After chasing fish all over the Western Hemisphere for well over a decade, I’ve learned a thing or two about being prepared. Whether it’s an unexpected opening in the weather or last-minute migration-triggering conditions, preparedness is key. Here are some must-haves and must-dos to be prepared for any spontaneous fishing trip.
Stock and organize your flies and boxes
Whether you tie your own flies or bulk up from the monthly Postfly subscription, keeping a good stockpile of flies is a good idea. I suggest organizing boxes by fly type and even by species. For instance, I have several trout boxes and organize by simple nymphs (no bead) in one box, beadhead nymphs in another, and streamers/buggers in yet another. For steelhead, I have my bugger box and egg pattern box. For bass, a popper box. For salt, a crab/shrimp box and streamer/clouser box. So on and forth. So, when the call comes in for a big bass night or a weekend on the coast, you have your fly boxes organized and specific to the fish you’re headed out to chase.
Diversify your quiver
By diversifying your rod selection, you will increase your chances of having the right rod for the type of fishing opportunities that might arise.
Fly rods come in all lengths and weights for a couple reasons. First, different fish species and water types require different rods. A standard, all-around, must-have rod is a 5 weight. Whether you’re fishing big western water or lazy rivers on the east coast, a 5wt can typically handle the situation. Of course, it could also be a good idea to bring a 6 or 7 weight if the fish are bulky, or even an 8 weight, if chasing steelhead. If salt is on your radar, an 8 or 9 weight would be great choices. And for small creeks, regardless of geographic location, a three weight is my go-to.
Second, fishing styles can require different rods. While you can nymph with your standard 5wt, something like a 10-foot, 4 weight rod will up your nymphing game substantially. Additionally, for heavier fish (striper and steelhead season, anyone?!) a rod with a fighting butt will give you the leverage you need to land slabs when the season is on.
Prep your kit
Flats fishing? Grab your booties, sunblock and fresh hooded fishing shirts. Chasing the steelhead run? Waders, wading boots, down puffy and wading jacket are your grab and go list. Chasing spring runoff Rio Grande cutts? Waders and layers, y’all. By clearly organizing your gear, using it, cleaning it, and storing it again, you won’t be running around trying to find your other (misplaced) wading boot ten minutes before departure. We use a large shelving unit, large lid-equipped bins and labels to organize and store our gear. It’s worked for years and keeps inventory ready for any planned or spontaneous trip.
Keep an open mind (and calendar)
I’ll admit it: I’m a planner. I like to know when things are happening, what I need to make it happen and what needs to happen after it all goes down. Type-A much? Maybe. But, I also know just how fun it can be to be spontaneous! On the east coast, while you know striper migration happens around one time and the steelhead run occurs around another time, you also know that you can’t always “plan” on the exact day to fish these species (especially if you’re an out-of-towner). So, when the weather conditions (precipitation, water temperature, etc.) trigger a run, you have two options: be too busy to even consider it; or grab your gear and get after it!
With two kids and two dogs in tow, my husband and I know how hard spontaneity can be. We still bring our work with us, take personal days and swap parenting duties. Whatever it takes, we try to make it a priority to take advantage of unexpected fishing opportunities – like the steelhead trip we didn’t know we were taking…right now.
Based in southern Colorado, Ryan is a photographer, outdoorswoman, fish chaser, and proud mama to two wild Outdoors-loving kiddos. When not wrangling little ones or cattle dogs, you’ll find her on the water, on a trail or on the road looking for the next piece of water and (hopefully) high country trout.