If that new Sage rod or Hardy reel looks way out of the question then cheering thoughts turn to what can be classed as `accessories'. Fortunately when it comes to seasonal gifts there's always loads of fishy nick nacks to fill the Christmas stocking, however sorting out the real necessities can take a fair bit of doing. Bearing this in mind I proffer a timely guide to choosing yourself or your beloved the right kind of angling accoutrements.
TOP TEN ACCESSORIES
Everything from snips to sunglasses might be included in this but here's a few accessories which can be deemed essential for practical comfort;
1. Fishing Vest - Absolutely vital in order to transport assorted tackle goodies about your person. Choose one with a big poachers pocket at the back to also carry a light waterproof or alternatively, all those trout you will catch for the table. Remember to select one which has a reasonably padded collar on it otherwise you will find that full pockets cause uncomfortable pressure on the back of the neck. Ladies should go for a vest cut specifically for them, mens vests can be awkward to wear unless you are 6 foot tall with a flat chest!
2. Good quality, lightweight non leaky waterproof jacket - an obvious must. When making your choice take a long hard look at the internal seams, they should be sealed and taped and all joins of materials should merge into one another. Some so called `breathable' wear used to be notoriously unreliable and leak like a sieve however there are much better makes on the market now. I use a Touchstone jacket for Spring and Autumn rains and this has done me excellent service. If the weather is seriously cold and wintry I use a Paramo breathable lined jacket which is designed for hill walking but suits us fishers down to the ground. In summer conditions you can get by with a reasonably priced windproof/ shower proof overtop, Orvis make a nice one as does Field & Trek.
3. Chest or waist waders with studs (preferably breathable) - From bitter experience I can tell you cheap waders are a complete waste of time. Usually they leak after one season and boil you to bits in summer. Also remember both felt soles and cleated soles tend to slip on flat slimy rocks especially once they become worn. Studded boots are essential if you wade a lot, however walking a long way in waders is a sweaty business so go for breathable ones if you can afford them. I prefer waist waders as you can sit down anywhere in them but they are not as hot as chesties. Snowbee breathables are a good buy, reliable and very hard wearing. Most makes of neoprene are warm and excellent if you do a lot of cold water wading, however you sweat buckets in them in summer and the distance you can walk in them is a bit limited.
4. Fleeces - Step back 20 years or so and you would be hard pushed to find a reasonable fleece, nowadays they are ten a penny in all weaves, shapes and sizes. The micro weave brushed cotton pullover fleeces make an extremely good insulating layer, go for a mid price range one and they should last many a long season. They are leaps and bounds ahead of the scratchy woollen jumper and extremely comfortable to wear. Avoid the bulky bobble pilled ones if you intend wearing a thick waterproof over the top otherwise you can end up looking like a stuffed chicken.
5. Small rucksack - Traditional tackle bags put all the weight on one shoulder, rucksacks spread the load much better on long hikes. Make sure the back is padded and the straps are reasonably broad. Rucksacks need to be a good fit and not cut into your shoulders or sit awkwardly on the small of the back. There are so many on the market now I shall not distinguish one from the other but for fishing purposes go for one which is relatively uncluttered and can be easily opened.
6. Nets - Knotless nets are a must for good fish conservation, get one appropriate to where you are going to use it, boat fishers generally need one with a longer extending handle. I like the short handled ones for bank fishing on river or stillwater.
7. Hats - Fishers love hats and stick anything from deerstalkers to flat caps on their heads. If you fish exposed windy places be sure to get one that fits well and does not blow off, I like a peaked cap to give extra shade from glare and have one for winter with small retractable flaps to cover cold ears. A fleece hat also does the trick for early and late season when the sun is not too strong on the water.
8. Floatation Devices - Absolutely essential for the angler afloat and if you fish off steep sided banks into deep water or on fast flowing rivers. I prefer the narrow barred ones which do not restrict casting too much.
9. Wading Stick - If you or your beloved fisher pal are getting on a bit then wading sticks keep us upright in fast water and help us up the hill to reach that faraway lochan. Highly recommended if your pins ain't what they used to be.
10. Rod Holders for the car bonnet - Personally I have broken too many rods by shoving them into the back of the car. These are a godsend if you fish locally a lot. Suction ones are best as the magnetic kind can damage the paintwork.
I could go on about floatants and zingers, spoons and patches but heck, the final judge of our efforts is just a sleek fit fish. We must ask ourselves this question.... Is it really going to take the blindest bit of notice?