Put keys to angling dream under tree


What do you get for the sportsman who has everything?

How about his own fishing shop along the banks of one of the East Coast's premier trout streams?

Just a couple of weeks after writing about my visit with Fran Betters at his Adirondack Sport Shop, I heard from the fly guy emeritus.

Seems at 73, with 40 years at the same Wilmington, N.Y., location, he's ready to try something new.

"I want to be like Lefty," said Betters, referring to his contemporary, a certain Bernard V. Kreh of Hunt Valley. "I want to write more books and travel and talk about fishing and develop new products."

So Betters and his wife, Jan, have decided they will sell their shop - just not to the first city slicker who comes along.

"It has to be the right person," said Jan Betters. "We want to find someone who wants to continue the tradition."

That means doling out free advice and free casting lessons, maintaining the guide service and throwing those free summer barbecues that attract anglers the way a Royal Wulff attracts trout.

"It's a gold mine from April through October," said Fran Betters. "There are people waiting to get in here every morning when we pull up."

Betters invented the Au Sable Wulff, the Usual, the Mini-Muddler and the Haystack - all terrific patterns. He still ties them at the shop and at his winter home in the Florida Keys. He also makes custom rods.

He promises that he'll provide the new shop owner with an exclusive supply of his handmade creations to help make the transition successful.

The 3,000-square-foot shop sits on five acres on the river's famed West Branch and comes with an attached two-bedroom home (it used to be Fran's before he married).

Asking price? Don't pass out. It's $795,000.

"I'm here until somebody comes in," says Fran. "It'll take money and somebody who knows fishing. It would be nice if it was a couple."

Now, if the thought of parting with that kind of money for a Christmas present leaves you weak in the knees and the wallet, here's some other stuff worth considering. Remember, it's the thought that counts:

For $75, give a gift of Maryland's great outdoors - its 47 state parks and forests. The annual pass is good for free entry of a vehicle with up to nine people; free boat launching at most facilities, including Deep Creek Lake and Jennings Randolph Lake; and a 10 percent discount on state-operated concessions and boat rentals. Order online at www.dnr.state.md.us or by calling 888-432-2267 weekdays from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Add a set of Maryland trail guides to round out the gift. Waterproof and tear resistant, they are map on one side and guide on the other. The Western Maryland guides will set you back $44; the central region, $30; the southern sector, $13; and the Eastern Shore, $15.

Maps also can be ordered online with a credit card or by printing out the online form and paying by check.

Find yourself physically, not metaphysically, with Garmin's Foretrex 201 ($182), a small GPS unit that straps to your wrist, pack or belt. It withstands moderate banging around and has a rechargeable lithium ion battery. Looking for something with a little bit larger screen? Try Megellan's Explorist 200 ($169), a bare-bones model for the rugged outdoors that can be used by even the most technically challenged. (www.garmin.com or 913-397-8200; www.magellangps.com or 800-707-9971.)

Give your favorite angler a day on the water with one of the premier Maryland guides. The best ones fill up their 2005 dance card early, so don't delay. Your local tackle shop can help fill a specific need. But anyone's Chesapeake Bay list would include - alphabetically - this six pack, certified captains all: Mike Benjamin (410-287-5490), "Walleye" Pete Dahlberg (410-586-8340), Richie Gaines (410-827-7210), Tom Hughes (410-747-9431), Gary Neitzey (410-758-4262) and Skip Slomski (410-746-6907). In Ocean City, Capt. Mark Sampson (410-213-2442) is the man.

Oh say can you see? You will with a new pair of field glasses. Binoculars are getting lighter and the lenses brighter, but even better the cost of clearer vision is coming down. Nikon, the company that makes great cameras and lenses, makes a decent pair of waterproof binoculars for $299. (www.nikon.com or 631-547-4200).

"Can you hear me now?" was an outdoors greeting when Verizon Wireless was still a glimmer in the eye of Ma Bell. Communicating between tree stands, fast- and slow-hiking groups and paddlers is becoming less and less a chore as two-way radios get smaller and more powerful. Midland Radio Corp. just came out with the "X-tra Talk GXT400," which claims a range of up to 12 miles. I got only six, but that's plenty of separation on an outing. In addition to having 22 channels and a silent, vibrating alert for incoming calls, it also has a weather radio. Plus, you can't beat the price: $79.95 for a pair, with deep discounts available from online electronics outlets.

Raise your hands if you like to be warm when it's cold and dry when it's wet. You'll love the "Summit Tech Jacket" by Eastern Mountain Sports ($125). The Polartec Thermal Pro fabric is the latest in heavyweight foul-weather fleece. The jacket has two handwarmer pockets, two vertical chest pockets and two interior pockets. Comes in men's and women's sizes. Visit the EMS stores in Annapolis or Timonium or order online at www.ems.com.

OK, you might not feel like having a margarita right now, but come some warm spring evening when you're car camping at West Virginia's Dolly Sods Wilderness or watching a Chesapeake Bay sunset after a day of fishing, you'll thank me for suggesting the Vortex, a hand-crank blender from GSI Outdoors ($70). It not only will turn out a Jimmy Buffet special, it will mix pancake batter and make fruit smoothies for the kids. It's lightweight and has a shatterproof Lexan pitcher and a C-clamp attachment to lock it to a picnic table or such. The outdoors need not be uncivilized. (www.gsioutdoors.com).

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