Ho. Ho. Ho.
At left, my Crab Pot Christmas Tree on my deck this evening. The back of my house is all glass so with the tree on the deck, I see it throughout the house.
Well Well Well. How the year has crawled past at a glacial pace. We need special consideration this year for the gift list given the pandemic and the crimp it put on our favored recreation.
Let's move right to the list. Note that 2020 is such a shit of a year that we have only eight recommendations instead of ten.
(8) In the spirit of social isolation we recommend: a subscription or a membership. The advantage here is that the gift can be arranged rght up until the point of no return (Christmas for most, Boxing day for the brother-in-law).
Most trout fishermen have a bathroom. Often it is the only room in the house that affords any sense of privacy and reflection. Give a guy something that shows you know what it is to be trapped in a house with two daughters and a wife for nine months straight.
Gray's Sporting Journal (https://www.grayssportingjournal.com/ ) is a quarterly that covers outings and excursions to waters I'll never see. It also covers hunting stories and expeditions in a fine fashion. Many trout folks are also accomplished wing shooters. This magazine will be appreciated in the outdoorsman's fortress of solitude.
Try Swing the Fly (https://swingthefly.com/) for all
things steelhead, salmon, and trout spey. It is an online magazine
which sends an annual compilation hard copy edition of all the year's
content. Super publication.
Our perhaps your buddy needs a gift membership to Trout Unlimited (https://www.tu.org/trout-unlimited-3/) and with it an included subscription to Trout magazine which editor Kirk Deeter keeps improving issue after issue. It's a good read with important news on restoration and habitat preservation.
It's better than a Starbuck's gift card any day.
(7) A reach out (that's "out" ).
2020 sucked. A great many acquaintances inadvertently went by the wayside. No activity and thus no contact and after a few months an annoying feeling that picking up the phone or just dropping a a line would do nothing but draw attention to the separation.
Get over it.
We're all suffering from isolation so a reach out to a buddy to say "Man ... we should go out again when this is over" is a civil act free from guilt or cost. Just reach out. Can be performed through New Year's Day so no pressure here.
We're all chained to the Earth and we all have to pull. (Tom Waits).
(6) Bar stock.
No, not a fine reel. I'm speaking here of alcohol.
Normally, a holiday list would say something like "Scotch old enough to cross state lines" or something similar. Not this year.
2020 brings us ... booze with a handle. A 1.5 L of something a crew of six might consume on a week's outing to the back woods? Yep. Booze.
You don't have to give the very best. Third rate gin? Fine. Bourbon with a picture of a random animal upon its label? Great. Rum? All the better. There's little discerning about in rum in the backwoods even from your erudite college professor of a brother-in-law.
This a year where quantity means more than quality.
Drink and drink heavily. (Bluto. Animal House).
I should note that this suggestion comes from a licensed professional guide now hawking some of the best gear money can buy. Thanks, Dirk. We'd be lost without you.
(5) An Invite.
Your 2020 plans fell apart. You sulked.
You tried a trio of outings but renting a cabin seems out of place with just you.
You lived for a couple weekends like you stole a dog from a Tennessee judge. You didn't even go into town for a burger. You slept in the truck (tent still smelled of summer vacation skunk). You could however scratch yourself with impunity without even a side eye to see if your buddy might notice -- which was the only merit of the outing.
Ask a buddy to go on a 2021 outing with you. The Olympic? Maybe Colorado? An all night drive to the Driftless and tents at the Sportsman's Club? Doesn't matter. Just give a guy some hope that 2021 works better than we've had.
You need socialization. So does your buddy. If you are worried about incompetent vaccine distribution, make the outing for steelhead or salmon. Good odds of a break in the gloom by then.
Everyone likes a good outing. Put a stake in the ground and ask a buddy to go somewhere. Cost for the offer? Nothing.
(4) A pocket knife.
Only ranch kids and old guys carry them anymore. I'm an old ranch kid fellow who believe he's not dressed unless he has a knife in his pocket sharp enough to shave with three days running.
Let's be on the civil side here about size. Nobody needs a moose skinner on their hip unless they are clearing brush for a campsite. Try a nice Buck or Case three blade stockman-style folder.
Alternately, the Swiss Army knives are awfully handy - even if the blades take a bit of work to properly sharpen.
One last thing: don't give a knife clad in cammo. Nobody is gong to spook a deer while cutting the end off a summer sausage waiting for a hatch to come on ...
My favorite swiss army model if the "Cheese Master." that serated blade cuts cheese, sausage, and half-inch spectra braid like butter on the fourth of July. The little fork is great for digging out olives when enjoying bank-side field martini's during cocktail hour at trout camp.
Impress the fellows and pull a Trapper John M*A*S*H movie routine by lifting a bottle of olives out of your fishing side bag. A flask of gin and civilization is right around the corner.
Vermouth is for townsfolk. All you need in the field is gin.
(3) Something that says Yeti.
I know (eye roll).
I said something about not getting a buddy a Yeti cooler last year. I'm still sticking with the yeti cooler disqualifier because they are still being stolen with alarming regularity. Nobody needs a broken window on their truck for Christmas.
What I am suggesting here is some other Yeti item.
I'm a coffee guy especially when setting off on a drive at 0-dark-stupid.
You've not heard of 0-dark-stupid? That's where you are up way way before the butt-crack of dawn and decide to make coffee before hitting the road but in your sleep-deprived stupor, you make a big carafe of crayon water because you neglected to put fresh grounds in the filter basket.
Anyway, I like driving coffee. A nice heavy half-gallon coffee thermos made by Yeti guarantees you arrive fully wired yourself and have enough left in the beast to awaken your buddies who are snoozing in their trucks waiting for you and sunrise.
Okay, so my example applies more to duck hunting than the "banker's hours" we practice in fly fishing.
Still helps. No one turns down a cup of coffee at dawn after three hours on the road.
Make someone a hero. Have them make the coffee.
(2) Field Glasses.
Picture this scene. You are on the bank looking at a slow deep bend with a trout who is feeding under a bit of tag alder holding out over the water. Some of the branches filter the water into seams and you and your buddy are looking at a riser acting on a count of seven or sometimes nine.
"What's he taking?" your buddy asks.
Yellow Sally? Caddis? BWO in size 14?
Neither of you can see well enough from twenty-five feet away. You yourself can barely find your car keys on the counter and your buddy can't thread a fly after 17:00.
Shop around and get the clearest image you can for your price range. The compact sports watching models go for less than the full-sized 50mm objective lens models. Clarity matters most.
You can do a lot worse than the Celestron Outland model on 10x42. They're not Zeiss or Vortex quality but they work and if something happens to them, no tears.
(1) A Solo Stove. (https://www.solostove.com/)
I have a couple solo stove cooking models for trout camping. I also have the smaller sized Ranger model portable firepit that is actually perfect for trout camping.
I've purchased three of the bonfire size models and one of the 30" Yukon models as gifts. These are well received gifts.
They're expensive? Sure. These are gifts for guys who you might need to go in on a drift boat in the near future. Or, they're gifts for guys who have drift boats you'd like to borrow sometime.
(Some persuading required. Brother-in-law not included.)
Have a great holiday. Here's Lilly wishing George and Alan and Steve a tail-wagger of a season. Merry beaglemas boys.
Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night.