Thursday, April 7, 2011

Backpacking Fishing Gear

   There’s not much that can compare to the sense of tranquility and quiet solitude that I find when standing along the edge of a remote mountain stream watching the currents flow meaningfully along on their never ending journey.  As the sun fades over the mountain tops and the pastel hues of twilight gather in the sky for their all too brief show, my mind is clear.  My senses are filled with only the most basic things which nature provides… perhaps the only things that truly matter.  The whisper of water flowing over rocks worn smooth from the persistence of time.  The crisp clean smells of the forest.  The feeling of the evening air on my skin… cool and damp and invigorating.  I stand fully alive studying the current for the places in which I know a hungry trout will lie in waiting for an evening meal. Searching for the perfect place to make that first cast. This is my meditation.  My religion.

    A huge part of my outdoors experiences are centered around the pursuit of fish.  Whether I am spending a relaxing day out on the boat with family, spending a week in a deer camp with “the guys”, or backpacking into a remote wilderness location; fish are typically part of the equation. While my intention is not always to fish, sometimes an opportunity presents itself which is simply too good to pass up.  With that being said, I like to be prepared.  Sometimes that simply means having a rod and reel combo stashed under the seat in the truck.  Other times, it means a little more planning and fore-thought.
    Whenever I go hiking, whether it is a simple day hike or an extended backpacking trip, I generally carry a compact and lightweight fishing outfit along with my gear. I try to keep it as uncomplicated as possible. Less is more… or so I’ve heard.
    For a rod, I prefer something with an ultra light action and that breaks down to a fairly compact size.  There are a multitude of decent rods on the market that fit the bill.  To keep this simple I’ll just give you a breakdown of what I carry. Quantum’s Xtra-Lite series rods have found a place in my pack for several reasons: they are very packable (down to 16 inches), constructed from sturdy graphite, and have solid and reliable guides. My choice is the 5 ½ footer which does the job well for a variety of species.  The fact that it weighs only a few ounces is a huge plus. I pair this rod up with a Shakespeare Micro Spin reel spooled with 4 pound monofilament line.  For more versatility another good option is to step up to a braided line such as Spiderwire which gives you the benefit of having a low diameter line with a huge increase in breaking strength and abrasion resistance. For example a 3 pound diameter line would afford you 10 pounds of breaking strength! 
    Tackle is always a personal choice, but I’ll give you a list of some of what has worked well for me over the years. I like to have an array of tackle which will cover everything from panfish to trout to bass. For those mountain trout it really doesn’t have to be too complex. Maybe a couple of spinners such as Mepps or Roostertails (size 1 seems the most versatile and effective). I prefer black bodies with silver blades as they have been by far the most effective in my experience. If you like a little variety, pinks and reds seem to call in the fish at times, especially in stained water situations. A small assortment of flies (dry and nymphs) is always good to have along, in combination with a small clear casting bubble for getting them out to where the fish are. For the times when the artificial presentations just aren’t enough I carry a small plastic bottle of salmon eggs as well as a little pouch of Powerbait (the nuggets seem to hold up best here).  For the warmer water species such as bass and bluegills, I carry along an assortment of small plastic. The trick here is to keep it simple. A few 2-3 inch plastic grubs and maybe a couple of tube baits will usually do the job. For terminal tackle it’s tough to beat the gear for making simple slip rigs and/or a basic leader with a split-shot clamped on. A few hooks in size 8-10, some small barrel swivels, and a couple sizes of sliding weights and split shot sinkers are about as complicated as it needs to get here. For an extra bonus “lure” check out the attached video.  A Plano Mini Stowaway is enough to house all the tackle you’ll need.
    After I’ve arrived at base camp I like to ditch the heavy pack and set off down the stream or along the shoreline for some unrestricted fishing; just me, my rod, and the fish. To accomplish this, I strap on my little fanny pack with my tackle, a water bottle, and a few snacks, and away I go. Hopefully to return to camp with some freshly caught fish for the grill. Then maybe a cup of coffee and some quality time staring into the fire while the night settles in around me. Doesn’t get much better than that my friends!


  1. Great job on the site so far! I like your light fishing gear setup, and I was looking for a hip pack like the Eastsport one you have but can't find it anywhere. Do you remember where you picked that up at? Nice tip about the aluminum foil too, wouldn't have thought of that one!

  2. I noticed that the name brand tent footprints are often on sale at REI and other stores, especially those for larger tents that measure 10x8. I'm thinking about trying one out as a tarp tent, the materials are sometimes spec'd as coated 70d nylon, just like a fly. Regular light weight nylon sold as a tarp is very expensive. Really liked your tent project that resurected an old unused tent.

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