Accidental Fishing, Keep Your Gear Close

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By Louis Cahill

I’m a firm believer in a well laid plan, so why has some of my best fishing been an accident?

I guess it all started because I have a weak bladder. Anyone who has been on a road trip with me can tell you that. Be prepared to make frequent stops. As much as I try, those stops don’t always coincide with gas stations and rest areas. It was on one of these unscheduled pit stops that I noticed a small stream in the North Carolina mountains. The sound of running water always helps to get the plumbing moving, but this water deserved closer inspection.

I tromped back to the car for a 3 weight and within a couple of minutes I was catching wild brook trout fifty feet from the road. The little stream was lousy with them and there were no trails, beat down banks or any other sign of human traffic. Wild brook trout were thriving there in spitting distance of the highway with no one the wiser. I caught eight or ten and was back on the road without ever knowing the name of the stream.

A couple of years later I was in Colorado when nature called. This roadside bano took me in sight of a small mountain lake. I couldn’t help but notice a cutthroat about sixteen inches cruising the bank. I zipped and trotted back to the car for a different rod. A single cast was all it took. The optimistic cuttie swam right over and ate my hopper. Nothing breaks up a road trip like an unexpected fish.

All of my accidental fishing isn’t related to public urination.

IMG_2579Last summer I was sitting under an umbrella on a Florida beach with my wife and a rum drink when I noticed something moving along the edge of the water. A nice snook was making its way along right by the soaking Midwesterners and splashing kids. Again I sprinted for the truck.

IMG_2578I leaned my rod up against the umbrella and went back to my drink. Before long another snook came along and I strolled down and made a cast. It only took seconds for some jackass to realize what I was up to and start yelling for his kids to splash over and see the fish. The snook wanted no part of that. I reeled up and followed him down the beach and before long he was looking for a snack again and found my fly. I caught four that way.

Recently, I was in South Carolina due to a family emergency. It was a sad occasion and at some point a little stress release was an absolute must. I slipped out to a little pond down the road just as the sun was getting off the water. In less than two hours I’d landed two dozen small bass and a few chunky bluegill on a popper. Nothing over a foot but they were just the distraction I needed and a ton of fun.

There’s a little, and very dirty, carp pond not far from my house and on summer days when I’m working in the office I often find myself stopping for a few minutes on my way back from lunch or errands. I can usually land one carp and be back at the computer before anyone notices. In all fairness this is becoming too regular to be called an accident. It’s still spontaneous at least.

There are plenty of other examples, like the river I found that holds a rare species of suckers which reach about eight pounds. That’s right, when my curiosity gets the best of me I will target suckers, especially if they’re big. This kind of spontaneous fly fishing is only possible for one simple reason. I always have a fly rod.

You don’t have to be as obsessive as I am.

DSC_2609I have my truck outfitted with a TruckVault which houses a selection of rods, reels and flies to cover just about any situation. If I happen to stop to see a man about a dog, and there are bonefish tailing, I’m ready. But a simple setup is all you need. A medium weight rod and a box of flies that cover a range of possibilities is easy to stash in any vehicle. One of my favorite roadside assault weapons is a tenkara rod. It takes no time to set up and you can keep a fly on the line while stored.

For some reason I always like a fiberglass rod for accidental fishing and if you’re worried about leaving an expensive setup in the car, get yourself an Eagle Claw Featherweight for $25. Match it with an old Pflueger or Southbend reel from Ebay and you’re fishing for under $50. An old friend used to tell me, “Chance favors the prepared mind.” Well, I suppose fish favor the prepared angler. Even when it’s an accident.

Louis Cahill
Gink & Gasoline
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5 thoughts on “Accidental Fishing, Keep Your Gear Close

  1. I believe that most of us have had that idea of storing gear with us for situations just like that. However most of us for whatever excuse we choose just don’t do it (myself included). But that small bladder problem you mentioned? Got that down perfectly!!! I always mention that before I get in a boat with someone who is not familiar with the “gotta go” right now situation. Keep up the good work. It’s always a pleasure to read what is happening in your world.

  2. I keep an Eagle Claw Trailmaster, an ultralight spin reel and two 5wt reels, one float and one sink-tip line in my car at all times. I tie most of my streamer patterns in unweighted, weighted (typically with lead eyes) and as an 1/8 oz jig. Spontaneity and being prepared!

    Carry extra pants and shoes! Going ankle deep in muck wearing dress pants and wing tips is never a good thing.

    Great article. Some wonderful fishing can be had at overpasses and random bodies of water.

    And being able to buy a fishing license on via your phone….a very good thing.

  3. Its always a great time speaking with local fisherman. Here in the delta in Stockton, CA will see a lot of fisherman come and go, and say they had a lot of fun. They always fuel up at our Marina and ask about the best spots to fish.

  4. I also carry an Eagle Claw Featherlight in my vehicle. As a forester in Idaho our Forest Practices Act requires a stream protection zone for timber harvesting near a fish-bearing stream. I use the Eagle Claw to routinely conduct a “rod & reel” survey to determine fish presence in small streams. Yeah it’s tough work!

  5. Love this read as most of us have to squeeze fishing in at odd times… Or odd places.

    I carry a small 5 piece travel 5/6 wt switch rod and small pack. Rage line will do some sink tips for catfish, and with little room a snake roll cast will pretty much get most places a fly.

    The day after a wedding, when people are hungover is a great time to sneak out for some fishing.

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