A rod and a reel has kept me out of trouble every summer that I can remember. Day after day spent in the pursuit of a tender trout supper. The blazing sun, and choking heat, tempered by the cool river water gushing over rocks. The sudden chill as a slip plunged me into a pool. My finger feeling the twitch of my line as a brook trout snatched at my worm. My father’s proud smile as I cranked in a rainbow the size of a whale. Memories not to be forgotten.
Today, anyone watching the outdoor channel will see fishing as a man in a boat that cost more than my car, with a pole that can double as a divining rod, a baitcasting reel that is more expensive than the Chief’s Special in my pocket, using lures that seduce only record-setting bass into clamping onto a hook, on lines that are braided from kryptonite and fairy-unicorn hair by mystic pygmi shamans, wearing spiffy sunglasses with built-in fish-vision, and shirts that cost more than my Ka-Bar. People may think that this is the only way to fish. They couldn’t be more wrong.
I caught my first sunfish on a safety pin, strung on floss, and tied to a branch trimmed with my first pocket knife. The bait? Balled up bread from my sandwich. I filled half a five gallon bucket in short order. Years later, on a boy scout overnight trip, I forgot my fishing pole. I did have a safety-pin, a knife, and some floss. I rigged up a pole and began catching perch. The guest chaperone began yelling at me that I could not fish if I didn’t take it seriously. I was evedently making a joke of the entire trip. My rod was confiscated and cast into a fire. The other kids laughed. He then forced me to use his old-delapitated rod and reel. I spent more time clearing tangles in the reel than fishing. I will never forgive the jerk.
Fishing does not have to be complicated. Allow me to describe what works for me. The following list is my everyday fishing setup:
Rod: My rod is a 4′ 8″ Ultralight action Ugly Stik. It cost me about thirty bucks with an okay reel. The reel was loaned and lost, but the rod is great. I like to fish brushy little creeks, so the short length is a blessing. It casts pretty well for its size. None of my poles cost as much as this one, but I felt like treating myself after I met my aunt’s now-husband. He swears by small ultralights for the small and brushy creeks like I fish. Smart man. I like long light or medium action rods for open water fishing, but this little guy is so handy.
The Reel: I use a Shakespeare Agility ultralight reel. It cost a whopping thirty-one dollars and ninety-six cents. It is the most expensive reel I have ever owned. It is amazing. Smooth action, decent cranking power, and a cool green color. I prefer spincasting reels for general fishing, or open-water fishing, but this little spinning reel is mustard for cramped spaces. It even came with a spare spool for quick and easy line changes.
Line: Nothing fancy here. I just use basic Trilene monofilament four pound test on the reel and keep six pound test on the spare spool in case I run into some big fish. I’ve never felt like I was handicapping myself with this simple line.
Tackle box: I hate tackle boxes, but they serve a purpose. I keep a cheap little divided plastic box in my creel, or hang it off my belt if I don’t bother with a creel. Only cost two or three bucks in the Wally-World fishing aisle. Perfect for me.
Tackle: I don’t bother with much tackle. I keep a few assorted bobbers, assorted split-shot sinkers, a few smallish swivels, some assorted pre-strung hooks, a stringer, and sometimes a lure or two. The tackle box is mostly just a repair kit for snapped lines and the stuff lost with it.
Creel: When I use one, I prefer wicker. No special reason, they just feel right. I like the cloth ones, too. Either way, I like them small and unobtrusive.
Bait: I am a disciple of the sacred church of the worm. All else is sacrilege and sin. Every now and then I’ll use a rattletrap or similar lure when the bass and spunky perch are around.
All of the above came in at under one hundred dollars. My spiffy indulgent setup cost less than some guys’ rods alone, and I am never short of fish in the cast iron skillet.
Fishing is about simplicity, solitude, deep camaraderie, and just being outdoors. You don’t need fancy, or expensive. The next great pool may be down that rocky face, and around the corner, would you be willing to bouce hundreds of dollars of gear down to see? I have no problem risking my relatively cheap setup to find out.