Tuesday 29 November 2016

MCX's Christmas Stocking 2016

Yo ho! Ho!  Christmas is here again.  Once more I can moan about the speed with which time passes and how awful that is for someone of my years.  It certainly doesn't feel like a year ago that I was sat in my room in the same hotel in Riyadh tapping out my 2015 recommendations for stocking fillers.  However, this year I've got a couple of new discoveries in the list, which holds firmly to its key criteria of low price and small size compatible with a normal-sized sock.  In that respect I use the term 'normal sized' with caution because Mrs MCX's Christmas stocking (and I hasten to add, the one she gives me) tests the length and more extremely the elasticity of a full length shooting stocking.  I hope that whoever packs yours is similarly generous and tolerant of buying fishing gear.

In any event it's nice to be writing again.  Yet another dry summer and autumn, the 4th in a row, led to cancelled days and poor returns.  It grieves a Yorkshireman awfully to cancel a pre-booked (and pre-paid!) day's fishing, and the more so when it removes the chance of giving hospitality by being out on the river with good friends.  But it also deprives me of interesting things on which to write: my capacity for weather or other non-fishing subjects is perforce limited: they're just not as motivating as fishing.  By the same token it deprives you of reading material, but only you can judge whether that is a good or bad thing.  The meagre 12 posts I've written since the last Christmas Stocking is an all-time low, thereby demonstrating my abject lack of creative imagination.

With that whinge over, bring on Christmas.

New Entry 1 - Small Tube Fly Box

Last year I bemoaned the demise of the Snowbee mini tube box, a tiny triumph of good design.  I wouldn't mind so much if its successor offered some improvement, no matter how hard that might have been.  But it doesn't.  Make no mistake, I like Snowbee who make some great kit, but this is now the second time they've turned triumph into disaster.  I could not recommend their new small tube fly box to anyone: its deficiencies are too numerous to list.  Indeed, I might run a small competition to test how many things my readers can find wrong with it.

Faced with the lack of a Snowbee product when I was looking for a second mini-box for Norway that could hold long Sunray Shadows, my research led me to the C&F Tube Fly Case, which retails at £24 from John Norris.  Here you see it fully (over) stuffed in preparation for the Gaula.  Despite its palm size it holds far more tubes than you're ever likely to use in a day's fishing.  The tubes are kept in check by a transparent plastic leaf that locks down on the little magnet you can see in the foreground. 

The hooks are held securely in the foam strips in the lid.  The voids are very handy as they reduce the height of trebles and doubles whilst making life much easier with the lightweight singles I use with hitched flies.  During half a season's use, including an intense week on the Gaula, nothing came loose

Overall I consider this box to be a neat little product, worthy of a place in your stocking.

New Entry 2 - Thermometer

Some years ago I replaced my grandfather's venerable, nay imperial, Hardy's nickel-silver cased water thermometer with a slim, sleek, plastic modern device.  This remains a cheap, functional and effective way of getting an essential part of the calculation of your fly size, depth and speed.  However, it has several disadvantages.  First, like all liquid analogue thermometers, it needs time in the water to settle to an accurate reading, and you spend all of that period stood in the water bent over holding the thing.  Second, when you thankfully straighten up, you then find that the numbers are too small to read without your glasses, which creates the risk of either thermometer or glasses or both ending up in the water.  Nevertheless, in pursuit of a good stocking recommendation I scoured the fishing retailers for thermometers.  I made two discoveries: most of the retailers only offer 1 or 2 models - only GAC has a wide selection; and the average price had gone up into the teens, which for something this basic is too much.  Perhaps it was time to go digital, but the Sportfish offering was around £40 excluding P&P.

I found the answer in Sheffield from a company called LABFACILITY who supply all manner of temperature sensing devices to science and industry.  This little gem weights only 25 grams with batteries fitted and sells at £12 (including a spare set of batteries but ex P&P).  It's wonderful, one of those little bits of technology that puts a smile on your face.

Gone are the extended hunchback poses.  You walk up to the water's edge, bend gently at the knees, point the device at the surface at a range of 1-6", press the blue button, read the nice big numbers and pop it back in your pocket....whilst in my case trying to remember the result.

It's one of the best things I've bought this year.

Hardy Perennials

You've seen all these before, but they remain items that you need every year, so why change?  They're cheap, compact and of proven quality.

My mitten clamps remain an object of delight, a permanent fixture on the front of my jacket.  Nothing gets the hook out of a salmon faster.  You have a good firm grip on the nice rubbery handles, lock onto the fly and hey presto, job done.  I find them far superior to finger-hole forceps in every respect.  They've gone up in price to £19.99 at Sportfish, but remain good value in view of their quality and durability.

The Snowbee half finger mittens remain the best budget 3 season glove around at £11.49 from Sportfish.  I find them perfect for everything except the coldest spring fishing when full neoprene gloves are more appropriate.  They seem to last 5-6 seasons, which makes them excellent value.

Aquasure is the item you never leave home without and is an essential part of your fishing toolbox.  I haven't needed to use mine this year, which represents remarkable good fortune, but that's no guide to future requirements.

In contrast I've used plenty of Knot Sense as a result of habitually glueing every knot.  In any event I throw away all glues that have been opened and start afresh in the new season.  I prefer Knot Sense to standard 'super-glue' on account of its greater flexibility under load and the ability to shape the blob before exposing it to the sun to cure (without sticking your fingers together and losing good fishing time in the local hospital's A&E department).

I also get through a fair number of polyleaders each season.  People will argue at length of the virtues or demerits of various brands.  Personally I've used the Airflo leaders for years and never had a problem.  At £5.99 they're cheaper than most of the competitors and jolly good stocking fillers.

After a second season using the HJ socks for wading I am firmly convinced of my recommendation.  I haven't been for a swim this season, but from last year's experience I can confirm that these keep your feet warm even when wet (I fished on for a further 4 hours).  Once you get to their website you will find an extraordinary range of socks for all purposes, so if you trek, climb, shoot or whatever, HJ Hall have probably got a sock just for you.

Father Christmas Goes Bonkers

This has nothing whatsoever to do with the Barron Knights' 1980 Christmas send up of Pink Floyd's Wall anthem ('Never Mind the Presents') , which was a minor gem in its own short-lived right.  Over the past couple of years I have scoured the special offers pages of the major retailers to find discounted bigger-ticket presents that certainly won't fit in a stocking.  The 40% off at Angling Active on the Loop Multi reel was unbeatable: so good in fact that they had none left when I got around to it myself, after my readers.  Similarly the Simms cold weather trousers were great at the offer price.  However, this year is a real disappointment, in that there's absolutely nothing that leaps off the pages of sufficient quality to get my recommendation - and believe me I've been pretty industrious on your behalf. Perhaps the retailers are holding out in the hope that you'll pay full price in the Christmas rush and withholding their discounts until January.  In any event I've failed to find you anything.

As an alternative I've decided to suggest something you might like to ask for in the unlikely event of Father Christmas goes bonkers, but not infeasibly mad, in response to a great offer. Otherwise, just buy it for yourself.

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This is it, a Danielsson L5W 8/12 reel.  "What?" you cry, "I thought you were the high priest of value for money and budget reels, with all fancy spendthrift ideas beaten out of you by your father and grandfather!"  I make no apology in response to your indignation, but will explain all.

When I sold my Hardy Marksman 14 footer in the summer, the buyer was very keen to have the matching Loop Evotec reel that balanced it perfectly, so I duly obliged.  That put enough in the  bank to loosen the mental shackles in pursuit of a no compromise muscular reel for Norway.

Next, there's only one currency that seems to track the post-BREXIT pound - the Swedish Krona.  If your next reel's made in South Korea - as many are - there's a substantial price rise looming.  Moreover, Danielsson not only make the reels themselves in Sweden, but also sell directly rather than through the retail trade.  And best of all, they are currently offering this reel at a 30% discount, at about £220 UK ex P&P.

Take it from me, it's a beautiful piece of design and engineering.  Once upon a time Mr D designed reels for Loop, and you can immediately spot the spider spool clamp and 100% sealed brake system that featured in the indestructible Loop CLW.  Every element of the Danielsson is about strength, durability and reliability.  Form follows function absolutely.  The strength is not based on superfluous materials but rather on excellent design.  It's about 10% heavier than the Lamson Guru, but 10% lighter than the Evotec.  The quality of machining and finish is absolutely first class.  The brake is the stuff of legend.  The 8/12's capacity lives up to the specification of WF10F and 230 metres of 30 lbs backing.  My reel in the picture is loaded with 280 yards of 30 lbs backing, Rio Connect Core 30 lbs runner and a 37g/#9 Rio Scandi.

At £220 it's a knockout, so grab a bargain before the Pound plumbs new depths.

Have a very Happy Christmas.


  1. Michael. Not spoken for a while. For some reason I unable to access my a/c on the forum for some reason. I was upon the Blue Lion stretch to day, seen a few fish but not many down stream as on the Swinton Beats. Hope your keeping well in 2017

    1. Neil, nice to hear from you. Yes, I'm keeping well, however I've yet to get out on the Ure. Now we need some rain, but there's none in prospect in the next 10 days.