I wrote the first Christmas Stocking in 2013 and with the exception of 2017 it's been an annual event, in the belief that you may find it useful in advising Father Christmas (or in my case Mrs Christmas). The items described:
- 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
Followers of this blog will of course note that there are hardy perennials. It's not that I lack originality: if something's good and worth having, it wouldn't make sense to displace it purely for the sake of doing so. Anyway, I doubt that many readers will bother to go back through the back numbers, so I hope that repetition bothers you less than it does me.
|Sportfish own-brand nippers|
Year after year I've bemoaned the price charged by some brands for nippers. Abel's £159.99 effort is an especially egregious example. I suppose someone must buy them, but I can't for the life of me think why. The search for good budget nippers has thus become something of a personal crusade, during which I have sampled 4-5 different designs across the price range £3.99 - £14.75. The cheapest ones rapidly disintegrated, and the more expensive Fishpond is still going strong, albeit after 4 seasons it's showing signs of going blunt. Last summer I needed a new pair for trout fishing, which led me to Sportfish's own brand. They're described as de-luxe, but are absolutely austere and fuss-free. More importantly, they're very sharp and do exactly what's required. It may be that they'll go blunt after a couple of seasons, but on that basis you should get 50 years' fishing before you equal the outlay on the Abels, and you'll never worry about losing these.
The Snowbee gloves are the ultimate perennial, featuring in every edition of the Christmas stocking since 2013. At a mere £12.99 they're unbeatable value. On average they last 2-3 seasons and work well in all but the lowest temperatures. As the years go by, the blood thins and my resistance to cold declines, I need the gloves more often than before. I wouldn't be without them.
Every time I come to unhook a salmon I give thanks for my clamps, which are so much easier to use and far more powerful than conventional forceps. My trusty William Josephs are now longer in production, but these Loons at £21.99 from John Norris are first class. The advantages of having a full-hand grip on a nice rubbery handle are huge, especially when you're dealing with a lively fish in the water.
My little device continues to be an object of remark everywhere I go to fish. All you have to do is walk to the water, point, press and read the result on the screen, all in less time than it takes to read this sentence. It weighs about an ounce and the batteries last for years.
Specialised digital fishing thermometers are about £40-50, but this device from Labfacility in Sheffield costs £13.20 inc VAT. They do charge you a whopping £9 for P&P, but even so you are still saving a full £20 and more against examples sold by angling retailers.
For many years Aquasure was a hardy perennial. However, I've generally found that you buy a 60 gm tube, use 3-4 grams and then throw away the other 55 grams that have gone solid. To answer the requirement for quick, easy repairs to waders and jackets on the riverbank, without the need for curing time or hairdryers, McNett have come up with self-adhesive, instantly curing Goretex patches, 2 in a pack for £6.99. That's the same price as a tube of Aquasure and there's no waste. As an alternative you could also consider the Aquasure quick kit at £7.99, in which the tube only contains 6 grams, for more deliberate repairs.
Basic Fly Box
The Wheatley Comp Lite fly box I recommended last year has given a good season's service. Its price is now £12.99 for the 6 inch version. It's simple, functional and does just what I need. I don't carry a lot of flies and have just 2 boxes for doubles - one marked 'High' and the other 'Low' reflecting the prevailing water level.
Small Tube Fly Box
I continue to miss the baby Snowbee box - they've gone all flashy, plastic and big now. The neatest design around at the moment is the C&F Small Case, which is suitably compact and works well. The clear plastic internal lid that keeps the tubes safe has a cunning magnetic latch. I bought one of these 4 years ago and it's thoroughly satisfactory. It's a bit more than an average stocking price at £27.99 from John Norris (£2 cheaper than Sportfish), but I haven't found anything as good at a lower price.
I discovered these handy things 5-6 years ago and keep a pair in the car. If you need to drive between beats (or to the pub for lunch) in wet waders, they are a very cheap and convenient way of protecting your car upholstery at £8.99 from John Norris. They're very quick and easy to fit and pack away into a pouch no larger than a pair of socks.
When I change lines and shooting heads I meticulously coil them to fit in an old cardboard reel box. This is all very fine but it's time consuming, especially if the head in question is 55 feet long, and it also puts a slight twist in the line. This year Rio have come up with this clever device to allow you to wind the head straight onto a line holder that you then detach and stow. Unusually for Rio it's sensibly priced at £7.99 from John Norris and other suppliers. Purist coilers will probably say it's unnecessary but I'm going to drop the hint to Mrs CX. It will certainly work much better than the C&F shooting head winder that I tried and discarded 7 years ago.
Here's a selection of low-cost but useful items to fill any gaps in your stocking.
Airflo polyleaders are a hardy perennial that I request every year. They're currently discounted by £2 to £4.99 for the 10' salmon version at John Norris.
Leader rings are a very convenient way of joining elements of your built-up leader and of providing a durable junction at the bottom of a polyleader. When you need to replace the tip section it's much easier and quicker to tie a single Blood knot to a ring than fiddle about doing a full double. £1.99 for 10.
Knot Sense is another hardy perennial. I like the ease with which you can form a smooth shape over a knot, which renders it less vulnerable to abrasion. There's also a degree of flexibility with Knot Sense that you don't get with cheaper super-glues. I've never had a knot fail while using this.
Father Christmas Goes Bonkers
As in 2018, the retailers seem to be holding their nerves and breath in the run-up to Christmas. There's very little discounting of kit in the 'bonkers' zone. I have, however, found one superb offer. John Norris is selling Lamson Guru reels with 30% off. This brings the 4.0 model - a perfect #8/9 to match most 13' and 13' 6" double handed rods - down from £290 to £202, which is below the price of die cast models from some other makers. I've used this reel for years on the MAG and Charles Burns, and as a result I'm a great fan of the elegant simplicity of the Guru's design, manufacture and utility. It's a delight to behold and use, and requires minimal maintenance. I suspect that this model is about to be superseded, but I can't see that they can improve its function. The changes are likely to be purely cosmetic. At £202 it's a great bargain and will probably sell out quickly. The smaller 3.5 at £188 is a #7/8 and would work nicely on a switch rod.
So I wish you a very Happy Christmas, a great New Year and hopefully a nice average season's weather in 2020. Tight lines!