It's difficult to choose gifts for someone who
is hyper-focused on a particular sport or hobby.
Chances are he or she already has things you
wouldn't even know to buy, and any attempt you
make to feed the obsession will be meager at best.
Thus it is with fly fishers.
If you are buying for a fly fishing partner, and
are heir to a fortune, you might consider getting
him an Orvis bamboo rod, which sells for about
$1,200. You can match that with a Bogdan reel,
a hand-made engineering marvel that sells for
about $1,500. You'll have to buy the Bogdan used
to have it for Christmas, as I understand there
is a three-year waiting list, but I'm almost
positive that any fly fisher would be thrilled
with even a used Bogdan reel. That's it; you're
But if you're not obscenely wealthy, gift buying
might be a little more complex. Even a moderately
priced fly fishing line sells for $50, (which non-fly
fishers find amazing). A fairly ordinary salt water
reel can cost over $250 and I recently saw a review
that referred to a $490 rod as being 'mid-priced.'
You get the point. But please don't think you have
to buy your fly fishing partner a fruitcake; there
are still plenty of items that won't break the grand
banks but will be appreciated by the fly fishing
Books are always a good present, but you need to be
careful. It is said that there are more books written
about fly-fishing than any other sport, and I believe
it; I own most of them (just ask the bride). But as
I peruse my library I find that many of these books
are like Enron stock—not quite as valuable as they
If I were to pick my three favorite fishing books they
would be An Outside Chance and The
Longest Silence, both by Thomas McGuane, and
Trout Bum by John Geirach. Any fisherman
will enjoy one, if not all, of these books. And, of
course, there is the fishing bible. No, not Izaak
Walton's The Compleat Angler (a ponderous
book I'm convinced was written to discourage his readers
from fishing), but Norman McClean's A River Runs
Through It (in which Paul says of Walton, "The bastard
doesn't even know how to spell 'complete'"). The DVD of
"River.." wouldn't be a bad gift either.
Interestingly, some of the best fishing writing is
about the commercial fishery. The Perfect Storm
by Sebastian Junger is a compelling story about the
sword fishery, just don't judge the book by the movie.
Beautiful Swimmers by William W. Warner
is a Pulitzer Prize winning book about commercial crab
fishing in the Chesapeake Bay and Cod by
Mark Kurlansky is an eclectic history of the cod fishery
and its impact on the world. Two of my favorite books,
Men's Lives by Peter Matthiessen
and Striper by John Cole, detail the authors'
careers fishing for striped bass commercially and they
might just change your opinion of commercial fishermen.
I'd highly recommend any of these.
Clothing is another option, but, take it from one
that has received his fair share, don't buy shirts
with 'Women Want Me, Fish Fear Me,' 'A Way to a Man's
Heart is through His Fly,' or any other such nonsense
emblazoned in huge letters across the front or back.
It might get a chuckle on Christmas morn, but will
end up buried in the back of the closet. A t-shirt
with a small logo on the chest pocket is acceptable,
but you might be better off forgoing the clothing idea.
Fly fishers are like ten-year-old children (and we're
proud of it). Remember how it felt when you were
ten and received clothes for Christmas?
Which segues nicely into my next suggestion; like
ten-year-olds, fishermen dig gadgets and the gadgets
don't even have to be fishing related. We like
compasses and tide-watches, all condition lighters
and waterproof flashlights. You can find all of
these things at Eastern Mountain Sports or L.L. Bean.
One of my favorite gifts was a good steel thermos — the
beach is mighty cold at 4 am and a hot cup of coffee
is bliss. A waterproof disposable camera would come
in handy, as would a topographic map of the areas
fished most. Polar fleece socks and fingerless gloves
are appreciated. Gifts like these aren't very expensive,
but they demonstrate that you at least put some thought
into your gift selection.
A final option is a gift certificate. Best of all, you
won't even have to leave the house to get this one, as
you can order them right from the web.
Though not exactly the gift of the magi, any of these
items will impress your fly fisher, while not emptying
the coffers, which means you can start putting money
aside for that Bogdan reel (but order it soon — remember
the three year waiting list!). Save the "Women Want Me,
Fish Fear Me" shirt for his 60th birthday, when he might
just wear it. ~ Dave
Dave Micus lives in Ipswich, Massachusetts. He is an
avid striped bass fly fisherman, writer and instructor.
He writes a fly fishing column for the Port City Planet
newspaper of Newburyport, MA (home of Plum Island and Joppa Flats)
and teaches a fly fishing course at Boston University.