It's that time of year again when I try to give readers of this blog some ideas to plant with Father/Mrs/Mr Christmas. When I started this near-annual post a decade ago it was easy to find good things very cheaply, but time, inflation and compound interest have taken their toll and pushed the upper boundary further up the scale. Nevertheless, you will still find the perennial stocking fillers as well as some really good useful items that I have personally tested.
Guideline Firskin Gloves
Brasher Lined Trousers
I found these in the sale at Go Outdoors last year when looking for a back-up pair to my expensive Simms insulated trousers. After using them on the Spey and Helmsdale in April and the Ure in October, I can report that they're excellent: extremely well designed and cut; comfortable in fit and temperature; and fitted with ample pockets (albeit it takes a while to remember and differentiate between the zipped and unzipped apertures). They're excellent value at £44 (and you currently get an extra 15% off if you're spend exceeds £100) at Go Outdoors.
Digital IR Thermometer
Small Tube Fly Box
There seems to be an unfortunate trend towards bigger, more complicated and even more expensive fly boxes. You just don't need that many tube flies in your pocket. I loved the tiny Snowbee pocket box, but its peg springs expired and it's no longer in production. To replace it about 6 or 7 years ago I bought this C&F model (at 3 times the price), which was about the only one that was suitably compact and works well. The clear flap over the tubes is held down with a little magnetic catch, which stops them falling out when you're selecting your hook from the lid. It's a good piece of all-round design. However, it's becoming quite difficult to find, but it's available from Angling Active in Stirling at £29.99.
Mitten Clamps (i.e. unhooking pliers)
Sadly it appears that William Joseph has ceased making my old favourites. In the last Stocking I recommended the Loon (which are very good). This year the Vision mitten clamp, which is an identical design, is on offer £2 cheaper at GAC at £21.99. It also offer a scissor blade adjacent to the pivot, a useful feature.
McNett Quick GoreTex Repair
I've previously recommended this neat little kit, which contains two adhesive-backed GoreTex patches. It provides a quick (adhesion is instant) and very convenient repair capability for surface damage to the outer skin of your waders that's too big to fix with UV curing glue solutions like Snowbee Suncure or Loon UV Wader Repair, which are the best answers to simple hook holes. You just cut a patch to size, peel off the back, press it into place, and the job's done.
Of course there's no substitute for Aquasure for the proper repair of a large hole or tear so it's a hardy perennial in my Xmas stocking list. However, how much solid Aquasure do you throw away? Lots over the past 20 years. If you put it in the freezer to keep it after opening, do you remember to take it out before you go away? I didn't before going to Arndilly and wound up having to punch a hole into the mostly solid (unopened) tube in my toolkit. In any event, how much do you use each year? Not a lot.
My ranting about the price of nippers marketed by the like of Abel and Simms is as perennial as the Christmas Stocking. After a further two years of surveying the market I still haven't found anything to beat the Sportfish De Luxe model at £6.99, and they're still nice and sharp. When I was making up a grass leader back in August they happily cut 44 and 50 lbs Seaguar without a moment's hesitation. Why pay more?
I'm now an enthusiastic convert to using leader rings for making the join between a poly leader and the tippet, and in some cases for the last 2-3' of the leader. In the latter it certainly speeds up replacing the end section if it's been abraded by the salmon's teeth or on rocks. Having to tie a surgeon's knot in that scenario on the last day of the season reminded me of the convenience of leader rings: now £2.39 for 10 from John Norris.
A fisherman's stocking isn't a stocking without polyleaders. My wife agrees! her Christmas purchases carry me through each season.
Rio Cranky Kit
It says "Quick & Convenient" on the packet and for once Rio are absolutely precise in their use of words describing the virtues of this device. Three seasons' use has confirmed that view. The normal 'electricians coil' method is fine for quick changes of shooting heads on the riverbank, but it does induce a curl. When you have a moment, straightening the head, winding it onto the split spool and then removing it for stowage ensures that your shooting heads remain curl-free. Mine lives in the car box and is used almost daily when I'm fishing: strongly recommended at £9.99 from John Norris.
Get one of these in your stocking and give your lines an Easter present before the start of the season. Some people baulk at the price of good line lubricants, but this small bottle will clean a full stock of shooting heads and lines many times over. My last bottle lasted 6 seasons, so on that basis it represented 0.015% of the value of my lines each year, while improving their performance and extending their life. Both the lubricant and the process of cleaning and polishing your lines (my spring ritual described here) deliver really high value.