Our resident fly fishing expert weighs in with his picks for the very best gifts for the angler on your list this holiday season.
Sage X Fly Rod 509-4
Sage builds rods just across Puget Sound from where Boeing builds airplanes, and that proximity lets Sage borrow carbon fiber technology from the aerospace giant. The X series proves the Sage engineers can get the best out of the state-of-the-art composites. The 5-wt X offers powerful fast-action performance with a nuanced line control typically found only in much slower rods. We found we could fish small dry flies as comfortably as huge streamers with the X, though the rod excels when you have to toss big stonefly patterns, or hopper-dropper rigs, well out into a broad river. The X is a perfect rod for big western rivers full of lunker trout.
sageflyfish.com | X Fly Rod 509-4 $895
Ross Colorado LT Reel
Ross Reels enjoys a well-earned reputation for offering durable, effective products, and their Colorado LT reel stands out as an excellent example of why that is. The click-and-pawl drag system provides smooth line control when tackling a variety of trout fishing conditions. The large-arbor spool holds an abundance of backing, while allowing a fast pick-up of line during retrieves. The sleek reel — weighing just 3 ounces — comes in three sizes to handle 0 wt to 5 wt lines.
rossreels.com | Colorado LT $285-$295
Orvis Helios 2 Covert 905-4 Rod
The Orvis Helios 2 series has garnered praise since its launch a few years ago (including a Best in Class award here) so the Orvis team decided to do something special this holiday season. A limited run of special-issue 5- and 8-wt Helios 2s, dubbed the Covert rods, can be had through the holidays. The Covert rods boast matt-black finish from tip to butt. Black paint. Black line guides and wraps. Black carbon fiber reel seat. Even matt-black logos and decals. The Covert Rods have a sleath look with all the glowing performance of the orginal Helios 2s.
orvis.com | Helios 2 Covert 905-4 $850
Adventure Medical Kits Steelhead
It’s all fun and games until someone embeds a fly in their skin — or slices a finger with a fillet knife. Then the fun ends — at least until the injury is patched up. Safely getting back to the fun is one reason Adventure Medical Kits offers a kit design specifically for boaters, anglers, and other aquatic recreationists. The AMK Steelhead kit includes the basic first aid gear needed to treat the most common injuries that occur during paddle sports. The Steelhead, part of AMK’s Ultralight and Watertight line, packs the first aid gear into waterproof pouches, which fit securely in a tough, bright-orange zippered kit bag that floats. It makes a great addition to any boatman’s gearbox.
adventuremedicalkits.com | Steelhead $25
Patagonia Stormfront Sling 20L
Whether wade-fishing stretches of fast-moving river, or floating those moving waters, every angler wants to keep their gear close at hand, while also making sure it is secure and dry. The Patagonia Stormfront Sling provides a perfect solution. The fully waterproof bag can be completely submerged without leaking so if a boat takes on water or a wading angler takes a fall, they don’t have to worry about their gear. The slim padding on the adjust shoulder strap provides good comfort and a secure carry. The large main compartment can hold multiple fly boxes as well as a jacket, lunch, camera, etc., while the small front pocket is ideal for securing small tools and accessories. With gadget-happy anglers in mind, Patagonia designers added several ‘keepers’ to which pin-through zingers and lanyards can be attached without having to pierce the waterproof membrane.
patagonia.com | Stormfont Sling $229
Orvis Boa Pivot Wading Boots
Designers have installed Boa laces on a wide variety of products, but few placements are more appropriate than those on wading boots. Where traditional laces can become difficult to untie when soaked in muddy water, the Boa system can be adjusted easily in or out of water, with just one hand. Orvis makes great use of the Boa system on their Pivot Boots. Those rubber-soled wading boots fit snuggly and the stout upper provides solid ankle support while wading through rocky river bottoms. The soft rubber lugs of the outsole provide great traction when hiking to your favorite fishing spot, and grip well on slimy rocks. But if a bit of extra bite is needed for fast moving, deep water wading, the Pivot boots accept optional PosiGrip screw-in studs. These tungsten-carbide screw-in studs bite and hold onto rocks, moss, mud, and river weeds even better than tradition felt soles.
orvis.com | Boa Pivot Wading Boots $199 | PosiGrip Stud Kit $28
Fishpond Nomad Native Net
Catch-and-release anglers know a good net can make all the difference between releasing a healthy fish, and releasing an injured or stressed one. The Nomad Native net has proven itself to be a good net. The slim hoop is made from a carbon fiber and fiberglass composite, is lightweight and comfortable to carry. The long oval shape of the hoop makes it effortless to slip the net through the water and under hooked fish. The clear rubber net bag is nearly invisible under the surface, and it won’t injure the fish once netted.
fishpondusa.com | Nomad Native Net $126
Redington Sonic Pro Waders HDZ
When pursuing cold-water fish, it’s often necessary to actually get into that aquatic environment to be effective. But while trout, steelhead and salmon love cold water, anglers typically prefer to stay warm and dry. The redesigned Sonic Pro HDZ enable anglers to enter the water, while still staying perfectly dry. The Sonic-Pro HDZ boasts stout waterproof-breathable fabrics and welded seam construction for strength and durability. A waterproof front zipper makes it easy to slip in and out of the waders, and it also provides convenience on the river when nature calls. Zippered fleece-lined pockets on either side of the chest allow the opportunity to warm-up river-cold hands between casts.
redington.com | Sonic Pro Waders HDZ $500
Simms Waypoints Backpack
When trekking into a remote fishing spot, anglers need to carry not only their fishing gear, but also the items needed for a day in the wilderness — lunch, extra jacket, camera, etc. The Simms Waypoints Backpack gives anglers 30-liters of carrying capacity to handle all their fishing, trail and travel gear. What sets the Waypoints apart from standard hiking packs, though, is the suspension system The shoulder straps on the Waypoint sport an array of pockets and patches for anglers to use to carry their fishing tools. There’s even an integrated sleeve in the back of the Waypoints sized specifically to carry a rod tube.
simmisfishing.com | Waypoints Backpack $150
Astral Designs Ronny Fisher PFD
Personal flotation devices (PFDs) often get overlooked by fly fishers, but many boating anglers charge down powerful rivers where a quality PFD should be worn. The Astral Ronny Fisher vest was built specifically for those anglers. The vest features a thin, foam back panel generously cut back from the arms to ensure there is no restriction to arm movements, so that it won’t impede a cast. The front sports a couple of big drop-front zippered pockets to secure flies and angling tools. The highly adjustable strap system provides a perfect fit while ensuring the vest stays in place — no ‘riding up’ for the Ronny Fisher. This is PFD that provides great personal safety without affecting fishing performance.
astraldesigns.com | Ronny Fisher PFD $160
Black Diamond Storm Headlamp
Dedicated anglers find it hard to leave actively feeding fish. As a result, they frequently find themselves struggling through the riverside brush in the dark after a long day of fishing. In these situations, the Black Diamond Storm is a lifesaver. The compact headlamp fits easily into a pocket or corner of a pack bag when not in use. But after night fall, the Storm provides 250 lumens to guide you home. And since the Storm is waterproof, there’s no need to worry about keeping it dry while wading.
blackdiamondequipment.com | Storm Headlamp $50
Even catch-and-release anglers can come home smelling fishy. Just the simple act of handling fish can leave an odor on skin and clothing for hours. Enter De-Fishing. While other soaps may mask strong odors, the De-Fishing liquid soap reacts with the enzymes and chemicals that create those odors, thus eliminating them altogether. This is the gift that rewards the anglers — and those who love them.
defishingsoap.com | Soap 3oz. bottle $6.99 | Pocket Pack $0.99
Helle Hellefisk Fillet Knife
Any angler who even occasionally eats their catch knows a good knife is essential for safe, effective fish cleaning. The Hellefisk could be the best fillet knife you’ll ever find. The thin, steel blade is just flexible enough for filleting delicate panfish, while having enough spine for boning and gutting big fish. The cork handle provides a comfortable, secure grip, while also making the entire knife float so you won’t have to worry about dropping it off your boat or dock.
helle.no | Hellefisk Fillet Knife $114
Hillsound Freestep6 Crampons
The Freestep6 Crampons helps keep wading anglers stay upright in slick river conditions. The crampons slip easily onto nearly any wading boot or even light rafting shoes—the rubber support band simply stretches around the footwear’s upper, snugging the steel cleats tight against the boot’s outsole. The sharp spikes on the five stainless steel hubs and heel bar bite into, mossy river rocks, and slick submerged logs. For boat anglers, the crampons slip on and off easily so you won’t mar your boat, or puncture your raft!
hillsound.com | Freestep6 Crampons $40
Simms Intruder Boots
Slipping into a cool trout stream in nothing but shorts and sandals feels great, until your feet go out from under you. One alternative is trading in sandals for traditional wading boots, but those are sized to fit over bulky wader booties and often end up being awkward when worn alone. Fortunately Simms developed the Intruder boot specifically for the wet-wading enthusiast. With an integrated neoprene sock, the Intruders fit perfectly on bare feet, and the stout synthetic uppers are supple, yet tough. Underfoot, a panel of dense felt provides great traction on moss-slickened rocks, while outer circumference of the sole features a firm rubber tread for durability and traction when hiking into your favorite fishing hole. The Intruder is the new standard for summer fly-fishing footwear.
simmsfishing.com | Intruder Boots $180
Lifestraw Steel filter
Staying hydrated when surrounded by water should be easy, and thanks to Lifestraw it is. All that river water flowing around anglers can look incredibly enticing, but knowing it could be loaded with pathogens and other contaminants makes it less then ideal to just cup a handful out for a quick drink. The Lifestraw Steel allows anglers to just bend down and drink from their river. The Steel contains a 2-stage filter to remove bacteria and protozoa while also stripping out most organic chemical matter. The Lifestraw slips easily into a pocket for quick use while wading too.
lifestraw.com | Lifestraw Steel $55
Yeti Hopper Flip
Yeti coolers have secured a strong following among anglers. The big hard-sided coolers can be used as boat seats in drift boats and large rafts, and the coolers are effective at keeping food and drink icy cold for days on end. But for solo boats, the big coolers are overkill. Enter the Yeti Flip Hopper. This small soft-sided cooler will easily hold 12 beverage cans as well as ice to keep it chilled. The zippered lid is waterproof, so if it gets knocked out of a kick-boat or angling kayak, it will stay afloat while keeping out river water. Straps around the body of the Flip allow it be to clipped to raft D-rings or kayak straps, so knocking it out of a boat isn’t likely anyway. The Flip proved effective at keeping food and drink cold all day while floating the Yakima River, even during the heat of summer.
yeti.com | Hopper Flip $280
Post Fly Box
If an angler seems like they own everything they could possibly need for their fishing experience, remember Rule One for fly fishers: There’s no such thing as too many flies. With this in mind, Post Fly Box’s service is a great option for the hard-to-buy for angler. Subscribe to the service and Post Fly sends a monthly box of flies suitable for your chosen activity. The choices include Trout, Warmwater, Saltwater, Steelhead, and Fly Tying. Each monthly delivery includes an assortment of flies (or fly tying material, if that is your choice), a written description of each fly, and an assortment of add-on gear such as leaders or tippets. The service costs vary from $19 if paid monthly, to $169 for a pre-paid annual service ($14 per month).
postflybox.com | Subscription Box Service monthly $19 | annual $169
Ruffwear K-9 Float Coat
Even the best swimmers need the safety of a personal flotation device in active cold water — including personal water dogs like Labradors. As a general rule, when boating with dogs, if you’ll be wearing a PFD, then your dog should, too. The K-9 Float Coat, available in six sizes, fits securely about your dog without hindering swimming movements. The Coat includes a stout webbing handle so you can assist dogs back into boats or up onto docks if they go into the drink. The coat provides flotation for even the largest dogs (the largest size fits dogs with chest girths up to 42 inches).
ruffwear.com | K-9 Float Coat $80
Smith Guide Choice
The ability to see fish greatly improves the odds of catching them. For that, you need quality polarized sunglasses, and Smith Guide Choice glasses have proven to be incredibly effective for anglers. The plastic composite frames and ChromaPop+ lenses are very lightweight, allowing you to wear them all day without creating pressure spots. Those ChromaPop+ lenses also provide exceptional clarity and through-water vision. The Guide Choice glasses include a detachable leash so anglers can slip off the glasses without worrying about losing them in the water.
smithoptics.com | Guide Choice Sunglasses $229
Pack Towel Nano
When working in aquatic environments, things get wet. Glasses, cameras, phones all seem to draw drops and drips no matter how well they are protected. The Pack Towel Nano takes care of those water problems. The small, highly-absorbent micro-fiber towel is ideal for cleaning sunglasses, removing water from cameras and phones after use, or just simply drying your hands after releasing a fish. Unfolded, the Nano measures 19 inches square, but it packs into a stuff sack that’s smaller than a bottle of dry fly floatant. The stuff sack comes equipped with a small carabiner to help keep the towel readily at hand.
cascadedesigns.com | Pack Towel Nano $10
Sometimes things go bad. Bolts come loose on pack frames. Line guides bend on rods. Reels get gunked up and need to be disassembled. Beer bottles need to be opened. For these jobs and more, a multitool is handy, and the Leatherman Signal offers a great blend of tools to address most possible angling needs. The Signal includes the expected items — knife blade, bottle opener, can opener, screwdriver, and pliers — as well as a few others. There’s an awl, safety whistle, blade/hook sharpener, fire starter, and saw. The Signal is a modest 4.5 inches long when closed and weighs just 7 ounces.
leatherman.com | Signal Multitool $100
Topo Designs Tenkara Rod Co Kit
The ancient art of Tenkara fishing enjoys wide appeal for one primary reason: It’s the easiest possible way to get a line on the water. And while many fly anglers would never consider giving up their regular fly fishing gear, most would appreciate the chance to carry a fishing kit virtually anywhere. The Topo Designs Tenkara kit includes a rod that breaks down to just 9.75 inches long but telescopes out to 10 feet 6 inches. The kit also includes a traditional Tenkara line, tippet material, a couple of flies, and carry bag that doubles as a fanny pack. Tenkara is basically fly fishing with a reel, with a fixed-length line. It may not be a replacement for fly-fishing for every anglers, but it is a great supplement for anglers who travel, especially to remote, hard-to-reach waters.
topodesigns.com | Tenkara Rod Co Kit $298
IceMule Pro Catch Cooler
Designed specifically for kayak use, the IceMule Pro Catch coolers feature a tapered design that fits snugly into kayak prows. The soft-sided coolers feature tough 1000-denier outer material, and a water-tight roll-down closure system. The highly efficient soft foam insulation is capable of keeping food and beverages cool all day long. But the Pro Catch really shines when used as originally intended: As a method of keeping freshly caught fish chilled while still out on the water. Load up the Pro Catch before heading out for the day, then simply tip out as much ice as necessary to make room for each fish you want to bring home as you reel them in. Your catch will never be fresher.
icemulecooler.com | Pro Hatch Cooler $120
Other 2016 Holiday Gift Guides