Column: Shopping for anglers on your list

Columnist James Murray offers gift ideas for fellow fly fishers

If I had a dollar for every time I’ve been asked what to get the angler on someone’s Christmas shopping list, I could probably afford that new Hardy Zenith fly rod I’ve been eyeing over at Westside Stores.

A fly rod would certainly be a really nice gift. A dozen or so flies in a fly box would also be a nice gift. It’s all a matter of how much money you want to spend.

I’m not actually counting on anyone buying me a Hardy rod.

Like most fly fishers, I have acquired my fair share of different fly patterns. Some I use a lot, others, well, I’ve never actually tied onto the end of my line. As to which flies are the best, the simplest answer I suppose would be the ones that catch fish. A more insightful answer, however, would depend on factors such as the type of water fished – lake or stream, wet or dry – whether of not the fish are feeding above or below the surface, the season and the species of fish sought.

There are, however, some tried and true patterns that most anglers tend to rely on. A selection of any of the following fly patterns would make a great gift.

Chironomids are the first insect species to emerge after ice-off in the spring. There are some 2,500 species of chironomid and almost as many variations of fly patterns. I have a selection of chironomid pupae patterns in pale green, black, brown, wine and red tied on both #14 and #16 size hooks. Later on in the spring, many of B.C.’s Interior lakes are literally teaming with damsel fly nymphs swimming towards shore.

Sparsely tied patterns with light olive-green rabbit fur literally come to life in the water. Both the Doc Spratley and Carey Special were developed specifically for Interior lakes and have proved to be two of the most productive patterns ever devised. Similarly, the ’52 Buick and the gold-ribbed hare’s ear are patterns which also work well – sometimes for no other reason than they seem to have just that right amount of ‘bugginess.’

Most of Interior lakes contain gammarus shrimp, and no fly box should be without a good assortment of shrimp patterns. Personally, I prefer some sort of pregnant shrimp pattern. While I am a catch-and-release angler, when I do eat one of the fish I catch, my first choice is always a fish that has been feeding on shrimp.

Over the years I have also often relied on caddis patterns like the Tom Thumb and tent-wing caddis which consistently draw strikes on the surface, not to mention Brian Chan’s caddis pupae, which similarly draws strikes below the surface.

I like to troll a leech pattern as a search pattern on new or unfamiliar lakes. Tied in black or dark claret, with a bit of crystal flash throughout the body, the leech is truly a fly for all seasons. The Marabou Muddler is another good search pattern that takes on a different life according to the type of water in which it is fished. Muddlers are equally effective in still-water lakes as well as fast-flowing streams and rivers. I will also throw Zug-bugs and/or Prince Nymphs into the holding pools of streams that are new to me.

I even have a special, compartmentalized fly box which holds an assortment of plastic salmon eggs, hooks, split-shot weights and small swivels that I use for trout fishing on the Adams, Vedder and Coquihalla rivers.

Spools of leader and tippet material make great stocking stuffers. Slightly more expensive than a dozen or so flies in a fly box, but a lot less expensive than a new fly rod, would be a new fly line. They can range in price from $50 to $60 to more than $100. While most anglers put off forking out for a new fly line as long as they can, any fly fisher would appreciate someone giving them a line as a Christmas present. I know I sure would.

Many anglers, at least a lot of neophyte fly fishers, are prone to acquiring all sorts of gizmos and gadgets that they think they will use.

Be that as it may, an angler can never have enough flies or fly boxes to put them in. Quality fly lines simply cast better than beat-up, nicked and grungy ones, and a hand-tied fly on a new leader attached to a new line cast with a new Hardy Zenith fly rod, well, one can only hope.

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