Carry Less, Fish More by Mark Usyk

It started while I was working on the road. I was traveling all over the north east, the majority of it New York State. I traveled for work, but besides the beautiful, expansive views afforded to me because of the nature of my job…Working hundreds of feet above the ground on communications towers, I found my mindset more that I was traveling to fish. And work just rudely took up more of the time each day. I never knew where I would be fishing on any given day, and so along with a truck filled with a couple thousand pounds of tools, ropes, and rigging gear, I traveled with practically every piece of fishing gear I owned. At least one pack, the zippers doing all they could to not explode at their stitching, and then rod tubes, another bag of stuff that I couldn’t shoe-horn into the first pack, and a portable fly tying station. And eventually a lap top to write fishing stories when I couldn’t get to water and I wasn’t in the mood to tie.

After a while though, my gear mentality started encroaching on my weekends. I was only going fishing for 2-3 hours on the Oriskany Creek, a creek I can see out my back windows and at most was going to be fishing no more than a mile downstream from home. But getting ready to head out there, I was still cramming a small pack full of enough fly boxes, leaders, and tippet, to mount a small excursion into the Amazon. On the Oriskany I’ll fish a Wollybugger or a streamer. That’s about it. Yet the full pack was still on my back.

At some point I stood looking at 10lbs of “stuff” that I was going to try to coerce into a 5lb sack one day, and I just shook my head. It was a little ridiculous. I was going to fish a Streamer or a Wollybugger, I was going to catch Smallmouth Bass, Fall Fish, and maybe a Trout if I was lucky, and I would most likely never open the pack except to dig for a pair of needle nose pliers or maybe a roll of tippet.

I cleared the table. I reorganized two fly boxes into one that contained one side of Buggers of several different colors, and the other side streamers of several different colors. To the fly box I rubber banded two tapered leaders, and one roll of tippet, and some clippers. I put them in my cargo pocket of my cut off shorts. In the opposite pocket I put my waterproof camera/phone and small needle nose pliers. I put on my old canvas Converse sneakers, the same ones I had used to wade for 3 years, picked up my fly rod and walked out the door.

And that’s pretty much how I go out every time now. I still like looking through catalogs and browsing the shelves at the local tackle shops for back packs and chest packs, I still pick up a new fly box now and then. But when I go out on the water, I think honestly to myself, what am I going for? What flies will I actually fish the most? Do I really need all of this or can I eliminate some bulk? When I was younger I was a gear head, always working on a hot rod or a custom motorcycle. I always looked at the individual pieces I was fabricating and looking for ways to make them more light-weight. When I was climbing towers for a living it was all about how little you carried in your tool bags, what you could get away without, so that you were climbing with as little weight as possible. Why should fishing be any different?

Let’s face it. A good fly rod. A fly box full of good proven patterns for the fish you’re after in that water. Some leader and tippet for the lengths lost in trees and to the one that got away, and pliers of one form or another to remove hooks from the ones that didn’t. What else do you really need? I’ll still pack a ton of gear for an extended trip somewhere, but I’ll end up leaving most all of it behind in the truck or hotel room and hitting the water with as little as possible. It makes for a more enjoyable time spent wet for me. Do you make memories standing around searching through bags and fly boxes, or having a sore neck from constantly looking down tying on yet another fly pattern, or trying to lengthen or shorten your leader, or attempting to unlock the secret of the magical combination of the correct leader and tippet combo? Or when you look back into your best memories, are they of you making that great cast, the splash and struggle of a fish, and the beautiful scenery all around you? Try carrying less. Trying fishing more. Simply Fish.