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May 4, 2011 / flogginwater

Going Light

I think most fisherman go through an evolutionary process. For most of us – we start out drowning some sort of worm – little red wigglers, big fat night crawlers, or generic garden worms – under a bobber, under the watchful eyes of a parent or maybe grand parent. Depending on where you live, you could be fishing for trout, or bluegill, crappie, bass, or maybe catfish.

The longer we fish, generally the better we get (or think we get) and we start accumulating “stuff”. More rods, more tackle, bait containers. We need something to put all that in, so most of us wind up with a tackle box of some sort. My first tackle box was a gift from my dad. I loved his big old two tone green Plano. When you opened the lid (which was so old school it closed with a metal clasp, instead of plastic) it had three pop-up trays, plus the big storage area below, where Dad kept his jars of salmon eggs, bottles of scent (got to cover up that human smell, or the fish won’t bite!), the old metal stringer with 8 loops on it, a stack of snelled hook packages rubber banded together. Mostly they were #6 Eagle Claw bait holders, but there were some Danielson hooks mixed in there too, and other stuff that wouldn’t fit in the trays. The trays themselves held a few rooster tail spinners, daredevil spoons, one or two kastmaster spoons, and a variety of lead weights, snap swivels, plus some small round red & white bobbers that clip on to the line. I bet Dad’s tackle box looked like a lot of dad’s tackle boxes across the country.

When he bought me my first tackle box, he put some of his tackle in mine, and over time bought some more for me. By the time I was ten or so, I had quite a respectable tackle box, filled with lures, hooks, and weights – it was the envy of many fisherman, or at least I thought it was.

Sometime around then I added a second tackle box to my repertoire, that held salmon tackle. We didn’t fish salmon much back then, but I had to have salmon tackle none the less. And then there was my catfish box – put together for the trip we took every 3 or 4 years back to Kansas, where we would plunk chunks of fish, or gobs of crappie guts (or occasionally liver, or worms) for channel cats and blue cats. It was basically a giant collection of large hooks and large sliding weights, with some heavy monofilament line.

When I hit my teenage years, I had a serious tackle collection going on for every species you could target in fresh water in the US – even though some of those fish don’t swim in Oregon’s waters. I also had started to amass a number of fishing rods – graduating from a single Zebco 202, into other rods (mostly Zebco’s still, with the trusty 33 reels, and a big 1L, plus a Shimano spinning outfit, and a heavy sturgeon rod & reel that didn’t get used much). Then I took up fly fishing – and started amassing all the tackle to be properly outfitted for such craziness – new rods, reels, lines, every type of fly I could get my hands on, a vest, fly boxes, leader material, fly floatant, fly sink, fly line cleaner, forceps, nippers, pliars, scissors…

When I finally turned 16 and got my driver’s license, a serious day of fishing already required two or three trips from the shop to the car with arm loads of gear. I couldn’t possibly carry it all, though I tried! I would pack not only a spinning rod (or two) and a casting rod, but one or two fly rods as well, and all the gear that went with them. I swear I carried more gear than a stereotypical tournament bass angler (but I did it without a shiny metal flake painted fiberglass boat)

Eventually the spark came to me, and I ditched the awkward and bulky tackle box for a number of the flat, clear Plano tackle boxes tucked into a back pack. This worked better – it freed my hands up to carry more rods (at one point, I think I regularly toted six or seven rods around each rigged up differently). Then I noticed I was coming home from a day’s fishing with a lot of back pain – and I was only in my early 20’s. Another spark lit up the dark areas in my mind.

Piling all of my gear on the dinner table, I poured through everything I had and re-organized my gear. I divided things by type – one box of spinners, one box of plugs, one box of terminal gear, one box of soft plastics, and of course I had my fly boxes (which were already pretty well organized). I did a mental review of what I fished with most, and had the most success with. I started carrying much less tackle on most trips. I put my fly gear (except for one small box with a barebone assortment) in a fishing vest. The gear-gear went into the back pack. The single bare bones fly box (had a couple dries, wets, nymphs, and poppers) went in with the gear bag, so I could fly fish without carrying all my fly tackle if I wanted.

That was the beginning of going light for me. It took a few more years before it really, really set in. I finally have it right, I think. I’ve compartmentalized my gear down to the point where, if I know what type of fishing I want to do, I can honestly get out the door grabbing just a single small box, and if I can fight the urge to carry more – a single rod. While I normally carry more than that – I am, more and more often, pairing things down so that I’m only carrying 1 or 2 boxes of lures or flies, and generally stick with just 2 rods – usually. Sometimes I just want to take more for whatever reason – sometimes to see how a new rod performs, while having old reliable backups along.

Maybe some day I’ll have it all down to a real science, or just loose this urge to carry extra gear, but for now I think I’ve got it pretty good. I no longer *have* to carry every tackle item known to man to go fishing, and generally, if it takes more than one trip to the car to load up gear, it’s not fishing gear.


One Comment

  1. Mel / May 4 2011 20:32

    Great post! I have been known to resemble the guy in this post. I got a lot of “Stuff” as my wife says. I say, I never have enough “Stuff”. Is it necessary, heck no! Then again, that is all a part of being a fisherman or gal. Gotta' love it!

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