What does one pack for a six-week fly-fishing and writing excursion? Good question.
I do most of my fishing in the remote backcountry here in northern New England. I usually try to get as far away from the crowds as possible, so when packing to go fishing, I bring along everything I will need for two or three days away from civilization. If I don’t have it, I make do.
This trip will be a bit different. If I forget something, I can always stop somewhere to buy it. So, I am not worried so much about what I will forget (I am sure I’ll forget something!), but more focused on what to bring and why. And how to stow it.
My Nissan Rogue will be loaded not only with fishing gear, but also six weeks of clothes, a small library of books about various storied waters, a box of copies of The Confluence, my laptop, a panoply of photography equipment, my fly tying kit, a cooler, and some camping gear.
It should come as no surprise that I bought some new gear for the trip.
First on the list was new waders. Somehow, my “new” waders became 12 years old. A few years ago, they started leaking just a little at the seams around my right knee. I’ve put up with damp pants for too long and decided that, if I will be fishing nearly every day on this trip, I want to stay dry.
I called customer service to see if they had any secrets for resealing the seams. The fly fishing rep sort of chuckled and said “no, ten years is a pretty good run for waders. Sounds like they were well loved.” Then, he pitched me on the newest materials used in breathable waders, which are far superior.
So, I now have a sweet pair of Orvis Silver Sonic Convertible Top waders. I can’t wait to try them!
I tried them on in the kitchen, as my wife, Cheryl, looked on. I couldn’t resist turning around and asking “do these waders make my ass look big?” She was not amused.
I also bought a new fly rod and reel. Of course I did! For a trip of a lifetime, who wouldn’t?
It started as a charitable endeavor actually, as these things sometimes do, with a silent auction bid on a 3-weight Orvis rod and reel (separately) at the Sebago Chapter Trout Unlimited annual dinner. You know the drill: you bid on a whole bunch of stuff and hold your breath during dinner, hoping you don’t win it all and have to go home and explain your self-serving largesse to your spouse.
Well, I got lucky and only won the reel, a Battenkill II model, for a modest discount. I didn’t get the rod, so I had to go on-line the next day and match my reel with an Orvis 8’4” Recon rod, plus some floating line and nylon backing to round out the outfit.
This 3-weight will be a nice complement to my two other regular rods: a 9 foot 4-weight LL Bean Double L model that I usually fish with floating line, and a 9 foot 6-weight R.L. Winston rod that I rig with sinking line on a Ross reel. I carry two rods with me at all times, and switch back and forth from floating to sinking as conditions evolve.
While I was ordering the rod and waders, I figured I needed a good selection of new leaders and several spools of tippet material, ranging from 4X to 7X. My buddy Lou is always reminding me that tippet will get old and brittle, so it is worth replacing every year or two to avoid losing that lunker because of a weakened leader or tippet.
And then, some flies. Like most seasoned fly-fishers, I have hundreds of flies of all types and sizes. Inevitably, though, no matter how many flies I have, I won’t have the one fly that is just right on this stream on that day when XYZ is hatching. That’s to be expected.
I’ll be fishing unfamiliar waters with people who know the local secrets: “oh, you’ll need the chartreuse version of the Zug Bug with pink tailfeathers in size 19.2,” they'll say, "you have some of those, right?"
Fortunately, I should be able stop at a local fly shop to pick up whatever I am missing, or maybe tie some, if I know how. I am not highly skilled at fly-tying, but can get by with many of my standard patterns.
I tied a bunch last week that I know I will need, including a handful of woolly buggers in various shades of green, brown and black.
I also went small – tying some bead head zebra nymphs (size 16-20) and some dry fly midge patterns in 20 to 26. Hopefully, I’ll find time to tie a few more patterns this week before I go.
On the photography side, I also picked up some cool new gadgetry. I outfitted myself with a RODE shotgun mike that sits on top of my Nikon 7100 DSLR camera. Now I can shoot video that will include river sounds, and get better audio in interviews with some of my fishing partners or characters met along the way. I also picked up small but powerful LED lamp for supplemental lighting.
Finally, I ordered ten 32GB SD memory cards (95mb/sec) so I can shoot and shoot without having to upload photos and video to my computer every day or two.
With all this stuff, loading the car will be a challenge. I’ll need to keep wet fishing gear away from the books and photo equipment, and work out the easiest way to access what I need the most. I’ve already started loading the car for practice to see what should go where.
I head out on the road one week from today! Still a little time to work out all those final details. Can you think of anything I missed?