Fishing is usually at the center of many of my outdoor adventures. For me, it just doesn’t get much better than hiking into a remote location for a few days of fishing in a pristine mountain lake. With that said, there are those times when I head out on a trip not planning on doing any fishing, and therefore leave my rod and tackle behind. It never fails that at times like these I stumble upon some of the best fishing opportunities. After many a trip spent at water’s edge watching the fish rise during a feeding frenzy, I finally had to come up with something that would never leave me on the sidelines again. My solution? I now carry an “emergency” fishing kit in my essentials bag.

Essential Fishing Kit

As a backpacker, I try to keep my gear simple, compact, and versatile. I’ve found that a 3×5 inch Ziplock pouch works perfectly for housing all of the equipment that I need for some basic fishing. For terminal tackle I toss in a few hooks (in sizes 8-10), a handful of small splitshot weights, and a couple of snap swivels. A small plastic pill bag works great for keeping these tiny items organized and easily accessible. There are a couple of viable options for line. I will typically include 25 yards of braided line such as Spiderwire. It offers the benefits of higher breaking strength for a smaller diameter as well as low memory retention to allow for compact carrying without developing annoying kinks and coils. If you prefer to use monofilament, I’ve found the best way to carry it is on the small tippet spools that fly-fishermen use. This method prevents the line from developing kinks, while keeping it compact. Whatever your choice of line, I recommend a low diameter line in the 4-6 pound class. Since the species of fish that I will potentially be targeting is subject to change, I like to have a variety of lures and baits which offer maximum versatility. For this reason I always include a few small plastics such as curly tail grubs and tube baits. Bead-head nymphs are an excellent addition as well. If you’re style is geared more toward sitting on the bank waiting for the fish to come to you, it’s tough to beat a small pouch of Powerbait nuggets. Perhaps the most effective method of all however, is collecting natural baits in the area that you are fishing. Nothing beats a small grasshopper on a summer evening. Another item that I never leave out of my fishing kit is a piece of aluminum foil. A small piece of foil wrapped around your weights acts as a highly effective attractor… calling the fish in as you retrieve your line. This little trick has never disappointed me.

At this point you’re probably asking yourself, “What about a rod and reel?” Actually, this is the fun part. The final items I include in my kit are a few small screw-in eyelets… the type that you find in your local hardware store. When I’m getting ready to start fishing I’ll find a willow branch or something similar with a lot of flexibility so that it can absorb the impact of the fish fighting. I prefer something with a gradual taper that extends about 6 feet. Next I’ll attach three eyelets along the “rod”… one at each end, and one in the middle. After threading the line through the eyelets I take out as much line as I’ll need to make my cast, with a few feet leftover to play the fish. The technique for casting and playing the fish is similar to that used when fly-fishing. To keep it even more simple, merely chose a longer stick and attach your line to a single eyelet at the end. Much like cane pole fishing as a child. When a fish takes the bait simply swing him up on shore.

Willow rod and eyelet

Well, that’s about as complicated as it needs to get here. While this simple system may not offer the luxury of a top of the line rod and reel combo, it does at least afford you the ability to catch fish. And who knows… it may even bring out the kid in you.

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