Sunday’s Classic / Why I Always Carry a Backup Gear Box

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Cowboy’ing up on the river. Photo By: Louis Cahill

Have you ever made it to the river after a two hour drive and realized when you got there, you had forgot to pack one of your crucial pieces of fishing gear? I’ll be the first to admit I’ve been that unfortunate angler plenty of times, and it can ruin a day of fishing. A few years back I was forced to spend a day on Depuy’s Creek in MT wading around in a pair of my Justin cowboy boots. It was really ironic because I spent the morning packing all the gear for my virgin fly fishing buddies, and I was the one that ended up leaving my damn wading boots on the front porch. Those Justin boots were surprisingly comfortable wading around in, but they had zero traction and I looked like a moron. I’ve never forgot my wading boots on a fishing trip since.

Backup Fly Fishing Gear Box. Photo By: Louis Cahill

These days I always try to keep a box of backup gear in my vehicle at all times when there’s room. This way I’m covered if a piece of gear slips my mind during my packing or if I have gear break down on me on the water. Don’t get carried away with the backup gear box, just pack the essentials. I”m talking about focusing on the gear that will cause you to shout multiple four letter obscenities when you find yourself without them. Below is a short list of gear I carry with me at all times.

Contents of My Back Gear Box

1. Cheap pair of Polarized Sunglasses
2. Old pair of Wading Boots
3. Old pair of waders (It’s all good if they have a small leak or two)
4. Cheap rain jacket
5. Hat
6. Cheap fly rod and reel with fly line
7. Hemostats, Nippers, Fly Floatant
8. Couple spools of tippet and a couple leaders
9. Water Filtration Bottle (Not mandatory but a nice addition, worth its weight in gold)
10. Duck Tape 
If you’ve been fly fishing for a while, you’ll probably have enough old gear lying around to put together one of these backup gear boxes. If you’re missing a couple of them, no worries, just carry the back up gear you have on hand and work your way towards a complete box over time. And if you’re one of those perfectionist’s, who insists on it being 100% complete, I’ve just given you a good reason to go out and buy some new fancy gear. You won’t break into this box all that often, but when you do, I promise you’ll be grateful.

Keep it Reel,

Kent Klewein
Gink & Gasoline
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16 thoughts on “Sunday’s Classic / Why I Always Carry a Backup Gear Box

  1. Several years ago I drove 30 miles to reach a lake; unloaded my small boat; got every thing situated just right; parked the pickup and reached for my flyrod. Yep; it was leaning against the garage door at home.

    At least you were able to salvage the outing with cowboy boots.

    I now check and double check my gear but I like your advice. Afterall you never know when you may find yourself unexpectedly alongside some good water. Be prepared.

  2. Big trip to North GA and a trophy trout stream to catch a trout on the fly for my oldest daughter ( who does not fish ) . Same deal – i was so worried about all the stuff for her , i forgot my waders . This was right after Christmas . I did learn the value of nice , dry waders – wet wading in jeans and Crocs made for a pretty quick day.

  3. I would like to add that it’s a good idea to include a pair of socks, sweatpants and a hoodie from October through April. That way you don’t have to drive home naked after taking a swim.

    • Having done just that yesterday afternoon, I must concur. Extra set of dry clothes. Although, they should be something especially embarrassing to wear, because you did (I did) after all end up falling in the water like a noob. Maybe pink sweat pants and a Jonas Brothers T-shirt?

      In the spirit of full disclosure though, I didn’t technically “fall in”. I just wasn’t using my wading staff when wading in new waters and stepped into a hole deep enough to put the top of my waders under the water line. Different rookie move with the same results.

  4. Good thoughts. The thing I seem to forget the most is my wallet, so I keep a wad of cash stashed in my gear bag – enough for a tank of gas and some food. I second the extra clothes – I always pack a spare synthetic puffy, regardless of the season.

    A few other things that are good to have in the extras box: church key and spare bourbon. YMMV.

  5. Had a few too many beer and jager the night before going lake fishing and I forgot my fly boxes in the trailer! Luckily I had rigged up two rods with double fly rigs and managed to pick a couple of hot flies and had a good day regardless! Have since bought a big boat bag to hold everything so this won’t happen again.

  6. We were on a month-long trip, making a loop from Southern California, Utah, Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, Oregon and back down into California. We prepared well with several backup rods & reels, of several sizes. We packed the camper and had all that we needed. When we would stop overnight, the rods would be tied to the side of the camper till morning, to make extra room inside. We decided to stay at an RV place one night in Montana to get hot showers, do laundry, and charge up enough to watch a few movies. We felt nervous having our best rods outside, and didn’t want to break them down, so just slid them on top of the camper roof.
    In the morning, we were back on the road in a jiffy, and after about 60 miles or more, remembered about the rods on the roof. All had been up there….& there went my favorite Sage… We made a stop in Whitefish and had to buy several ‘souvenirs’. 4 reels, 4 rods, 4 spools of fly line and several hundreds of dollars later, we continued on our way. We always break our rods down now.

  7. Kent, I can’t believe you left out your all time best tip yet! Pack all of your extra gear in a tote with “Christmas Stuff” marked on the side, thereby hiding all your cool stuff from the wife! Brilliant!!

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  9. A few weeks ago I found myself with some time to go fishing, I grabbed a rod and my gear bag and drove to the river. I was all dressed and put my rod together when I realized i had the bottom of my 3wt and the top of my 7wt, six inches of Tyvek tape and off I went……….I was making funny looking loops for a while, but fishe for a few hours.

  10. I’d add a small box of generic flies and nymphs for when you drive 70 miles and forget your vest and all your flies at home. And dry clothes are always preferable to driving home in wet jeans.

  11. Where’s that picture, Kent — as I would’ve loved to have seen you wearing the Justin cowboy boots with the waders?!?

    Great, sensible article. THANKS!.

    I also enjoyed reading the Tandem Nymph Rig article and I look forward to the follow-on, detailed one, too. That’s one of the things that I would like to be better at, quickly discerning what’s working – and to get dialed-in as quickly as possible to the trout.

    Got another question for you before I drop off.

    Regarding lunker, trophy-sized cutthroat trout — what are the top 5 rivers and/or drainages in the West? More specifically, what are the top 2-3 ‘public land’ waters and the top 2-3 ‘private’ waters?

    Pyramid Lake comes to mind, as does the Snake River, but if you have some exceptionally ‘good’ to GREAT waters you’d recommend and could share — I’d certainly appreciate it.

    Best regards,


    Mark Greer
    Salt Lake City, UT

    p.s. Bear River south of Evanston, WY is supposedly a ‘nice’ Cutthroat fishery.

  12. Last year on my bachelor trip to the Mountains of WV I lost my entire fly box due to an attack from some seriously angry bees. My bag was opened when it happened and in my panic my box must have fallen in the stream. Totally wrecked the rest of my trip. The box was made for the area I was fishing and those were the only flys I had. Now I pack two boxes. It doesn’t only suck to forget some stuff but also to lose some stuff.

    • Stephen,

      That truly sux man. I had a pack stolen out of the back of my truck once in the parking lot of Walmart when I was getting a fishing license that had six or seven fly boxes in it. I puked when I found out about it. Thanks for sharing the pain.


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