Order of Operations – The Value of Protocol

So I got a call today from a good friend of mine who will remain nameless to protect his identity.  He was going fishing on a local creek this morning and was in a hurry…. Hold that thought.  Rewind about 4 years ago and yours truly along with good friend were leaving a Lake Erie trib after a long cold day in the water.  We were both in a hurry to get warm and were probably borderline hypothermic.  We set our rods on top of the SUV (yes… cardinal sin)  and forgot about them.  We got out of our frozen waders and hopped in the car, cranked the heat and took off.  About a quarter mile down the road light dawns on marble skull as we hear the crunch and clatter of fly rods and reels tumbling to the road surface.  Half of the gear was salvageable.  The other half was toast and lesson learned…. or so I thought.


Fast forward to present day.  Present morning to be exact.  My good friend was in a hurry as he was leaving his house and just tossed his Orvis Access rod and Lamson reel on top of the SUV as he was getting his stuff together.  He never saw it again.  He called me this morning sick to his stomach over it and I was sick for him.  It was a sweet creek set up not to mention about $600 worth of gear gone.

Quick sidebar.  If you happen to be in the Mt Lebanon area and found said outfit, please drop us a line at the shop and we can get you in touch with the owner if you have a good fishing soul.  If you don’t, and decide to keep it I am sure the fish gods will deal with you in their own way.

Back to my point….   I firmly believe that you should have a protocol that you follow when you pack your gear, when you get to the stream, when you leave the water, and when you arrive home.  This will help you to minimize everything from minor “oh crap I forgot my …….” to major holy crap I forgot my……….”  Obviously having it fly off the roof of your car into oblivion is an extreme scenario but driving 3 hours to get to your favorite water only to find out you left your wading boots at home hurts almost as much.

Protocol for everyone is going to be very personal and different depending on your personality, your type of fishing, and your gear requirements.  I keep all of my gear in a large portable shop closet at home.  I also have a large rubbermaid style crate that I use as a car box.  Here are some of the steps I go through  that may help you down the road (no pun intended) in your own preparations.

  • Decide what water I am fishing and what my quarry will be
  • Select appropriate flies and put them in the appropriate boxes for the day
  • Check to make sure I have enough tippet
  • Visualize being stream side and gearing up to hit the water and go through  my mental checklist of things I will need… hat, glasses, sunscreen, etc… all the way down to rod and reel
  • Pack things in your car in a system so they are always in the same place
  • Gear up in the same order each time… string your rod, wader up, etc….
  • Keep your valuables like keys, wallet, phone in the same place and let your fishing buddy know where you keep them as well if you are not alone
  • Have a system for what you do when you get back to the car, chances are its dark, you are tired, and not always thinking straight…. this is the single most common time to lose or break something!
  • NEVER EVER EVER EVER EVER PUT YOUR ROD ON TOP OF THE CAR OR IN THE OPEN DOOR JAM OF YOUR CAR!!!!!  This is a sure fire way to either forget you put it there or close the door on it
  • Regardless of what your system is, the very first thing you do when you get to your car is break down your rod and put it in the rod tube… do not pass go, do not collect $200!  You will thank me someday for this

I am sure some of you are thinking, “Wow… Lee sure is OCD!”  Truthfully, I am not.  To be honest, I can be a bit of a slacker and a slob about certain things if left to my own devices.  If you invest time and money in your gear as many of you do, this becomes less about being OCD and more about protecting your investment and insuring good days on the water and hopefully limiting your frustration to not being able to hook up rather than not being able to make it to the water.

Tight Lines and Loose Pants!