I’m not going to lie. My focus ain’t on fishin’. For one short period of time annually, my brain has to take a break from living, eating, and breathing fishing, and that time frame is mid-Nov. through the holidays. Don’t get me wrong, fishing still occupies more of my conscious and subconscious than I care to admit, but not with the intensity it does the rest of the calendar year. This reprieve from angling allows me to recharge and focus on a few other aspects of normal life. Fishing will once again dominate my thoughts when the new year rolls in, new seasons of Fishful Thinker TV start airing, but for now it’s all about taking a deep breath and relaxing. I hope you consider the same from your job occasionally.

So what does a career angler think about during this down time? Well, hunting is one thing. Chasing predators is fun; it tunes me up as an outdoorsman, and it’s good fishing practice. Calling angles, location decisions, reading weather, and gauging the quarry all carry over to fishing skills in my mind. But, I’m not supposed to be thinking about that. I also think a bunch about cooking. I love to cook game and fish, especially those that I’ve personally harvested, but again, I’m not supposed to be thinking about that.

Come to think of it, a nice bowl of homemade fish chowder sounds great about now. Since I don’t seem to be able to escape the Fishful mindset, let’s consider some fishing related items really worth giving this holiday season.

I already mentioned food, and selective harvest of fresh fish really brings angling full circle. For me, there is no better way to cook fish and game than outdoors, especially on cast iron. Cast iron ages gracefully, lasts a lifetime, and makes for a delightfully heavy package to unwrap! Folks on my gift list may end up with a Camp Chef classic dutch oven or skillet. Before you can cook it, fish (and perhaps beverages) have to be kept cool. A soft cooler like OtterBox’s fantastic Trooper series or hard cooler like their Venture series is another great food-related idea. Who doesn’t need a cool new tumbler or thermos to keep their coffee warm? Yeah, OtterBox makes those, too.

Cooking-related gifts have a way of being used a lot; something I think is key to a good gift. Comfort-related items do as well. Some folks on my list will find high quality wool socks or base layers upon tearing into their package. Being comfortable outdoors is paramount to enjoyment and success even; if you want the anglers on your list to truly enjoy their time afield, help them be comfortable. This is especially true of kids and ladies that may not possess the same drive to succeed despite the elements that us manly men do. Ladies, please don’t take offense to that, it simply means you're smarter than most men who have a tendency to grin and bear it instead of focusing on good clothes.

Gifts need to be usable in my mind, so to that end many folks on my list will receive fishing consumables; items like fishing line, leaders or tippet, a selection of soft plastics, flies, Powerbait; in short, anything I can identify that they will go through a bunch of in their angling. Nobody likes to buy these less than glamorous yet oh so important items so get a few for them. Other possibilities include fly tying materials, hooks, jigs, or even a few plastic lure storage boxes. Somehow, we never seem to have enough of those. It helps to know at least a little about the recipient’s fishing habits prior to shopping for these items.

Some random items that make great gifts but need no real explanation include a quality pair of fishing pliers or forceps, complete with a lanyard of some sort to keep them handy. A quality landing net is always appreciated. Stepping up the scale in price, how about a pair of Costa sunglasses purpose-built for angling? This is another item many won’t spend their angling budget on, but will appreciate immensely once they try them on the water.

Really want to wow them? Buy them an annual membership to the Pro Membership Sweepstakes. That way they get three chances per month - 36 annual drawings - to win something off the charts cool, like the all-expenses-paid Kodiak Island brown bear hunt I personally won, along with several of the smaller prizes. I look forward to all the drawings every month; it really is a gift that keeps on giving.

OK, OK, so I can’t really escape fishy thoughts, even in my gift giving. But you know what? Most hardcore anglers I know, pro or not, have the same symptoms. Fishing is not just a sport to many, it’s a lifestyle; and as such encompasses several facets of living. Whether it’s cooking fresh fish at home or in camp, layering up with wool for a cool morning on the boat or stream, or just packing the cooler with whatever gear is required to succeed on the next adventure, the anglers on our lists will appreciate we thought of their passion this holiday season. Rest assured that, in any true angler or outdoorsman’s mind, fishing related gifts are met with big smiles long after they’re received.