September and October passed in a flash to close the dullest salmon season since 2003, albeit with the blinding highlight of my best ever salmon (which, no doubt, you are fed up with hearing about). As I noted in my last post, it was all down to the weather, or lack of it. The number of cancelled and blank days left me with very little if anything useful to say, which is a pity because I enjoy writing about salmon and fishing - by any standard lovely things to think and write about. So now it's time to cheer up and get ready for Christmas, which this year will be exceptionally cheerful as it coincides with the arrival of our first grandchild (and there's another one due with the spring run, what joy indeed). I can wait for both events, but I'll be overjoyed when they arrive in due turn.
Turning back to the subject at hand, as I explained last year, it's not easy to be novel or original with a Christmas wish-list. The leaping edge of hyped fishing technology and innovation doesn't usually fit in a stocking, let alone within a sock sized budget, so what follows is just plain handy. It's also a useful way of reminding Mrs Christmas what I'd like in mine. But if you are going to follow my advice, it pays to be quick. Last year I recommended the Loop Multi reel at a bargain 40% reduction at Angling Active, which presaged it going out of production. They sold all the remaining examples within 10 days, so be alert and shop early. There's a hardy perennial in this year's stocking that has gone out of production, so don't let it slip through your fingers.
The usual MCX criteria apply, in that all of these items:
- Work well and add value on the river
- Are cheap enough to be stocking fillers
- Offer good quality and value for money
- Fit in a sock
Top of the pops this year is this brilliant item, first featured in 2014. It's not pliers but a 'mitten clamp' available from Sportfish at £18.99. I had always used pretty burly forceps for unhooking salmon and thought myself good at it, but this tool is a game changer. Instead of using just a thumb and forefinger on the job, you're applying the whole hand. Lock on, twist and done in 2-3 seconds, even when it's a bombproof double hold right through the jaw grisle of a 32 pounder. The rubber handles are nicely grippy and the locking mechanism is foolproof.
The Snowbee mini tube fly box is making its positively last appearance in the MCX Stocking because those daft Devonians have taken this little gem out of production. However, John Norris still has a few left in stock at £20. We all carry too many flies, so the economy this enforces is the perfect antidote. It's only about the size of a cigarette carton. The spring holders work brilliantly: your tube flies stay where they're put without silly rattles or risk of loss. I mourn the passing of a design triumph, so snap one up before Norris run out.
It may sound prosaic, but finding a good pair of wading socks is harder than you think. Of course they need to be comfortable, but there's no comfort in putting your back out whilst trying to get the neoprene feet of your waders off at the end of the day. There is an almost glue-like bond between cotton socks and neoprene that becomes Araldite unbreakable when damp. The best answer is a man-made fibre, polyamide or polypropylene, which wicks moisture away, and best of all, remains warm when wet if you've fallen in (again). I found the HJ socks 78% polyamide, 22% wool at £5.75 in the wonderful emporium of G Woodall & Sons, rope and canvas makers of Malton (we have such places in Yorkshire), when shopping for replacement shock cord for my old Snowbee wading stick (yes, the janners stopped making the good old model with the plain handle some years back). Woodalls merits a brown sign as a national tourist destination, a genuine market town time capsule, but if you can't get to Malton, you can buy the HJ socks on Amazon.
I always glue my knots and have done since losing an enormous trout to knot failure about 20 years ago. I haven't had a knot fail since. My favourite is Loon Knot Sense which forms a neat translucent blob that you can shape before it cures when exposed to sunlight or UV. It's nice and thick, so it doesn't run everywhere in the event of an accident (unlike normal superglue). A tube costs £6.99 from John Norris and lasts a whole season and more.
Leaking waders are very bad for morale, so I always keep a tube of Aquasure in my fishing tool kit in the car box. it's another £6.99 item at Norris.
You always need more polyleaders to make good the attrition of the previous season, and they take up little room in the sock. I've found Airflo as good as any: they cast nicely and are good value at £5.99 (they last a whole season unless you fight a whopper or a large rock). If you use fluorocarbon as a leader material you don't need an intermediate polyleader as the sink rate is similar. The Slow, Fast and Super Fast sinkers cover almost all requirements.
By the way, don't put a spool of fluorocarbon in the stocking, because it will probably be of 2014 manufacture and thus 2 years old when used. Wait until just before your first outing.
Mrs Christmas gave me a new pair of the Snowbee gloves last year, but here they are again as a reminder for you. At £10.99 they're still great value and good for everything other than very cold spring fishing. They can't sell many pairs of the Simms equivalent in Yorkshire at £55.
After another season including spring fishing on the Dee, I remain absolutely delighted with the Simms cold weather trousers. Whether on their own or part of a layered system, they are excellent all round. The hydrophobic coating works a treat. After rigorous testing (by falling in twice), I can confirm that these trousers still keep you warm. If, however, you were wearing jeans, you would have a most unpleasant and cold day. To make matters even better, Angling Active currently have them at a special offer price with free UK delivery.
By the way, how can Simms produce something this good at a sensible price, and then try to charge you £32.99 for a pair of nippers? Those are definitely not on my Christmas stocking list.