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Why not put a fly rod on your holiday wish list? Or, better yet, give the gift of a fly rod, and you inevitably give the gift of fly fishing. Joe Cermele and I put together a big list of our favorite gift ideas, from big ticket items to fishy stocking stuffers, which you can check out here. But I decided that a rod had to top my list. And for the best all-around fly rod value, I think it’s mighty difficult to beat a St. Croix Imperial. Classic brand. Costs $200. Smooth casting, fast action rod. Tough as nails. Backed by a lifetime warranty. And best of all it is–and will continue to be–made in the U.S.A.

And that, for me, is the real kicker. I’ve seen enough cheap imports with flashy endorsements. I also know that most anglers (like 99 percent) cannot tell the difference between a $200 rod and a $700 rod, at least when it comes to casting. So how about a rod that’s a proven performer, that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg, and is made in Park Falls, Wisconsin? St. Croix recently reaffirmed its commitment to making Imperials in the U.S.A., and I say bully for them. The Imperial might be the best “feel good” product in fly fishing now.

One other thing: While everyone is beating a path to the outlet mall, or surfing the web for cyber deals, you might think about going to a fly shop and supporting a small business. Your fly shop needs your business more than ever.

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