Give Dad something he can use

The Baltimore Sun

A glance at the calendar shows it's time to make the excruciating choice between that combo fish fillet knife, margarita maker and boot drier or the lime-green shirt with the smiling moose on the pocket.

Father's Day is knocking on the door.

After my dad died a decade ago, we found tons of that kind of flotsam jammed in the darkest recesses of his "man closet," behind his favorite shotgun, field boots, tackle box and other stuff he actually used.

It was good for a laugh as each pristine item - some still in original packaging - was sorted between two boxes, one bound for Goodwill, the other for the nearest junk stop. (I always scan pedestrians in northern New Jersey in hopes of seeing some elderly gent topped off in a hat that could have been worn by Elmer Fudd or Bear Bryant. Sorry Pops.)

So although some guys have grumbled to me that this annual effort is a waste of space because a gift card and a day without a list of honey-dos fills the bill, here's another attempt to right more than four decades of wrongs on my part.

As a gift giver, it's a sure bet to put yourself in the hands of Tony Tochterman and Dee Taylor at Tochterman's Fishing Tackle on Eastern Avenue because the Baltimore shop has been around for more than 90 Father's Days.

Taylor, the shop's worm wrangler and dynamo, hardly takes a breath while reeling off a list of gift ideas.

Hat Light ($9.99) clips to a cap visor to provide illumination whether the activity is fishing, hunting or grilling. The five LED bulbs are powered by two lithium batteries (included) that burn for more than 100,000 hours.

Boga Grips, in 15-pound, 30-pound and 60-pound models, ($120-$240) make handling and weighing fish a snap. Getting a grip on the catch of the day is easy with a FishOff glove ($19.99), invented by Rick Long of Solomons. The glove can be belted to dad's waist or attached to a cooler or boat to keep it handy.

And after dad lands that fish, he'll want the Angler's Choice Porta-Fillet Knife Set ($19.99), which includes an 8-inch fillet knife, a 6-inch fillet knife, a 5 1/4 -inch knife, a sharpening tool and a cutting board.

Finally, Taylor says, to look great and see great, there's Costa Del Mar sunglasses ($120-$150).

Mike Watriss and Mike Kidd at Great Feathers fly fishing shop in Sparks suggest two additions to dad's library.

Fool's Paradise ($24; 224 pages) is the 16th volume by John Gierach. How can you not love an author who writes of runaway development: "You never get to point at a meadow full of browsing mule deer and say, 'You know, all this was once condos.' " Publisher's Weekly says it's "definitely a keeper."

The other book is Wet Flies ($39; 152 pages) by Ken Sawada, tying guru and owner of a Tokyo-based fly shop. In beautiful, detailed photos and text, Sawada shows how to create 400 patterns. In the back is a section on materials and techniques.

If several of you are going in on a gift, consider getting dad and a buddy or two a half-day Chesapeake Bay fishing trip with one of the region's licensed guides. Among the most knowledgeable - and most generous in the area of community and civic service - are Richie Gaines (410-827-7210), Mike Benjamin (410-920-8921), "Walleye" Pete Dalhberg (410-586-8340) and Mark Galasso (410-827-6188). The cost ranges from $300 to $500.

From the big-box boys come these recommendations:

West Marine recommends the Garmin Colorado, a GPS unit that uses a "rock and roll" click wheel to access most functions with one hand. There are four versions: the basic 300 and the 400t, which is loaded with Topo2008 maps, and the marine-specific units, the 400c and the 400I. All four can be upgraded to use additional maps. They run from $500 to $600.

After a rocky start with some firmware glitches, the Colorado seems to have found solid ground. But as with some other Garmin models, the Colorado manual leaves a lot to be desired. Go online and look for help.

I like the 3-inch, high-resolution screen, which is bright, and maps that show great detail. The digital elevation maps can be rendered in a 3D view. This is one toy that won't be put away in the man closet, but at the price, it had better not be.

Finally, as much as I hate to admit it, there are gift cards.

But no matter what you decide, enjoy dad and his day.

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