The season of gift-giving is upon us, and the hardest part of the season can be finding a gift for the fisherman, especially the angler who has a good idea of what he wants and where he wants to fish.
While the easiest thing to do might be to slip off to a local store and buy a pair of waders or a rod and reel and a stocking full of lures, such purchases may involve an element of risk.
If you buy the wrong thing -- say a pair of nylon composite hip waders instead of neoprene chest waders -- you have missed the mark, and at some point down the road, the angler is likely to buy what he wanted, anyway. That, of course, may leave the hip waders in storage and a hard spot in your heart.
Understand that the snub will not be personal. Outdoorsmen simply must have the right gear for their circumstances, and deciding on the right gear requires experience in the field as well as home study.
Home study often means books, and a number of good new books are on the market, including a few that will unlock some of the mysteries of fly fishing for trout.
* Tom Rosenbauer's "Prospecting for Trout" (Delta, from Dell Publishing) comes quickly to mind as the best new book for trout fishermen. The pages of this Orvis guide explain how, when and where trout feed and how those elements combine to lead fishermen to the right tackle and flies as well as the best parts of a stream to fish. Easy, uncluttered reading and certain to make almost all of us better trout fishermen.
* Charles Meck and Backcountry Publications have released a second edition of "Pennsylvania Trout Streams and Their Hatches." For the angler who has thoroughly fished Maryland's trout waters, Meck provides a complete account of Pennsylvania streams, including best times to fish according to where and when hatches will occur, maps of important streams and their better sections, and how to tie different patterns specially suited to the areas to be fished. A reference worth reading and keeping.
* If the fly fisherman in your household is into coffee-table books ,, about flies and fly tying, Gary LaFontaine has a new book, "Trout Flies Proven Patterns" (Greycliff Publishing Co.). This book takes LaFontaine's favorite patterns, tying directions and excerpts from his fishing logs and spreads them out over many color and black-and-white pages. Great stuff, but large and pricey.
* International Marine and Outdoor Action Communications has two very good books for saltwater fishermen, "Northeast Guide to Saltwater Fishing and Boating" and "Southeast Guide to Saltwater Fishing and Boating." In each book (the dividing line between northeast and southeast Atlantic coast is False Cape, Va.), editor Vin T. Sparano catalogs available species, their habits and the times of their occurance in different areas.
As one might expect, when such large areas are covered, there still are questions that are not answered. But both guides include telephone numbers for further information on specific locations. These are especially good books for anglers who are planning trips and need to know who, what, where and when.
There also are sections on saltwater fly fishing, boats and boating, tackle and techniques. A good buy.
OK, so you have a pretty good idea of where and when you want to go fishing, but in the meantime you need to buy or make the right gear or at the least get your old gear in top shape.
* C. Boyd Pfeiffer has revised an old standby and come up with "Modern Tackle Craft" (Lyons and Burford), a volume that can teach anyone to build rods, repair lures or adapt existing gear to new situations. Pfieffer's book is well illustrated and complete.