Pro Tips: A Good Checklist Can Protect You from Your Own Stupidity

Written by: Robert Morselli

You don’t want to forget your rod and end up like this guy, fishing with a hot dog fork (story here).
Photo by Bryan Eldredge

The first time, I took along the correct rods, but wrong reels and lines. Real smart, I know. Yes, I fished, but felt like a complete dope the entire day.

The second time, I arrived at my fishing destination—far, far away from any supply shop—and discovered that I didn’t have a single tippet spool with me. In full panic mode, I rushed to see if I had left anything on one of the two the reels I brought and. . .yes! . . .there was a bright, shining leader on one of them: almost seven-and-a-half feet of what was originally a ten-footer. I fished that day, knowing full well that I wouldn’t be changing my fly anywhere near as often as I’d have liked to (four or five changes, total). By day’s end, I was fishing a pitiful six-footer that could barely fit any but the largest hook eyes. I caught a few fish, but it was a very frustrating day.

Lesson learned: forgetting even small items, such as leaders, can really mess up your day.

Some people just take everything with them all of the time and never have anything missing, something I’m not entirely opposed to, except that I fit in the middle-of-the-road category of anglers, when it comes to gear. I’m not a minimalist, but I try hard to lighten the load of my vest or pack; my personal limit is 36 ounces (1,000 grams). So I took three minutes to type out a checklist that I now take one minute to review every time I leave the house. It’s sixty seconds well invested. Believe me now, or believe me later…

Some items are optional or do not apply, but they’re all there – whether you’re boating or wading.

first-aid kit
fly rod
spare fly rod
sling pacl/fishing vest/chest pack
leaders (several)
split-shot / indicators
tippet spools (with tippet material wound on!)
forceps/needle nose pliers
wet/wading shoes
dry footwear
sweater/heavy shirt
insect repellent
towels (one wet/one dry)
contact lens stuff
cooler + icepacks
extra socks, underwear, pants, t-shirt
WC paper
compact camera (battery charged up?)
food & drink
drinking water

And don’t forget to check your vest/pack supplies regularly: pulling that last 9.25 inches of tippet from a spool is frustrating. No – scratch that – make that infuriating.

You’re welcome.

Robert Morselli is the research director for the television show “How It’s Made.” He is also publisher of Fly Gear Guide.

9 thoughts on “Pro Tips: A Good Checklist Can Protect You from Your Own Stupidity”

  1. Long before the advent of cell phones or my being granted a drivers license my mom took me to a local stream that remarkably held brook trout, both stocked and wild (the stream is within marathon distance of the city of Boston and has been sadly urbanized). I was dropped off in the empty lot I had been several times before and agreed to meet back at the appointed location. No sooner than the exhaust fumes of the old Ford dissipated I realized that I had left my reel at home. Well, that put an end to the fishing but I probably gained as much knowledge about where trout held in that little stream that day just by tramping along the banks and occasionally in the stream itself. The lesson for me? There is never a lost day on a trout stream – even when you leave the reel behind.

  2. I have an even more extensive list than that when I take off for 2-4 weeks. It’s useless, though, if you skip over an item because you “know” that it’s in the car! I make an annual pilgrimage to NY and PA from FL in the Spring each year. First stop was in NC for a couple days where I discovered that my Richardson Chest Box wasn’t there and my zillions of teeny tiny flies that I was going to need in PA were in it! I was devastated. Then! I called my daughter, who fortunately had a key to my apt, explained my dilemma and asked if she would FEDEX the box to the next campground I would be at in PA. Again, fortunately, I had made reservations and knew my itinerary! And when I made then move, the package was there waiting for me!

  3. Got up one morning and made the 2 1/2 hour drive to fish the Little juniata in central Pa. Got to the stream and it was a beautiful day and the water was perfect. With high anticipation of great day I got all suited up. The last thing to put on was my vest only to discover I had left it at home.After cussing myself out I decided the only thing to do was go home,,,get my vest and come back and fish.I ended up having one of the best days Ive ever had fishing that stream. Now I always double check that i have everything before i leave the house

  4. My buddy Stef and I drove 4 hours to a river we knew of that held loads of salmon in the fall. After we parked he discovered that he’d left his waders at home. He spent the next 2 days fishing in his wading boots and boxers in some seriously ball numbing water. It was a sight to see, that’s for sure.

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