Dave Micus, Plum Island Sound

December 15th, 2003

DEAR SANTA,
By Dave Micus

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 done shopping.

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 aficionado.

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 once seemed.

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

About 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.


Previous Dave Micus Columns

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