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Backpack Fishing

Cleaning up and organizing gear while at home this month I found my old backpacking fishing gear buried in the storage.

I gave up trout fishing while backpacking a long time ago simply due to the fact that cooking fish and cleaning up after in bear country became more of a chore than a pleasure. Never seemed to be able to get rid of all the fish smell which concerned me. Plus it meant camping near a stream rather than up high which I prefer. I do miss the joy of fishing a remote mountain stream but not the chores.

Anyone else given up on the fishing thing or do you still do it? Note I'm talking about mutli-day backpacking trips here not campgrounds or car camping where its easier to bring more supplies.

yeah, me too to an extent. I haven't quit entirely but the last few times I did it, I found I'd rather keep ambling up the stream than stop to fish. These were deep off-trail wanderings and the adventure of exploring was more compelling than fishing. 

And honestly, I caught more fish accidentally than I did on purpose. I was using my usual hand-line tied to a water bottle and only caught one by casting to a specific spot; I caught three accidentally while just moving around the stream with my fly dragging in the water behind me. lol , but hey I've never claimed any skill at it...

regarding the odor thing, I sometimes wonder how much our efforts to reduce food smells really matter? from what we can read about the sensitivity of a bears nose, those suckers can smell a tiny bit of a food from miles away. still, fish smell is maybe another category than trail mix right?

Back country fishing is some of the best.   The fish hit everything and the fresh food is great, especially on longer trips.   Some of my fondest memories of being in wild country are associated with catching fish.   Catching golden trout on a fly ,  catching 4 kinds of trout in one day, catching fish on every other cast in the Grand Canyon.   Catching walleyes, bass and northern pike in the Boundary Waters. 

I wish I was doing it more. We have to travel a few hours here, best stuff is in northern Arizona. I can catch both trout and smallmouth bass in the same river. Spinners, spoons and Rebel crawfish are my favorites with Panther Martin spinners coming in at #1 but the bubble/fly system for trout rising way past fly casting range in a mountain lake is very fine too.

We just gut trout and bake them in the coals in butter and herbs. Trout are only truly good when super fresh.

There is a dandy little lake in the mountains here but usually overrun with the powerbait crowd, too close to a road.

Patman said:

regarding the odor thing, I sometimes wonder how much our efforts to reduce food smells really matter? from what we can read about the sensitivity of a bears nose, those suckers can smell a tiny bit of a food from miles away. still, fish smell is maybe another category than trail mix right?

 Good point Patman. I recall  a story of a Polar Bear with an active tracking device on it that was being monitored. The bear was meandering here and  there for days and all of a sudden it turned and walked in a straight line for 50miles!

It had scented a female in estrus! And found her.

That may be an extreme example but it gives us all a comparison of what we deal with and what they may be capable of.

A really good point about odor...but if they can smell that well wouldnt a fish carry even further...?

I think its more about the cleaning chores for me though...maybe im just getting lazy.

Im with you Patrick on wanting to explore more than fish...thats one of the reasons I stopped carrying a backpacking rod. Mutliple trips it never came out of its case.

Some people get lazy when they age. 

Im a selectively lazy backpacker...hiking time and mileage have increased over the last couple of decades as pack weight decreased, but things like fire building (unless you count handful of twigs in my wood burning stove) and fish cleaning practically disappeared from my camp routine. Still enjoy simmering dinner over a wood stove but not a lot of clean up. Dry camping a lot influences that too...less available water and no fish on the top of the hills.

Phil, your "selectively lazy" distinction is one that resonates with me. Quality of experience has become the defining factor for me. I still have fire-building on my agenda in places with established rings--the allure of gazing into embers goes back to my earliest memories of camping as a kid. But I, too, have lightened my pack and lengthened my miles. I'm selectively lightweight, too: for instance, carrying my Sawyer Squeeze in gravity mode is heavier than many of my other water purification options, but I find I enjoy sitting in the shade and enjoying my surroundings while it fills my bottles. I've been in the explore-rather-than-fish mode my whole backpacking life, but then again, growing up fishing was something you did off docks on farm ponds or from a boat on a lake in NC and backpacking was more about seeing remote places or experiencing a measure of adventure. Ironically, the ethos of fly fishing intrigues me now and I've been toying with adding that to my backcountry experiences. I do love fresh fish--maybe pan fried for breakfast after an early morning of fishing to avoid bringing my ursine friends into camp until all is tidily stowed and I'm on my way! We'll see.

During the years I was spending more time in Baxter I got used to always carrying my five piece rod, mini-spin reel and a few lures. The last few years I've been spending more time on mountain ridges in NH & VT where it doesn't make sense to carry equipment even if the trail does cross a river at some point.

I'd been planning on trying to do an early season Baxter trip this year dedicated to fishing a couple of spots over a week. Stay at one site for at least three nights so as to get in two good days of fishing. Early June is a great time to feast on brown trout or landlocked salmon. Maybe next year.

I still enjoy fishing n the backcountry...but I usually don't keep any fish.  I just fish for fun.  Yeah. sometimes keep a couple, but in general, it's just for entertainment.  I agree with PPine that catching fish in those high elevation lakes and streams is the best kind of fishing.

But I don't camp in grizzly country, and so odor and bear attacks are not an issue...

I definitely get the joy of fishing and am planning on ramping back up on my trout fishing skills now that I live day trip distance from trout streams in NC. I just prefer to clamber about the hills and explore more than stopping to fish on a backpacking trip...looking back over the years my average mileage keeps going up...that is going to peak and recede soon but in my early 50s I can still put some miles behind me and see more beautiful spots.

Selectively lazy absolutely defines my style...once I reach camp its difficult to get me out of my tent...

FlipNC said:

Selectively lazy absolutely defines my style...once I reach camp its difficult to get me out of my tent...

Lollygagging is a fine and often overlooked art. I love the thrills of the trail--the rise and fall of the land, the new vista around a bend in the trail, moving from the exhilarating crispness of wind on a peak down to the murmuring cool of creek bottoms--but slowing down in nature is ultimately why I go. Sitting in my hammock, rich cup of coffee in hand, watching the sun rise or set or listening to the wilderness awaken or fall's very hard to beat that!

Yup, I'm with you there Phil. My backpacking trips are about covering ground then setting up to eat and sleep before doing it again. Efficient distance travel runs counter to sitting around relaxing with the fishes.

That is why I want to plan a fishing trip that involves backpacking rather than a backpacking trip. Totally different mentality.

I once fished BC waters for the fun, but have lost the romance of the experience.  I'll only fish for fun as a social activity.  But I still pack a rod on longer trips, as the fresh protein dinner is a treat.  


May 28, 2022
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