Gifts for an angler, big or small, need to have the right fit and feel

The Enterprise — Michael Koff

John Rowen, Capital Angler columnist, displays some of the fishing gear he has that would make good holiday gifts.

The great thing about giving holiday gifts to anglers is that there are so many options for any budget.

Choosing a gift depends on what you know about the angler and your budget. Before choosing something such as a fishing rod, tackle box, lures, or waders, please ask what is needed before buying.

Although these items are not like underwear or other intimate clothing, they are personal. They need to have the right fit and feel. For example, each category of fishing rod, such as spinning, fly, or bait-casting, has rods with a different feel.

While casting some are stiff, others have more play; some are long, some short. An angler usually has a fishing rod that he or she feels comfortable with and it’s hard to duplicate the feel in another person’s head or muscle memory.

If you think that choosing a bigger-ticket item such as a rod, tackle box, or waders is a good idea, consider setting some money aside and offering to take a shopping trip where the angler can look at a range of items, determine the trade-offs, and make a selection.

When I asked my California friend, Steve Posner, about holiday gifts, he wrote back, “Best Stocking Stuffer (Huge Stocking Category)” and included a link to Flycraft USA, which makes inflatable fishing boats ranging from $2,995 to $4,605.

Despite this advice, I still like to give small fishing items as holiday gifts. I usually buy things that are tried and true — but sometimes buy something that sort of jumps out at me from the shelf or the rack.

After speaking with Mark Loete, the Catskill angler and photographer, I realized smaller gifts, too, like lures may be too personal for the person receiving the gift. When I asked Mark about Christmas, he wrote, “Assuming there really is a Santa Claus ... How about a new magical fly that no one in your circle of fly fishing friends has ever heard of, that catches fish almost every time you use it? OK, failing that, for the fly tiers amongst us, how about a Whiting Silver grade dry fly rooster cape in the elusive blue dun color?”

My favorite tried and true lure is the Acme Kastmaster, a shiny, lozenge-shaped lure that has a treble hook, and sometimes feathers, as a skirt at its back end. This item comes with a silver or gold finish and is made in a variety of weights.

It fishes well in salt and freshwater. It might be made by the company that makes the anvils and explosives so prominently featured in the Roadrunner cartoons. Animal lovers need not worry: while fishing this lure in the last 50 years, I have never caught a coyote or roadrunner with it.

For under $5, our local stores have good selections of Kastmasters and other single lures or flies. In the same price range, it is possible to buy hooks or sinkers. For between $5 and $20, shoppers can purchase a boxed set of lures or flies.

Wilderness Adventures Press has an attractive and informative set of 11-by-17-inch maps of rivers and river systems, which cost $9.95 each. Three maps in the series cover New York waters: the Beaverkill and Willowemoc Creek; Salmon River; and the Delaware River: East and West Branches. If your angler wanders out of state, Wilderness Adventures publishes maps for 120 rivers in 21 other states.

Beth Waterman, coordinator at the Jerry Bartlett Angling Collection at the Phoenicia Public Library, on the banks of the Esopus, said her Christmas list includes “Books and wool socks ... But I have too many of both of them!”

If your washing machine is a death vortex for socks, I found three appealing types for anglers. My wife’s niece, Kelly, recently bought me Dockers socks from Kohls. They come in a two-pack and one pair has a southwestern, possibly Navajo, design on them.

When wearing these socks, you will feel as if you are walking on air. They are made of cotton and spandex. If they got wet, they might be uncomfortable. But they are great for the drive to and from fishing.

Eastern Mountain Sports’ Smartwool Socks are 80 percent Merino wool, 19 percent nylon, and 1 percent elastic. They are great for cold weather and cold-water fishing. The wool keeps working as insulation — even when wet.

If Smartwool Socks are too thick, Darn Tough Socks from Vermont makes a thinner wool sock. My friend John MacDonald bought me a pair; they are great for people with leaky waders who fish on cooler summer nights.

If you want to buy these socks at a real store and have the time, John bought the socks at Shaffe’s in Bennington, Vermont. It is a classic men’s store and, if you visit, you just might come back with something else!

Speaking of travel, if an angler has everything, another gift idea is a gasoline gift card or a hotel gift certificate. With access to another full tank of gas in their wallets or desk drawers, anglers may be inspired to venture beyond home waters.

Finally, a membership in a fishing organization is a great way for an angler to strengthen skills and help protect clean water. The Bartlett Collection is a font of Catskill fishing information. Capital District Fly Fishers has great instructional programs each year.

Trout Unlimited’s Clearwater chapter has programs and a new-member incentive. According to Kirk Deeter, who edits the organization’s Trout magazine, each Trout Unlimited membership includes a subscription to Trout, which now has a regular column by John Gierach, author of Trout Bum.