Post Holiday Gift Guide

Post Holiday Gift Guide

  • By: Ted Leeson
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The Airstream is your personal fly-fishing rocket ship.

Winter 2013


Sport 16 Trailer

Here’s the perfect chance for those special people in your life to show how much they really love you. From the classic Art Deco styling—decidedly retro yet still strangely futuristic—to the cushy interiors, Airstream trailers are an authentic American icon. And the Sport 16 is the ideal road-tripping model; at 16 feet long with a GVW of 3,500 pounds, it’s compact enough for easy towing and set-up, but large enough for two or three people. With a polished aluminum skin and signature rounded corners to cut drag, it’s your personal fly-fishing rocket ship, your portable fishing lodge, and the coolest thing on the road. It’s estimated that 60 to 70 percent of all Airstreams ever built are still in use—truly the gift that keeps on giving. Expect to give a little in return, though; this silver bullet runs about $40K.

OK, your loved ones blew it again. Once you return the hideous sweaters and the angling books you’ve already read 10 times, here are some gift-to-self suggestions.


WISDOM HOLDS THAT IT’S BETTER TO GIVE than to receive. And frankly, receiving can be a tough proposition. Beaming wide-eyed in simulated rapture at yet another fish-themed novelty necktie or bottomless jug of BullSweat cologne demands an Oscar-worthy performance. And reminding yourself It’s the thought that counts only alerts you to the gloomy prospect of what someone might actually think of you. On the other hand, coming up with a gift idea, laboring to be creative, struggling for that distinctive, meaningful something—in short, trying to read someone else’s mind—is no picnic either. One way or the other, the pressure’s on; we’d all rather give or get something that’s genuinely appreciated.

So here you are, nursing an after-holiday hangover and gazing about you at your annual booty. If your loot is distinctly underwhelming, get your hands on every gift receipt you can and turn everything possible into cash. Then read on.

If you’re lucky enough to be reading this article before the holidays, there isn’t a moment to lose. Figure out a way to get this information into the hands of a gift-minded non-angler. Leaving this magazine in plain sight, as though absent-mindedly tossed aside, with items of interest clearly marked, is the traditional approach. (Remember that an exclamation point carries more weight than a simple “X”; asterisks are also good. Question marks merely confuse. Specify colors and sizes where appropriate.) Given the brutal transparency of the ploy, however, you may want to get more inventive. You could, for instance, jot down a few of these gift ideas (conveniently prioritized) and send an anonymous e-mail discreetly laundered through a third-party IP address, as though emanating directly from God’s own server. I’ve seen this tactic make an impact, and when the well-meaning non-angler confronts you with this divine communication, as will surely happen, just tell him or her it’s the season of miracles.

Either way, there’s at least a couple of things on this list that you have to have.

Fly Rod & Reel’s

Gift Guide


by Ted Leeson


Tarpon Beverage Entry Tool



Yeti, maker of high-performance coolers, understands the dangers anglers face from excessive thirst, and to promote proper fluid intake offers the Beverage Entry Tool. With a church-key cap lifter, a twist-off cap wrench and a pop-top opener, this aptly named device gives easy access to the most popular beverage-delivery systems. Extensive field-testing has shown that it makes quick work of all of them. Forged of stainless steel, the tool is compact, but stoutly made and durable, with a pleasing 1.6-ounce heft. And to own one is to own a bit of the Yeti cachet—like carrying an Enzo Ferrari keychain even though you don’t have an actual Ferrari. Friends don’t let friends get dehydrated, so consider this a piece of safety equipment. $9.99.

L.L. Bean

Solar Wind ’N Go Flashlight



Among the things you can’t have too many of are reliable flashlights, like this one that needs no batteries. The built-in solar charger may provide up to 15 hours of light from one of its three LEDs (five hours if you use all three bulbs). Wind the retractable hand crank for a minute, and you get an hour of light from one LED (30 minutes from all three); additional cranking gives more time. It even has a cord to charge Nokia cell phones (adapters for other phones available) to get a couple minutes of talk time. Lightweight and well built, this throws a useable beam that’s particularly well suited to camp tasks, reading in the tent, and tending to tackle after dark. It’s pleasingly inexpensive and, best of all, no dead batteries at the worst of times. $19.

Skyhorse Publishing

Astream: American Writers on Fly Fishing

Fly-fishing anthologies typically offer the pleasures of rediscovery in previously published writing, cherry picked for inclusion. This new collection, edited by Robert DeMott, takes a different route; nearly all of the 30 pieces assembled here were written specifically for this volume. Getting that many writers to do anything in concert is like herding earthworms, and what got them all moving in the same direction was the occasion for this book—it is dedicated to, and a tribute to, Nick Lyons, who’s done more for fly-fishing writing than any person, ever. There are lots of familiar names here—Tom McGuane, Jim Harrison, Russell Chatham, Walt Wetherell, and Lyons himself—and a few wonderful surprises, such as Syd Lea and Greg Keeler. (Full disclosure: A piece of my own is included, but like all contributors, I have no financial stake in the sales.) This is the best anthology to appear in a long time. Skyhorse Publishing, $24.95.

Dry Fly Vodka makes superb sipping. It’s also perfect for a classic drink with few ingredients:



3 oz Gordon’s Gin

1 oz Dry Fly Vodka

1/2 oz Kina Lillet

lemon peel for garnish


Shake over ice, and strain into a chilled martini glass.


Dry Fly




Whether you call it artisanal alcohol or boutique booze, the products of craft distilleries are all the rage here in the Pacific Northwest, and Dry Fly Distilling represents the art at its finest. Its farm-to-bottle approach uses only locally grown ingredients from sustainable farms, producing multiple-award-winning vodka from guys who actually fly-fish. In the words of Peter Betjemann, expert on vintage and contemporary spirits, and my personal mixologist, Dry Fly has “pronounced flavors of yeast and vanilla that are a superb expression of this vodka’s wheat distillate. It is elegant and uncomplicated. Many western distillers aim for multi-layered spirits with smack-you-around flavors. Although such spirits—with their strong herbs and dusty intensity—can be great for mixing, Dry Fly Vodka makes superb sipping. It’s also perfect for a classic drink with few ingredients, like the Vesper—James Bond’s cocktail in Casino Royale—which tastes exactly like it sounds.” There you have it. $29.95 for a fifth.


Cooler/Dry Box



Engel manufactures top-quality coolers and refrigeration/freezing equipment—great stuff that is eye-poppingly expensive. The hidden gem in their line, though, is this lightweight, affordable, combination cooler and dry box. The injection-molded shell is insulated with molded polystyrene foam, fitted with an airtight EVA gasket seal and finished in stainless hardware. It keeps contents ice cold on a day trip but can also be used as a dry box for cameras, tackle or emergency gear. It’s waterproof to three feet, and floats. The recessed top handle, rounded corners, and low-profile hinges and latches minimize fly-line snagging, making the unit excellent for float trips. Superbly rugged and functional, it’s also nicely priced. The 19-quart model I tested runs $54.98 (other sizes available).



Marquesas Hoody



The women in our angling lives deserve acknowledgement, and as I learned from experience, clothing conveys appreciation far more effectively than a new toaster. Exhaustive searches of the Victoria’s Secret catalog turned up some provocative possibilities, but, alas, nothing angling related (fishnet doesn’t count). But the fishing fashionistas I know steered me to this practical and stylish hoody instead. The comfortable VersaWick fabric moves moisture and offers UPF 30 sun protection. Thumb holes at the wrists hold cuffs over the backs of hands for added coverage and easy layering, while the crossover hood shields neck and head. And when the fishing is over, this hoody is attractive enough for your favorite après angling eatery or watering hole. $59.95.

Clothing conveys appreciation far more effectively than a new toaster.

Winter 2013

Howler Brothers

Pescador Long-sleeve Shirt



Howler Brothers set out to make a functional fishing shirt that, in their words, “doesn’t make you look like a giant tropical fruit that got into a knife fight”—an admirable aspiration, and even better when it succeeds. Constructed of a nylon-poly blend, the shirt dries quickly and offers a moderate UPF 15 sun protection. Fishing features are well chosen—usefully large pockets concealed under snap-closing, vented front yokes, and a mesh-lined back yoke to promote air circulation. The cut offers plenty of arm and body mobility; overall comfort is superb; and the shirt has a handsome Western styling (as befits Howler’s Texas roots) that looks great whether you’re on the water or on a post-outing barstool reeling in a few Lone Stars. $85.


William Joseph

Terrestrial Travel Bag



Destination angling poses its own challenges, and transporting all your gear—intact—from Point A to Point B is high on the list. This 8,436-cubic-inch rolling duffel swallows a mountain of stuff and protects it from the indignities of airline baggage handlers. The bottom compartment, with semi-rigid platform and sides, holds boots, waders, fly boxes and reels, and rod tubes up to 36 inches. Everything else stows in the large divided top compartment and three big exterior pockets. The ballistic-fabric shell resists abrasion, and the whole package rolls smoothly on big urethane wheels. At just under 12 pounds, it’s surprisingly light for its capacity and toughness, which means that most of the packed weight is your baggage, not your bag. $299.95.


DyneLite Shoal Cut Square Top Oars

About a year ago, I put away my plastic oars forever when I was turned on to these gems. Made of durable, laminated Douglas fir, the oars are overwrapped with carbon fiber for protection and a bit of stiffness in the lower shaft. Blades are sheathed in Kevlar, reinforced on the lower edge and coated with epoxy; the result is exceptional toughness. The blade design is genius, especially for rowing shallow rivers. The asymmetrically cut paddle shape puts more surface area in contact with the water than does a more rectangular blade, and there’s no corner to catch and dig the bottom. The integral wood counterbalance holds the blades of unattended oars on the surface, clear of obstructions, and makes these sticks feel like they weigh nothing at all. These have some life in the shaft and are almost effortless to use—like a good fly rod. $289.99 to $419.99 (each), depending on size.



Rod Vault



For cruising a river from spot to spot during the day, protecting rods in transit or securing them from unauthorized hands, an enclosed car-top rod carrier provides unparalleled convenience and peace of mind. I’ve used a couple different styles of carrier over the years, and the Rod Vault is hands-down the most substantial. The three aluminum rod tubes are far more rugged than plastic or PVC (which can also sag in the heat), while the rigidity of the tubes eliminates the need for separate magnetic pillar supports, which have durability problems. Rods slide in and out without snagging the guides or hanging up on interior tube joints, and the molded key-locking reel housing is generously sized for easy access. All you need is a roof rack on your rig, though I find the Titan best suited to larger vehicles. $450.