This is what you need for a backcountry fishing trip.
Planning a backcountry fishing trip to get away from it all? Pulling it off can make for an extremely cool fishing experience, whether you are planning just a half-day trip down a local trail or a week-long fly fishing trip into the western U.S. mountains.
But you do want to make sure you're prepared before you set foot in the wilderness or take your boat down a remote river.
And we're not talking just a fishing license here. We're talking gear and some other intangibles that will make your trip one to remember.
1. Bring extra tackle and tools
Let's say you're on a week-long trip in Yellowstone National Park and the fish are really keying in on one fly pattern. Nothing will make the day go sour faster than having a fish break off that fly and it's the only one in your possession at the time, especially if it happens on day one of the trip.
Then what do you do? Cut things short to a day trip and head back to the nearest civilization for more tackle? That kind of defeats the purpose of getting away from it all, doesn't it?
Maybe you're tarpon fishing in a remote part of the Florida's Everglades National Park where the flats fishing is good. You must remember the aggressive nature of this fish and the environment where you're fishing. Be prepared for shallow water snags and the possibility of break-offs or other gear issues. Make sure you're adequately prepared with enough fishing gear to meet a multitude of contingencies. Even for the simplest of wild trout fishing trips.
Take into consideration the type of fishing you're doing ahead of time and make smart decisions on what to bring. Try to eliminate anything you don't think you'll use if weight is a factor.
2. Proper clothing
It doesn't matter if you're just going out for one full day a few miles into a National Forest for trout or a full week of fishing in the Amazon for peacock bass. Being properly dressed for the trip is a big deal. You want to protect yourself from the sun, wind, rain, and whatever else nature throws at you.
Maybe you're doing a fly-in fishing trip to a remote Canadian lake for a week. Bring clothing for a variety of weather conditions, and yes, even in the summer. It's not a bad idea to bring rain gear too, even if the forecasts are calling for sunny skies.
After all, you're probably paying some hard-earned money for this trip you've planned for weeks, if not months. What are you going to do? Sit in camp once the skies open up with rain? That would be a waste of money.
We also recommend more than one set of footwear if you have the space to bring it. If one pair of boots or shoes gets soaked, you can change them out while the other dries. It may seem like a little thing, but this brings a certain comfort level that'll make the trip more enjoyable, especially if you're far away from civilization.
3. Stuff for shore lunch
Isn't a big part of a backcountry fishing trip catching and eating your dinner? Make sure you bring with you the proper fish cleaning and cooking equipment for the job. You can usually prepare a light weight kit with spices and other condiments to help enhance the flavor of your meals without adding too much weight.
Keeping all that in mind, don't get overly cocky and bring zero food with you whatsoever. Things happen. A cold front can move in. A sudden wave of heat might send the fish to deeper depths than you've planned.
Always have a backup supply of food just in case you aren't catching anything. It happens to the best of us sooner or later.
4. A keen knowledge of your gear
Remember that earlier note about gear issues? Make sure you bring a knowledge of your equipment with you, too.
If you're spin fishing for trout with light tackle in Wyoming, make sure you know how to fix or re-spool your reel ahead of time. This may seem like something that should be obvious, but I've heard stories from enough fishing guides before who have led people who were woefully unprepared for what they were doing simply because they'd bought their gear a few days before and didn't bother to get familiar ahead of time.
This doesn't just apply to fishing gear, either. If you're camping somewhere remote on this trip, make sure you know the temperatures your sleeping bag is rated for and that is appropriate for the conditions you may face. A great day of fishing can be spoiled if you're shivering cold all night.
It's not a bad idea to set up your tent in the backyard ahead of time either, especially if you're doing this trip with buddies. You don't want to be the idiot struggling to set up his or her tent while your friends laugh and take videos.
5. A sense of direction (and a good map or GPS unit!)
Even if you feel like you know the area you'll be fishing, it doesn't hurt to keep your wits about you and a GPS to help guide you out in case you get turned around. Many a wilderness survival story starts with someone who felt nothing bad could happen to them because they knew the area too well. Even the most experienced backpacking enthusiasts can stray from the beaten path.
Maybe you keep catching bigger and bigger fish the farther you wander downstream somewhere in the Rocky Mountains. The next thing you know, you turn around and have no idea where you are. You were having so much fun, you didn't even notice how far you had gone.
It happens to even the best fishermen and outdoorspeople. Always try to be generally aware of the direction of your camp. Hiring experienced outfitters can help fly anglers who are wandering particularly far from civilization in search of giant brown trout and brook trout.
Of course, even better, do the foolproof solution. Bring a good map and compass or even better, a GPS unit with you. And make sure it has fresh batteries! I like to mark my vehicle whenever I wander into the wilderness. Most of the time, I don't need to use it. It's something you do "just in case." Don't forget to mark your campsite either!
6. Observation skills
Sometimes the fish just aren't biting on what you're throwing. This is where the powers of observation become key.
If you see fish hitting the surface, what are they feeding on? You need to figure that out and then match your lures or flies appropriately.
The best anglers feed on the visual clues the water and surrounding environment are giving them. You've heard the phrase "match the hatch," well, this applies to all aspects of fishing, not just flies. The fish are often giving you all sorts of clues to how they are behaving, and you just need to know where to look. This applies year-round, and not just during certain seasons too. You can also apply these powers of observation for saltwater fishing trips to remote inshore locations like mangrove swamps, or for remote flats fishing.
Oh, and don't forget a good pair of polarized sunglasses. Sometimes you just need to look into the water to observe the fish in their natural habitat in order to figure out how to catch them. This dove-tails into our last thing to bring.
The thing about a backcountry fishing trip is that no matter how well you prepare, sometimes things don't work out. Maybe a cold front blows in and the fish develop a sudden case of lock jaw. Maybe you mis-timed a spawning run or mayfly hatch. When those things happen, you need to figure out how to proceed next.
If things get really bad, sometimes the only thing that will catch fish is live bait. You need to have the resourcefulness and know-how to locate and capture this bait to salvage your fishing trip.
Combine your resourcefulness with the powers of observation, and it makes for an unbeatable combo that will make all your backcountry fishing trips a lot more fun and a lot more memorable.
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