Make lists, move at your speed — do what works

We all know the feeling of looking at a collection of gear at the beginning or end of an outdoor adventure and realizing that something is missing. For some, it seldom happens; for others, like this writer, it happens all too often. Whether this is a consequence of having simply too much on one’s plate or not focusing on tasks at hand, no matter; it’s maddening!

On some occasions you can make do by borrowing or adapting. On party boats there are usually rigs and sinkers to buy and rods and reels to rent (better sharpen the hooks and check the knots, though!). Note: You can always find heavy sinkers for the strong tides, but the light ones for slack water are often hard to come by.

On private craft it’s more problematic. Years back I left a tackle box back at our car and remembered it a mile from the Orient Point ramp. With no way to recoup we had to go back; by the time we returned and anchored, we had lost a critical part of the tide and wound up struggling to put a few tautog in the cooler after the tide turned.


Even worse was a trip resulting from an invitation to fish a river on the Maryland shore years ago, an invitation that came from an old grad school roommate. We got out of the car hundreds of miles from home only to find that we had left all of our rods back on the porch on Long Island. We wound up digging for clams instead, but it just wasn’t the same.


Then there are the tales of gear left on the roof of the car as you pack up to leave. We’ve been known to drive off with dog dishes and tools that disappear somewhere on the road, but the saddest tale we ever heard came from a hunting buddy who returned from a successful day of Carolina quail shooting with his Brittanys only to realize that his treasured 16-gauge Eagle grade L.C. Smith double was missing. He had placed it atop his car while packing up. Needless to say, he never saw the treasured gun again.


I have had to learn the hard way to make lists, even beginning by listing the lists themselves! I have lists for beach fishing, lists for party-boat fishing, lists for freshwater trips, lists for field trials, and lists for ski trips. If I gather up the equipment well ahead of time I even have the luxury of adding gear that had been forgotten the first time the packet was assembled. This works most of the time, but not always. I’ve been known to arrive at a ski hill for breakfast, unpack gear bag and skis, and realize that I’ll need rental poles for the day. I haven’t yet forgotten ski boots, but we have plenty of friends who have. Often this means a nasty day of discomfort in rentals, especially if your feet are narrow or really wide.

I have always been slow off the mark when it comes to making the first run down the mountain or taking the first cast. We have had partners who always had rods and reels rigged up for carrying, even drove to distant coverts in full hunting regalia or to far away ski areas dressed for the slopes, ready to go as soon as their means of transportation stopped rolling. These folks inevitably put the first fish on the deck, cut fresh tracks on a ski hill, and put the first game in the bag, while we’re still struggling to get our acts together.

Occasionally, they pay a price for their speed, though not often. One angling partner learned the hard way how rod guides banging around in the back of a wagon often lose their rings, and yes, unprotected rods get scratched or even broken, too. Another speedy acquaintance took the first lift to the top of a steep, pristine trail at Whiteface unaware that it had iced badly the night before. She started down even before the ski patrol had arrived with signs to close it that morning. She lost her edges and skied into the woods, her head saved by a helmet, but other injuries cost her a full skiing season.

Personally, we find rushing about only costs us more in the long run. If I lose focus and get distracted by others catching fish on a quick first bite while I’m still rigging up, I’m going to tie lousy, weak knots and pay a big price later in the day, busting off fish.

If I’m frantically trying to slip on boots while others are already on the lifts or shouting to “hurry up” I’ll most likely not get my socks pulled up tight, and blister up within hours.

Whatever your style, fast, slow or, like me, half-fast, you have to do what works!