One of the fastest ways to the heart of a fly-fisherman / fly-fisherwoman is through sweet gear gifts at Christmas time. We asked renowned fishing writer Dave Karczynski (Vision Quest: World Class Carp Fishing on Beaver Island) to put together a list that would guarantee a happy angler. Yes, we encouraged him to recommend his new book designed to help spinning and baitcast anglers get started on fly fishing. —Editors
#1 From Lure to Fly: Fly Fishing for Spinning and Baitcast Anglers
My goal in writing this book was to produce the best beginner fly-fishing text money could buy. As the title suggests, it’s aimed at anglers coming from the world of conventional fishing tackle—which covers just about everyone. The book is full of colorful anecdotes and photos from my fishing expeditions all around the world, but Michigan anglers will delight to see their state disproportionately represented. Designed to excite just as much as instruct, and covering all species of freshwater fish including bass, trout, pike and even carp, this Orvis-series book is a perfect gift for the Michigan angler in your life (IMHO).
#2 Scientific Angler Amplitude Fly Line
It might come as a surprise, but a quality fly line makes much more a difference in terms of presenting the fly than your rod or reel (a good rule of thumb is to splurge on a top-shelf fly line and save your money with a mid-range rod and budget reel). Item number two on our list—a Michigan-made product—is quite possibly the best floating line ever created. Scientific Angler’s Amplitude fly line comes with proprietary coatings that drastically enhance casting distance, floatability handling ability, and longevity. This line will make anyone’s year on the water with a fly rod more enjoyable—and more fishful. The line comes in various tapers, but I’d recommend the MPX or Trout taper. Streamer anglers and those casting large flies long distances will prefer the former, while dry fly aficionados concerned with the subtlest presentations should opt for the latter.
The River Run Hoodie is the one item the angler in your life can wear all season long—sleep in it at night, use it as a base layer on cold days, and on sunny days deploy it as a sun-shield. Intelligently designed with the right mix of high-crimp wool and latest-generation synthetics, it’s also as well built as technical outdoor clothing can be. Comfortable on bare skin and resistant to bramble scrapings and regular washings, this garment can take a lot of abuse—expect it to last a long time.
# 4 UMPQUA Tongass 650 Waist Pack
Waist packs like the Tongass 650 from Umpqua are a great alternative to vests for keeping gear handy—and dry. This waist pack is roomy enough for an extra layer, a light raincoat and a sandwich, in addition to your fly boxes. And because it’s waterproof, it makes a great tool for the wading angler who wants to take a quality camera to the river for that perfect shot.
Speaking of perfect shots, before you can get that fish in front of the camera, you need to corral him. And for that you need a net. A fantastic, bomb-proof net that will handle all trout situations with aplomb is the Fishpond Emerger. It’s light enough to carry all day long, and the extended handle means you won’t have to dislocate your shoulder jabbing after that big brown that just doesn’t want to give up. Rubber netting is safe on fish and won’t snag on your hooks, either. This one’s a winner.
One of the great things about fly fishing is how easy it is to lose track of time. But being out on the river all day means you need to stay hydrated.
It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense for the heaviest item in your pack to be water when you’re standing waist deep in it, so the folks at GRAYL came up with the perfect solution: a French Press-style water filter that will turn the water flowing past your feet into something drinkable and delicious. Get one and ease your carrying burden on hot days.
There are few tools in sporting culture that are quite as mythical as the fly rod. But anglers don’t need to spend big money on their rig. In the past 5 years, mid-range rods have appeared that rival even the most expensive fly rods out there, and Redington has been one of the companies leading the charge.
Their latest offering to the value-minded angler is their new CRUX series. Light and responsive in the hand, and as accurate as rods twice their price, the rods in this series are a joy to fish with. Confused as to which model to buy? For the do-it-all angler who fishes trout, bass and panfish, a five-weight gives you great range for a variety of flies and presentations.
Trees and tall grass right at your back are the bane of any fly angler: there’s nothing more frustrating than having to untangle your backcast from a cedar limb 20 times a day. The solution is to wade out into the water to get away from obstructions, but sometimes mucky banks and deep water make that easier said than done.
Enter the Safari 330 inflatable kayak by INNOVA, which will take you away from shore where the casting’s easy. At a scant 25 pounds, it’s 60 percent lighter than a hard kayak, making it an easy carry across fields and over deadfalls, and it packs down so small you can keep it in the trunk all the time for spontaneous expeditions—no special vehicle or roof-rack needed.
It’s my opinion that the richest entry into the sport of fly fishing includes learning to tie your own flies. Simply put, catching a fish on a creation your made yourself is one of the most satisfying things you can do with a fly rod—or any rod, for that matter. The Peak Vise is a great entry-level vise that won’t break the bank, but will help the angler in your life break into fly tying.
#10 A Day With a Guide
Nothing helps a fly angler improve in the sport faster than a day with a guide, and these three are some of the best. Brian Kozminski of True North Trout specializes in the Jordan, Manistee and Au Sable rivers. For a ride on a traditional Au Sable boat, check out Chris Lessway at Fuller’s North Branch Outfitting Club. And if you’re interested in fishing the Upper Peninsula for wild and native brook trout, Randy Berndt of the U.P. Fly Angler has you covered.