One of the things I love about panfish is their availability. Bluegills, sunfish ,and other panfish can be found everywhere, and that is one of the things that draws me to them. It may not be apparent through my writings here, but I am a pretty serious about trout and salmon fishing as well. I love the environments that trout and salmon live in and the unique challenges that they present to the fly fisherman. I travel all over the country pursuing them, and that is part of the problem. For me, my closest trout water is over an hour and a half away. A trip to a trout stream is a pretty big commitment of time for me, something that has to be planned. But we are not here to talk about trout, are we?
I like to fish; I like to fish often. I also have a wife, two young children, chores to do, animals to tend to, in other words, obligations that prevent me from slipping away to spend a few hours on a trout stream. Fortunately, being retired, I don’t have to add work to that list of obligations. What this means is, I can usually steal a small window of time to wet a line on a regular basis. It may only be for an hour or two, but an hour spent outdoors is far better than say an hour spent sitting behind a keyboard typing a blog post!
This is where panfish come to the rescue, you can find them everywhere. I’m blessed to live in a rural area with a landscape dotted with warm water lakes and ponds. Many of these lakes and ponds are regular stops for me, and I know them well, but I often pass new waters when I am out and about. When I find a new body of water I will often make a note of it in a small notebook I keep in the console of my truck, with the hope of coming back to it someday. If time allows, I will often stop and check out the fishing situation right then and there. How many times have you passed a body of water during your travels and wondered what the fishing opportunities are like? Why not find out for yourself? If you make a habit of keeping some fishing gear in your vehicle at all times, you can be ready to fish at a moment's notice.
New bodies of water can be found whether you live in rural, suburban or even urban areas. In additional to the natural and man-made lakes that can be found everywhere, many parks, municipal and commercial complexes often contain small ponds and lakes. Just the other day I arrived about a half-hour early for an appointment in a medical complex I had never visited before. Right next to the parking lot there was a small pond. I grabbed my set up from behind the seat, and on my very first cast, I was rewarded with a nice crappie. Over the course of the next thirty minutes, I caught a mixed bag crappie, bluegill, and a few small bass.
My exploring new waters gear is very simple. In the back pocket of my driver's seat resides a tenkara rod and a micro chest rig containing a box of flies, extra tippet, and all the tools I need for an exploratory fishing trip. Truth be told, there is also a fly rod or two and a larger selection of flies under the back seat that can be broken out as well! However, the tenkara rod allows me to be fishing very quickly. The rod is stored with the line and tippet attached to it and neatly stored on a spool. To be ready to fish, all it takes is a quick unwinding of the line off the spool, extending the rod, and tying on a fly (if there is not one already attached from the last outing). I have never timed it, but I bet I could be fishing in under a minute from the time I take the rod out of the truck.
The tenkara rod is extremely portable when collapsed making it very discrete when poking around a new piece of water. I always do a thorough check to make sure I am not trespassing on posted property before wetting a line. Carrying a tenkara rod in my back pocket is a lot less conspicuous than carrying a fly rod. If I encounter something that leads me to believe I am not allowed to fish there, no one is the wiser and I can just mosey on back to the truck and be on my way.
The rod’s size when collapsed also makes it very easy to move through dense underbrush when exploring a new piece of water. When I am exploring new water for the first time, I tend to move around a lot covering as much water as possible. A tenkara rod’s portability makes this very easy.
I carry a basic fly selection with me which includes both surface and subsurface patterns for panfish which are my primary target. I will always have a larger pattern or two on hand for bass and pickerel as well, though I will be the first to admit that a tenkara rod is not the best choice for these fish. If I am prospecting a future bass lake, I will grab the fly rod and flies from under the seat. My leather chest rig holds a fly box, a few spools of tippet, a pair of forceps and a set of nippers. It is all I need to enjoy a few hours of fishing. One thing I forgot to mention is my fishing license. I don’t routinely carry one with me wherever I go so I make a habit of stashing some extra copies of it with my gear. I keep a copy taped to the lid of the fly box on my chest rig, so I always have one with me.
In addition to my fishing set up, there is always some additional essential equipment stored in the truck at all times. Items like sunscreen, bug spray, hand sanitizer, rain gear, flashlights and a good first aid kit are always on hand if needed. The hand sanitizer came in handy to get the fish smell off my hands before I went in for that doctor’s appointment! If things look promising, there is always that full blown fly fishing outfit under the seat that I can grab if needed!
I would love to hear from you if you keep a permanent fishing set up in your vehicle. I’m interested in what you are carrying and how you are storing it. Feel free to share a story about a new piece of water you discovered as well.