The Old Tackle Bag…

DIY Flat Fishing Hip Pack...what's in there?

I’ve been inspired by Bjorn over at BonefishOnTheBrain to post on some of the more practical aspects of my obsession. He’s off to a magical gathering called FIBFest (while us more plebian folk are left to freeze our nethers off–metaphorically speaking). That got me thinking about what I’d carry in my pack–other than like a zillion Gotcha-like flies–if I were off to somewhere remote to bonefish my brains out… by happenstance it’s the same as what I carry with me every day I guide.

All of my bonefishing is wading (except when I’m away from home in the Keys or the Bahamas or somewhere and can actually afford a guide), and here’s what I keep in my pack. With it I’ve been able to face most any situation, no worries. (I suppose it reads like a Top-Ten list, and if I actually counted I’d have more than ten categories in there, but these are probably the most important.)

1. Nippers on a lanyard attached to hip-pack. They’re usually tucked away on the top of a zip-pocket to be very accessible in a boat or wading. Save your teeth for food, trust me.

2. Multi-tool. Absolute must for building tarpon leaders, cinching down knots in heavy mono, and crimping wire leaders for cuda. Plus they’ve helped me do everything from emergency surgery on reels, to tightening the terminals on the boat battery, to opening the plug on the gas tank when we ran out of fuel in the middle of nowhere in the Keys and a kindly boater let us siphon a few gallons from his tank.

3. Leaders, tippet, and fixin’s for building leaders [1].

4. Something to tie Nail Knots with. I put loops in the end of all my fly-lines by tying a couple Nail Knots with 10-12 lb. mono around the doubled fly-line. Occasionally baby cuda will hit the leader to fly-line connection as it’s zipping through the water, destroying the end of the fly-line. I use a small section of Cortland Loop material as the “nail” to tie my Nail Knots. Because it compresses I can wrap the mono tightly around the fly-line. When I’m finished wrapping I push the end into the open Cortland Loop material and pull it through. The material grabs the mono and I have a neat Nail Knot. I’ve had to repair several fly-lines this way. (As a side note, I’ve also had to put new loops in fly-lines after trimming a few feet off the end of the line. Last spring a buddy of mine visited and we fished a particularly shallow series of flats on very windy days. Because the fish were fairly small and the water so shallow, we used 6-weights, but his line simply couldn’t turn his fly over into the breeze. His line had a particularly long front taper and it was killing the energy. After I cut about 6-8 ft. off the end and rebuilt the loop, he was able to easily turn his fly over and start feeding fish.)

5. Stripping guards. These are my secret for feeling the subtle take of a bonefish.

6. Land’s End Ointment or Sting-Eze. There are lots of stuff that stings in the ocean: tiny jellyfish in turtle-grass, random floating stuff, etc. Nothing can ruin a day like being distracted by a sting.

7. Benadryl (Diphenhydramine) antihistamine in those water-proof plastic packs witht the foil backing. Again, you never know when you’ll get stung by stuff on the water–jellyfish, stingrays, or even bees–and if you haven’t been stung by them before, you don’t know if you’re allergic or not. Having some antihistamine could just save a life.

8. Locking hemostats for removing flies and debarbing hooks (on my buddies flies when they’re not looking). I’ve even used these as a make-shift vise to modify/repair flies in a pinch. I remember a trip to Exuma where I ran out of Gotchas the second day and used my hemo’s and dental floss to cobble together others for the remainder of the trip [2].

9. Zip-lock with Aspirin, Acetaminophen, and Ibuprofen: for headaches from sun, dehydration, caffeine withdrawal, or (more commonly) hangovers.

10. Small micro-fibre cloth (in ziplock) to clean glasses. If you’re glasses aren’t clean, you can’t see fish. Needless to say, since my job is spotting fish, I’m absolutely OCD about keeping my glasses clean.

That’s about it, excluding lots of flies, of course. I dispense with some things like hook-sharpeners by using very sharp hooks to begin with, (and in a pinch I can whip out the muli-tool and use its file). I also used to keep a spare set of sunglass and some DEET in there until the latter leaked, ate through a couple baggies and melted the former on the way through the rubberized bottom of my pack [3]. After that I figured there was very little bugs could do to me that was worse than getting DEET anywhere near my skin so I found other, less toxic options. OFF Botanicals® has worked pretty well so far on the usual suspects (mosquitoes and sandflies), but the only effective defense against the “doctorflies” of the Bahamas is to put a layer of clothes between you skin and their jaws… and even that isn’t full-proof. This stuff doesn’t always live in my pack, but if I’m heading somewhere that might hold populations of the bloodsucking bastards I’ll toss it in there.

By the way, if you’re in the market for a multi-tool, save your money and buy one of the slide-out Gerber models instead of a Leatherman. The hinging mechanism in the latter never fail to rust solid in a salty environment, no matter how well you care for them. In contrast, my Gerber lasted for 10 years in the bottom of my (often soaked) hip pack with only the occasional rinse and oiling until it was confiscated on a recent trip through MIA. I just ordered a replacement. (Plus, you can open and close the slide-out type with one hand, which is pretty cool.)

One final item, I always carry a spare buff (clean) which I can whip out heroically when my buddy (who swore he’d never wear something so stupid) starts to fry about mid-day.

1 Why the “fixin’s”? On my first permit hunting trip I was using store-bought 12-foot, 12-pound leaders but just couldn’t get them to turn those heavy flies over cleanly. A crumpled leader means there’s slack in the cast, if there’s slack you could (and probably will) miss feeling the bite. On inspection the butt-section of those leaders was too short (I refrain from mentioning the actual brand but their leader proportions seems somewhat arbitrary to me), so I lengthened the butt and shortened the tippet. Voila: the leader turned over.  [back]
2 Yes, they looked like hell, and, yes, they caught fish. [back]
3 And I mean melted. These weren’t your cheap, drug store shades, they were Oakley®. Nevertheless the plastic frames turned to a gooey, sticky mess–like a piece of licorice on a hot day–and the lenses looked like they were covered in frost, permanently. [back]

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    I just bought another just like it. Turns out it’s the “Gerber Multi-Plier 600 Pro Scout Needlenose Stainless 1-Hand Opening Multi-Tool”. I don’t know how it survived for so long, frankly. I hardly ever washed it. I did oil it a time or two, but again, rarely. I think the fact that it is A) stainless, and B) a slide-out model, means less hinging parts. Also, Gerber has this thing about putting little plastic washers between tool parts so they open smoothly even if rusted.

    Gerber also makes a fishing model called the “Flik Fishing Multi Tool”, but I like the components on my old model.

  • Reply

    Ah, sage advice from an old campaigner, I see. Yes, I wish my pack was big enough for either of those things… although I suppose the side pouches (intended to carry water-bottles) could be drafted into service for a more appropriate beverage. As for the rain jacket, if you bring one of those with you it will never rain. Thought you knew that.

  • Frank

    Great post! Can you provide a bit more info about the Gerber model of survival tool that manages to live around s.w.? I’ve had the same experience with my Leatherman (rusting). Tight Lines! F.D.

  • natew

    stow away flask or bottle of aged rum. Cans of Starbucks. rain coat?

  • Reply

    Enjoying some great Salt info and can’t wait to get back to it myself! Nice blog

  • Reply

    I’m a big fan of the scheduled post. Pretty much every post I do the night before, but today, I did it two days in advance, since it is my little girl’s birthday today.

  • Reply

    Yeah, I’m trying out my “scheduled post” option where I can bust out posts when I have the time and schedule them to post themselves say 3-4 days apart. Seemed to work.

  • Vince

    Send me your address so I can send you a few stalker masks at least, and let you compare them to the Buff…

  • Reply

    That’s me… an inspiration! Good stuff, as always. I almost couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw new stuff up so soon after other new stuff. I like it.

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