upon brand, drag, and cosmetics. Some reels from companies like Abel and others can be purchased with graphic images built into the finish and this adds to the price.

Next time we’ll look at some specific models from a variety of companies and try to give you the best options to fit your needs and budget.

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