The Downsides of Situation Specific Gear

When buying gear, there is an oddly strong allure to give unitaskers a try. What is a unitasker? It's a product that does a single thing, generally aiming to do it very well. In the kitchen, an example of a unitasker would be a banana slicer. You slice bananas with it, and well, that's it. In fly fishing it might be a rod or line that's meant to be fished a single way, but it will do it much better than more versatile rods.

I definitely own too much fly fishing gear. I have small packs, large packs, and medium packs. Tucked into various tubes and caddies you can find fly rods that range from 1 wt. up through 9 wt., with many multiples in the 2, 3, and 5 wt. classes (with one more showing up in the mail soon). I have four sets of wading boots and over 10 fishing reels, with multiple spools for most of them. I could go on, but I think you all get the idea. Why do I have so much gear? Well, aside from being a self-proclaimed gear junkie, it's mostly because I've gone out and bought a lot of situation-specific gear rather than a smaller set of all-around gear. I have fallen into the unitasker trap. I might be going about things the wrong way, and here's why I'm starting to think so.

I fly fish in a lot of different ways. I use standard indicator nymph rigs, I Euro nymph, I love throwing dry/dropper combos, I fish large dry flies and tiny dry flies. When conditions are right, or when I just feel like it, I'll throw streamers in a wide variety of sizes. I fish from drift boats, from pontoons on a lake, I wade upstream, I wade downstream, and I wet wade in warmer weather. For each activity, I have tried to have my preferred gear for that specific activity. This means I have a dedicated Euro nymphing rod, I have a streamer/stillwater setup, I have a short rod for small creeks, I have longer light presentation rods for bigger stream dry fly fishing, and a ton of different fly lines. Usually I bring enough gear with me to have the "best" rod, reel, and line for the situation.

Well, recently I went out on a fishing trip where I headed out with a friend and I was the passenger, so I was a little more judicious about the pile of gear I was going to load into his truck, so I grabbed two rods (Euro rig and my streamer rig), a couple of reels, my pack, and wet wading boots. I figured I should be covered...except for that we hit a small creek. Now, the final choice of where to fish was up to me (which we made after loading up), and I definitely was responsible for choosing the water, so I can only point to myself for having to take a Loomis NRX on a creek that was 6 feet wide, windy, brushy, and full of very spooky trout. My fishing partner had a more all-around setup, rocking the Helios H3F, from Orvis.

Five minutes in, I knew I was in trouble. As Spencer laid out beautiful and delicate casts on a dime from distance, I was slapping the water roughly and struggling to hit an area within a fish's feeding window. I could see my casts were spooking fish, and I was into the brush at a rate that would made someone think I was new to the sport. Trying to lay out casts with this cannon of a rod just wasn't happening. Had we been tossing streamers or working larger water, I would have been better equipped, but the outing turned into the first time I've been skunked in years. Spencer, on the other hand, fished well and brought a gorgeous wild brown to hand that seemed a little too big for the creek we were in.

I've put myself in similar situations before. I've taken rods too long for a situation or rods too light for some fish. Few things will give you more heartbreak than seeing a fish on your line that goes over 24" and you can't bring them to net because your rod is lacking backbone. What I'm coming to find is that hyper-situational gear is great when situations are ideal, but all-around gear might be better in the long run.

Does that mean that I'm going to ditch my current lineup of rods to invest in a small set of great all-around rods (Helios 3, Loomis Asquith, etc.)? No, not exactly. I love having "the perfect fit" for each situation, but I'm going to have to be better at planning, and probably adding one all-condition rod to my lineup. Without a good do everything rod, I don't have a reliable go to setup. I'm always thinking through what I expect to run into, and I'm often thinking about what I might have to just do without if conditions change. Rod manufacturers love a sucker like me, who buys several offerings in their lineup that are great at single situations rather than something that's adequate, or often very good, in most situations.

Maybe I need to stop buying the equivalent of ten different banana slicers for fly fishing and start looking at just a very sharp knife. Or two. Or three.



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  • Jeff, I saw your comments in Trout Unlimited Forum about fishing in AK. You specified fishing the Russian, Kenai, Deep and Ninilchik rivers. I want to fish these rivers in 2019 and would like to know where you stayed. I have been on the internet every day scouting out places. Appreciate any help.

    , Frank McLanis

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