Besides the obvious choices of an entire fly shop’s worth of the newest, most technically advanced fly fishing gear, a shiny new drift boat and a month-long trip to New Zealand or the Bahamas, there are some very important things every angler secretly hopes for on their Christmas wish list. At Vail Valley Anglers we have a little experience on the water and know what makes for the perfect day of fly fishing so here’s a list of fly fishing gifts that we don’t always get but we sure appreciate it when we do get them. Behind all the bombproof raingear, tricked out lanyards and slick-looking shirts, all we really want is a few simple things.
The Hall Pass
Assuming you’ve not sunken so far into your fly fishing addiction that you are able to maintain a relationship with someone that puts up with your questionable infatuation with slimy fish, it’s always nice to get the hall pass. The get out of jail free card for fly fishermen lucky enough to have a significant other might cost you dinner, an overpriced bottle of wine and a couple hours of misery watching a romantic comedy. Ultimately, it’s worth not having to come up with an elaborate excuse for where you were for the last twelve hours and why you smell like beer and fish. Besides, deep down you know you like romantic comedies. Use the hall pass wisely and do not abuse or it will disappear forever faster than a spooky bonefish.
On a couple special days a year, the stars align and the fly fishing conditions set up for an epic day. We hope and pray for this each and every time we fish but know usually something out of our control will screw things up like gale force winds, jury duty or food poisoning. Imagine this: You’re up before dawn, the boat is rigged, the cooler packed and you tied up a bunch of juicy bugs in advance. The day is warm but not too hot, there is no wind to speak of except the occasional (very) light breeze. The river is flowing at a clear, cool, ideal flow. The parking lot and boat ramp are mysteriously empty.
Your buddy, who is rowing, paid for the shuttle and brought the best breakfast burritos in the valley because he owes you. Swallows are diving all over above the river. Casting to the bank you immediately have a take and while fighting the fish you look downstream to see a rise, and then another, and another. Green Drakes and Golden Stoneflies blanket the water and hover in the air. You are about to experience one of those rare days with perfect conditions, perhaps the ultimate fly fishing gift.
The Right Fly at the Right Time
Having an endless supply of exactly the right pattern is the gift that keeps on giving. It sucks when you have to wing it with a rusty, half-assed purple parachute two sizes bigger than the PMDs that are hatching when every fish in the river won’t touch anything but a #18 Patriot. Every angler has experienced the dread of peering into a fly box and finding a gaping hole where you expected to find The One. It’s a sinking, sickening, gut-wrenching, puke-inducing feeling. Here’s to full boxes of flies fish can’t help but eat.
Fly Fishing Vices
There’s something to be said for eating healthy and getting plenty of sleep and exercise but admit it, some days it’s nice to chuck all that and just go fishing. At the gas station in the morning, you’re eyeballing the delicious, processed, pre-wrapped, greasy goodness of that convenience store sausage, egg, and fake cheese breakfast sandwich. Get it. Just do it before the guilt sets in. And while you’re at it, grab a can of chew, a twelver of cheap beer and ten bucks worth of scratch-off lottery tickets. You may as well get some of those powdered donuts too. Don’t worry, on the way home you can stop for a hot dog.
Bonus Expert Tip: In order to achieve maximum enjoyment out of this gift, it is best used sparingly in conjunction with the Hall Pass seen above.
You visualize it all the time. Endless strings of rolling tarpon, bonefish and permit tails as far as the eyes can see. Giant wilderness rainbows that are so stupid they greedily eat huge bushy, easy-to-see dry flies tied on to a stubby section of 3X. A picture of you on the cover of Fly Fisherman magazine with a sea-run brown trout so big it snapped your ten-weight just as your guide netted it. GPS waypoints that mark a massive school of thirty pound popper-loving redfish.
The key to the kingdom is handed down to you from some old timer, a laundry list of X marks the spot locations of secret stashes of wild, backcountry fish that haven’t seen a fly since before WW II. You get the picture but this is a very elusive gift. Once…maybe twice in your lifetime, you might get to experience something like this so these things are very high on the wish list.
You are the Man
We all like to philosophize about how nice it is just to be out there and enjoy the beauty and solitude of a pristine trout stream. The reality is sometimes much different. Popular trout rivers get lots of traffic and every angler has a little bit of competitive, inner “Take that, I’m the Man” swagger just waiting to break out. When you round that bend and float by two other fishless, dejected boats and you and your buddy are both hooked up…well, once in a while it’s OK to be that guy.
When you net that disgustingly huge, bloated pig of a rainbow in front of thirty other guys at the Toilet Bowl on the Frying Pan, you’re entitled to a little bit of showmanship and bravado. We call it the Kelly Slater-you’re a badass who’s better than the other guys, at least on that day at that moment. Lefty Kreh has got nothing on you. Take a bow. Just don’t overdo it or it’ll come back to haunt you.
Of course when you do get some of these gifts you’ll want to have some new gear to help you enjoy that hall pass and perfect fly fishing conditions. Combine one or two of these gifts with a lightweight reel, hi-tech waders that don’t leak and that new rod you’ve been waiting to put a bend in and you’re well on your way to getting some pretty incredible Christmas presents. At Vail Valley Anglers, we hope Santa brings you some great new fly fishing gear, and plenty of big, hungry fish in the river, on the flats or wherever you cast a fly.
Merry Christmas and Happ Holidays!
Brody Henderson, Guide and Content Writer