Stray Casts: Finding a perfect gift for a birthday girl and fishing companion

The Stray Caster announced in this column last week that he was getting married and he considers himself lucky to have obtained an instant family consisting of a great wife and two wonderful kids.

Anna has gone fishing with us several times, and enjoys every minute of it. Hellene and Matthew-Adam, though, are closer to fanatical about angling. They have kept the old Stray Caster, who needs reading glasses to tie the modern fishing lines, busy stringing rods, tying on hooks, and getting free from snags. In fact, this year, the Stray Caster has been far more successful in getting free of snags than he has been in catching fish.

Fortunately, he had the foresight to take the kids to the Grand Opportunities Fly Fishing forum this spring, and Hellene learned, and is now an expert, in tying the Palomar knot. She’s also learning to rig her own rod. So that job is solving itself. Matt, with more enthusiasm than skill, has now learned the problems in stringing his rod and watching the line slip through his fingers and back through all the line guides. Hey, he’s only 7, and he’ll pick it up.

The kids received rods and reels for Christmas a few years ago, and they are now at that stage when the Stray Caster wants to keep his own equipment to himself, while they want to climb onto their bikes and do their own fishing at local streams. So buying them fishing tackle was on the agenda. Hellene turned 13 in July, and Matt is 8 in August. So Matt and the Stray Caster, almost on impulse, dropped into a tackle shop in Waterloo after dropping Anna off at another store. She was appalled at our bill, but veteran anglers know that fishing tackle is not cheap, and never will be. Especially the good stuff. Fortunately, it will last for years if it is looked after properly.

Here is what the Stray Caster purchased for a beginning angler, but, he has to admit that perhaps he got carried away. Parents looking to equip their kids can do it much more simply, but the Stray Caster had made the mistake of teaching the kids to use Rapalas right from the beginning, so those lures were a must, and, at $10 a pop, they add up in a hurry.

First was a tackle box. The Stray Caster chose a larger size, with a single tray. It will hold all kinds of gear. Fitted into its outside lid were two smaller plastic containers for jigs, spinners, and rubber baits. Very handy. Also on the outside edges are places for pliers and spreaders, also handy in removing hooks from toothy fish.

Next came two basic floating Rapalas, in blue and ladder back. They are terrific fish catchers. After that, two Mepps spinners. One of the finest names in spinners for years, the Stray Caster took a shallow runner that will work well in local rivers, and a medium runner Black Fury. As well, he added a Blue Fox medium runner vibro. Blue Fox has come a long way in the last 25 years, and has a good reputation.

After the last fishing trip, having been bugged a dozen times for the line cutters, the Stray Caster purchased for Hellene an attachment for her shirt that has a retractable line that will hold her own, personal line cutter. For that, read nail trimmer. It will be one of the most used tools in her tackle box, and the most appreciated.

In finishing with the main hardware, the Stray Caster purchased a Rebel popper, designed to attract fish, particularly bass, to come to the surface and hammer it. Those are particularly fun lures, and, again, Rebel is a trusted name.

Next was a pile of rubber. The Stray Caster bought a handful of tube jig hooks, and two colours of salted tube jigs. Those, as Hellene already knows, are very effective baits. She landed a three pound bass on one on one of her first outings.

Next, we purchased an assortment of jig heads, which can be fished with rubber worms and a real worm, or rubber worms with a minnow, or, when fish are really hungry, just a rubber worm.

The Stray Caster also bought two packages of long rubber worms for structure fishing, perhaps when on the lake.

Finally, the Stray Caster, with Matt’s help, naturally, picked up an assortment of lead sinkers, and, finally, a set of number 6 Mustad hooks, with barbs, because they will hold live or rubber bait very well. There was some debate about buying some of those red and white fishing floats, but we decided against that. Hellene has already been successful without them, and, besides, if she ever wants to go float fishing, she will be using balsa or other specialized floats. That time is probably still a few years away, too.

Anna was appalled about the final price, which the Stray Caster defended as providing many hours of fun for many years, she relented. Hellene was to receive her gift several hours after this column was written, right after blowing out the candles for her 13th birthday. Happy Birthday, kid. Enjoy – and tight lines.