"It's the thought that counts."
Uttered by the recipient after the giving of a gift, it's a line that fairly screams failure.
I know. I've been comforted by many a victim/recipient of my efforts.
Father's Day can be a tough one, almost as bad as mom's birthday. Perhaps to atone for years of torturing my dad with yet another Ban-Lon shirt or an item sure to be abandoned that I can later use, here's a list of cool stuff for Pops.
Lures or flies. This is an inexpensive gift that's always appreciated by an angler. If you know nothing of plastics and bugs, just go to a reputable local tackle shop, explain the type of fishing your man does and ask for suggestions. You might even "borrow" a few lures from your angler's tackle box to give the tackle shop some guidance. One of my favorite saltwater varieties is made by Tomic Lures and distributed by Phredd's Trading Co., a Virginia Beach-based outfit (www.phreds.com). The plastic plugs come in all sorts of colors and sizes for stripers, sea trout and blues, and cost $7 to $13 apiece. Locally, you can get them at T.G. Tochterman in Fells Point (410-327-6942), a good source of all kinds of fishing gear and advice.
I hesitate to list something so expensive, but what the heck. If you own a boat, you're already spending too much money. MapTech, one of the mapping software companies, has "Digital ChartKit," a set of four CD-ROMs that has National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration charts, coastal topographic maps, tides and currents, a list of navigation lights, a marine facilities locator and aerial photos. The bells and whistles on this baby don't come cheap. But for about $200, you get the entire Chesapeake and Delaware bays in a box. The offshore version also runs about $200.
Land-based map lovers will covet DeLorme's Topo USA 4.0. This edition is as different from the 2.0 and 3.0 editions as the 50-home run Brady Anderson is from the out-of-work 2002 model. The 4.0 is faster, has more user-friendly features and tilts and rotates any map to give you the view you want. It has more than 300,000 miles of roads and trails in its seven CD-ROM or one DVD format. And, it allows you to make high-quality maps on your home printer. The package costs about $100.
Has the big guy gotten a little too big? How about getting him to take a walk now and again. Bryan MacKay just wrote a book, Baltimore Trails, (Johns Hopkins University Press), which lists nearly 80 hikes from easy to challenging. In addition to telling you where to walk, the book shows you with maps and tells you what you're likely to see along the way. MacKay is a science instructor at the UMBC, so he knows what he's talking about. I've already given copies of the $18 paperback to friends. It's a good book for beginners and a reference book for experienced walkers looking for new adventures.
Speaking of weight, if dad needs a new fish scale, Rapala makes a dandy digital version. The Sportsman comes in 15- and 50-pound models and has a large readout for middle-aged anglers with middle-aged eyesight. The silver-and-black scale shuts off after four minutes to save the juice in its 9-volt battery. The Sportsman costs about $30, and is available at Bass Pro Shops.
Another middle-aged amenity is the Hartman "Bait-Up" bait bucket that brings the minnows to the anglers. Hartman is Bob Hartman of Champlin, Minn., the inventor. The bucket has a false floor that is attached to the handle. Pull up on the handle and the false floor lifts out of the water and allows the angler to pick one minnow and put the rest back. The buckets cost under $20 and can be purchased on the Web site www.bait-up.net or by calling 877-718-7113.
Buy dad a 2002 Maryland State Forest and Park All Season Pass. It allows entry for everyone in his vehicle to Maryland's 47 state forests and parks, along with free boat launching and a 10 percent discount on state-operated concessions and boat rentals. The pass costs $60 and dad can take the whole clan with him - if he wants. You can buy a pass at any state park or by completing and mailing the on-line form with a check or money order. Go to www.dnr.state.md.us and search the site for "all season pass."
Leatherman makes some great multi-tool doo-dads. The newest toy is the "Juice" line, which comes in five eye-popping colors you won't forget. Each color denotes a slightly different set of tools, so don't choose based just on color. The company is bringing out a slate-gray model for guys who hate to draw attention to themselves or for the times when they've got to fix the gas grill while still in banker's pinstripes. The tools come with a 25-year guarantee. Eastern Mountain Sports, REI Timonium and the Sports Authority stock Leatherman tools, but expect to pay full retail prices in excess of $70. If you don't procrastinate, you can get "juiced" online at deep discount. Try www.northwestpowertools.com.