Let's consider a simple example, the humble wading stick. The range runs from the basic type at around £40 up to bespoke cherry wood specials at £200. No doubt the bespoke job is a thing of joy to own and I won't criticise those who buy them because customers create jobs. But as its name implies, it's a stick that helps you to wade without falling over, and it doesn't do that any better than most other sticks at 1/5th of the price. I use a Snowbee folding stick - the original version before they stuck on a fancy top and thereby weakened the lanyard attachment - that's given nearly 10 years' sterling service. It's simple, robust, reliable, neat and indispensable, a triumph of good design. I'll replace the elastic shock cord over the winter (£2.40), which should give it another 5 years' life. Why pay more?
As I still believe in Father Christmas (or at least Mrs Christmas who lives with me), this post offers a range of items that:
- Work well and add value on the river
- Are cheap enough to consider putting in a Christmas stocking
- Offer good quality and value for money
- Can be purchased without technical knowledge by internet or phone
- Fit in a large sock
GlovesThe Snowbee fingerless gloves have been my comfort and friend for years. As you get older you tend to wear gloves more often, and up here in Yorkshire we view them as essentials. At only £10, so I didn't expect them to last half as long as they have. The elastic is getting sloppy and holes are appearing, so a new pair is definitely on this year's wish list.
If you're daft enough to go spring fishing in near Arctic conditions you need something more serious. Last February I tested the market to find some gloves that provided the warmth to cope with a snowy day on the Tweed whilst preserving enough feel to allow sensible line control. The Patagonia R1 met those criteria and I was delighted with them. I fished for 6 hours at 0C and retained warm working fingers throughout. Their only deficiency is that you have to be precise on the sizing (measure your hand width and length) to get the benefit of the snug fit.
GlueThe next 2 items are in my 'can't live without' category (and within your children's budgets).
Ever since losing an enormous trout to knot failure I have (obsessively) glued my knots. As a result I have not lost a fish to that cause in the past 10 years. After trying a range of formulas, Loon Knot Sense comes out top for salmon fishing. It forms a nice clear blob that you can shape before exposing it to sunlight for near-instantaneous setting. I still carry normal Super Glue in my tool pack for repair work, but no longer use it for knotting.
Finding a leak in your waders rates quite highly in the gloom stakes, so keep a fresh tube of Aquasure in your tackle box. This year John was the beneficiary when boot foot and wader leg divorced. For big repairs there's no substitute for Diver Dave, but this will cover most emergencies.
The Greatest Little Tube Fly BoxAfter several years' frustration with wandering tubes and ambushing trebles I happened upon a pocket sized gem from Snowbee. It costs only £20, holds a dozen tubes and trebles securely and is about the size of a cigarette carton. It's another triumph of value design, and I don't find its limited capacity any sort of handicap whilst fishing. Even with only 12 to choose from there were 4 unused at the end of the season, and I don't need any more reasons for indecision.
Must Have ForcepsIf you try to take a double or treble hook out of a salmon with cold wet fingers alone you stand a fair chance of hooking yourself equally firmly. The salmon's jaw is tough and sinewy so strong 6" forceps are essential. A locking facility allows you to do the job single handed (whilst restraining the fish with the other). The basic John Norris branded product is only £4.99 and does the job as well for me as the specialised versions.
There's no substitute for lessons with a good instructor, but within the criteria set for this post Jim Curry is far too large, and although Alan Maughan is more compact, he still won't fit into your stocking. Nevertheless, instructional DVDs are very helpful and good value for money.
If you're just starting, then Michael Evans is the answer for the basic casts in the classic style. The DVD contains everything you need, delivered in a clear simple style. My wife gave it to me shortly after I started, and lots of my friends (and their children) have borrowed it over the years since to the entire benefit of their casting. What's more, although it's introductory in pitch, you can keep on going back to it, year after year, which makes it very good value for money.
Once you've embedded the basics via some lessons and river experience, you will wish to expand your repertoire of casts. If you've reached that point then Rio's Modern Spey Casting - led by Simon Gawesworth - is a good solution. Please don't buy this as a first DVD, because the sheer volume of material (3 discs) and variety of casts will get you in a muddle. On the other hand the volume of material does justify the price, the imagery is excellent and the 'bio-kinetic graphics are helpful.
My Own List
All of the above are things that I've either received or bought, and which have given me good service. So what's on my stocking list this year? (posted in the hope that my wife and children may read this blog!)
- Loon Knot Sense
- Airflo polyleaders
- 1" Cascade tubes
- A small cheap Celsius water thermometer (my grandfather's is Fahrenheit)
- A better fishing season in 2014
Happy Christmas! I hope that your wishes are obliged.