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I (P) grew up fishing in the Sierra Nevada, and have been a flyfisherman for almost fifty years. But I am a minimalist. I tie my own flies, make my own fly rods and generally try to enjoy the sport without being a primary funder of the massive fishing equipment industry.

I also catch fish. Even when many other fisherman are getting skunked, I catch fish. And I also almost always let them go--to live and fight another day.


But I do remember the day that I caught so many fish that M was a little perturbed that I didn't keep any. So I went back and caught four more, and gave them to her. (Cleaned, of course!) She cooked some pasta, fried up the fish, and then served them over the pasta with some instant chicken soup and a package of sliced almonds. It was the best trout amandine I have ever eaten--and a nice bottle of Trimbach Pinot Gris, chilled to perfection in the stream, was the perfect complement.

When I am backpacking, I am even more of a minimalist when it comes to fishing. I don't like lugging a lot of equipment with me in the pack, and I actually don't like fishing with lots of equipment. Here a list of everything I take:

P's Fishing Kit:

1. A 7-piece 5 weight rod, because while I do some stream fishing, I also like to be able to cast out into a lake from time to time. I keep it in the cloth cover, and it fits inside my pack--or my daypack if we are dayhiking.

2. A lightweight reel with a #5 floating line on it, and no backing. If I can't handle the fish on that, it deserves to go free.

3. Some 4 lb and 2 lb test monofilament for leader tippets. I usually go with the 2lb in most conditions. And I usually take one extra leader, just in case.

4. A seven-day Long's Drug medicine box that has seven little compartments...and I fill those with flies. One entire compartment is for small elk hair caddis flies. Another compartment is for darker versions of the same fly. One has ants, one has a few nymphs, and one has some very primitive hoppers. And then I take a few simple grey and brown hackle flies, and a few streamers. All of these are in sizes from 14-18 or so, because the bugs in High Sierra lakes tend to be smaller than those lower down.

That, my pocket knife and a pair of nail clippers is all I take to go fishing. Total weight is about 20 ounces for my fishing kit, including a valid license, obviously.

I used to take all of this stuff loaded up in a flyfishing vest that kept it all organized. But then I realized that the vest weighed about 10 ounces, and I didn't need to carry it. Now, when I get to camp, I just put the fly box in my pants pocket, load the leaders and clippers in another pocket, and go fishing.


Because lakes are often an obvious destination for backpackers, I have done a lot of fishing in back country lakes. I do like the idea of understanding the traffic patterns of the fish, seeing them on the way, and then casting to them and catching them. And yes, I have had days when I caught so many fish in the back country that I just plain got tired of catching fish, and stopped. I've never had that happen anywhere else!

But my real love is stream fishing. Reading the water, identifying the best spots for fish, working my way into position, and then casting so the fly drifts naturally---that's a perfect day for me. And if I have to bushwhack a bit up or down the stream, it's even more fun. The best day I ever had fishing was with my younger daughter when she was about eight years old. She bushwhacked down the stream with me, leading the way, and pointing out the best spots to cast. She didn't want to fish, she just wanted to be the scout. It was a truly memorable afternoon.

And one more thing--I really like the wide open spaces of fishing in the back country. I'd rather not catch fish and fish in a beautiful place than catch fish standing right next to some other guy doing the same. Fishing isn't a social sport for me, it's a way to touch the wilderness on a really personal level. The fish are almost a bonus.

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