How often have you been hunting and seen a nice creek, high country lake, or slough that you would like to fish? More often than not you don't have fishing gear with you when you're hunting. Don't miss any more opportunities when you are afield!
A small, very compact fishing essentials kit can easily be packed in your day-pack, fanny-pack or even vest pocket. No, it won't have a graphite fishing rod or quick-retrieve reel, but for much of the fishing opportunities you will encounter, it will suffice. A fishing rod is quickly improvised from a suitable willow, alder, poplar or aspen branch or sucker, selecting one with enough spine to control, yet enough spring and give to be resilient once a fish is hooked. No, it's not high-tech, but it is very effective when used properly.
Most times, with a rod described above, no more than six to eight feet of line are needed to fish sloughs, backwaters, beaver ponds and the like. When fishing small wood and meadow streams, often times three feet of line is all that is necessary, being very maneuverable through the trees and willows that typically line these fish filled treasuries. Many times you will find that your stick-rod is just the tool for this type of fishing!
Now, about selecting the gear for your essentials pack. It needs be very simple in order to be compact enough to take with you whenever you go afield. A simple spool of four to six pound test monofilament leader will suffice for fishing line in our purposes; it is light weight, not easily tangled, and very compact. Of course you will need hooks: a small zip-lock package containing a 12-18 hooks should be sufficient for most purposes. Hook selection depends upon your intended purposes, but a goodly supply of size eight hooks are excellent for most trout and panfish applications, a few size ten hooks along with a few size fours should round out the hook selection, and the addition of a few size fourteen hooks will facilitate the use of maggots as well. These should all be bait-holder type hooks, as you will be using available natural bait.
In addition to the line and hooks, also include some split-shot sinkers for use on your line. For most applications a package of BB size split-shot, the type with the ears for easy removal, will best suit the needs of this improvised fishing kit. They are easy to apply, aren't too heavy to add weight to the package, and are imminently versatile in many angling situations.
Although a float or bobber can easily be improvised in the field from a piece of wood or cane, a slim, styrofoam type bobber makes a welcome addition to the fishing essentials pack. These are virtually unbreakable, (unlike the hollow plastic variety), have spring loaded catches for attaching to fishing line, and are highly visible as well. One will suffice in the kit, but two would be nice just in case you lose one while fishing.
Another consideration is to include a selection of tied artificial flies to your kit. Many waters these days are restricted to fly fishing only or to the use of artificial flies or lures by state game laws. Having just a modest selection of these on hand will insure your ability to both comply with angling regulations and take advantage of some spectacular fishing opportunities. Selection of fly patters will vary depending upon your geographic location and predominant species, but for starters try including both a dark and light caddis fly, a black ant or two, a couple of mosquito pattern flies, perhaps a black marabou leech, a couple of wooly worms and wooly buggers and maybe a royal coachman. No, you aren't going to have the capacity of classic fly presentation as with complete fly fishing outfits, but you certainly can make a decent fly presentation, especially on small streams, by drifting the fly into fish holding pockets, which is very effective.
Lastly, if your fishing kit warrants it, include a few rubber body lead head jigs in your assortment of tackle, or perhaps a couple of lead head jigs and then a modest assortment of jig-bodies in various colors. These are outstanding on many panfish on beaver ponds and backwaters.
Finally, we need to house our fishing essentials kit in some type of compact container for carrying and protection. There is a plethora of compact plastic fishing boxes available today. Many afford outstanding features and organizational opportunity. They are also very light weight and take up little more space than a man's wallet. If these suit your purposes, great! However, I prefer a small metal box. Perhaps I'm just rough on equipment, but it seems that those great little plastic fishing boxes always end up in more pieces at the end of a hunt that what I started out with! The metal boxes of preference are those that candies typically come packaged. Boxes from Whitman's Samplers, Altoid Mints, and Sucrets Throat Lozenges have made first class containers for fishing kits over the years. These small, flat metal boxes are designed for pockets and give plenty of room for a very utilitarian fishing kit to take afield. Once my gear is stowed in one of these boxes, I secure it from spontaneously opening by employing a wide rubber band cut from a bicycle inner tube. Not only does the inner tube rubber band secure the box, and not slip off due to it's wide width, it also can serve as a sure-light fire starter in wet weather. Whatever container you select for your fishing kit, make sure that it is compact enough that you won't leave it behind, and that it is durable enough to withstand whatever knocks and falls that await it when you are hunting.
What about bait? Well, here again it will depend upon your geographic location and the season of the year. On running streams and rivers, I've always found that overturning rocks submerged in the water will reveal some hellgrammites, these are excellent natural bait any time of year. During late spring and throughout the summer into early fall grasshoppers are in abundance most places; swat them with your hat, and thread them onto a size eight hook and you're armed for just about any type of trout or panfish. Small frogs and tadpoles are great bait as well, although not as easily located or acquired as other baits. Overturning logs and rocks will often reveal worms and maggots both of which are proven fish bait and a universally recognized meal in the fish world. Don't overlook crickets, salmon flies, and other seasonal hatches of natural feed. Being creative and resourceful will often times mean great fun and fish in the pack going back to camp.
I know that several times my pocket fishing kit has made a great memory! Sometimes if it weren't for that little bit of fishing tackle in my pack, there wouldn't be any meat going home with me from an elk hunting excursion, or spring turkey hunt. Spring bear hunts are always a fishing opportunity waiting to happen! Once you carry a small packet of tackle around with you in the woods, you'll begin to see things a little differently when you get to one of those hidden away bodies of water that no one else in their right mind would hike into to go fishing! You'll discover pockets of fish that you won't believe existed!
One last thought. KEEP IT SIMPLE! KEEP IT SMALL!