PUBLISHED: 3:20 PM on Thursday, November 30, 2006
Holiday Angling: A Fly Fisher's Wish List
By Rich Culver

Photo by Rich Culver
  Solo diehard fly fisher enjoys the peace and solitude of a winter day in Southeast Alaska.
The winter months are a quiet time for the Southeast Alaska sport fisher. Generally speaking, most if not all of our regional fishing opportunities at this time are now peacefully hidden under sheets of mirrored ice and blankets of snow. Because of this, the next several months until spring will be a difficult and challenging time for most recreational sport fishers. I know as I speak from personal experience. So what can an angling enthusiast do to maintain one's sanity during this cyclic hiatus between the feasts of summer and the famines of winter? Surf the internet for warm weather travel destinations-perhaps-or plant oneself at the fly tying vise to stock up on patterns for next summer-absolutely-but both of these activities get old real fast. Fortunately, this annual angling doldrums occurs conveniently during the holiday season. And what better time than now to leave subtle hints and reminders to family, friends and loved ones about the surprises and gifts that we'd love to find stuffed under the tree or given to us during the holidays.

Photo by Rich Culver
  Skagit heads are certain to be a hot item this year in the Pacific Northwest and in Alaska.
At the top of every fly fisher's list - a new fly rod

One item that I believe any fly fisher would greet with open arms and an ear-bending smile is a new fly rod regardless of how many they currently own. Fly fishers in general are notorious gear junkies and they can never have too many fly rods. Recently, I had the fortunate opportunity to test cast and field evaluate several new fly rod models for the Scott Fly Rod Company. All of the rods that I reviewed were simply awesome. Not only were they outstanding fishing tools, but they also displayed significant attention to detail in their craftsmanship, an industry benchmark of all Scott fly rods. Their new line of saltwater sticks, the X2s is classic example. This rod series is ideal for Southeast Alaska. They load quickly and cast easily at short distances yet they also make accurate and quiet presentations at greater distances as well. Their smooth progressive taper makes casting easy and comfortable with a wide array of line types and terminal tackle. The X2s rod in a 6-wt would be an ideal choice for chasing estuary Dolly Varden or tidewater pink salmon. Or if you prefer a heavier rod and silvers are your passion and primary quarry, you'd be hard pressed to find a better 8-wt on the market.

Photo by Rich Culver
  Fly fishers are notorious gear junkies.
Another hot item fly rod that Scott has introduced to the fly fishing community caters specifically to the rapidly growing group of anglers referred to as "Spey-Heads". Spey casting has blossomed in the Pacific Northwest and in Alaska in recent years and the crew at Scott has taken pride in accommodating this expanding industry need. One rod that I particularly enjoyed was the 1296 LS2 "Shooting Head Special." This unique Scandi-style spey rod is the ideal tool for tossing heads and for those techniques and situations where line stripping is required. Unlike traditional spey rods, the 1296 LS2 is a fast action rod constructed with a lot of "pop" off the tip when applying power with the bottom hand, in accord with Scandinavian style two-handed spey casting.

  Scott X2s rods.
Pair that new fly rod with a new reel

If it's a fly reel that you're looking for as a gift, stocking stuffer or a surprise this holiday season, the new reels by Nautilus are hard to beat by anyone's standards. Competitively priced, yet designed with the discriminating angler in mind, are built to perform and to last a lifetime. All Nautilus reels are CNC machined from bar stock 6061-T6 aluminum, and the only plastic on them that you will find are the O-rings and handle! Their new, maintenance free, CCF drag system will easily put the hurt on any game fish you might encounter, and it performs smoothly and reliably whether fishing 20 lb. tippet near lockdown or fully open while using 4 lb delicate tippet. Furthermore, the main drag components in all Nautilus reels are fully housed and enclosed which means that the entire drag system is impervious to salt, sand, water or glacial grit.

And here's another new and hot item that I feel will see a lot of attention this upcoming season and that is the new Mastery Series Skagit Head by Scientific Anglers. Several months ago in an earlier Boat Broker, I addressed the use of hybrid heads as a way to fish flies deep in the water column when confronted with water conditions that are both high and fast. In that feature, I highlighted a personal recipe to construct custom hybrid lines very similar to SA's new Skagit Heads. The designers at Scientific Anglers have recognized this conditional need for a fly line that will easily cast and turn over large, heavy and bulky flies with (or without) extremely heavy sinking tips. Now salmon and steelhead anglers can purchase such a fly line commercially. In addition, the new Skagit style heads from SA come complete with factory made welded loops at both ends that makes changing sink tips or the entire line a breeze using the loop-to-loop method. And if that wasn't enough, the new Skagit Heads can be fished on either a single or two-handed fly rod.

So as we quietly ease into the holidays and leave fall behind, I'd like to take this moment to wish everyone a wonderful and happy holiday season. I hope that my gear and product reviews were useful to you, and that they offered additional ideas for this years' holiday "wish list". It's not easy keeping an avid angler happy during the winter doldrums in Southeast Alaska, but one thing is for sure, new gear during the holidays will always bring a smile. Happy holidays to all!