In the bag

I was out of action for a couple of days and with time on my hands I took the opportunity to have a mid-season tidy up of my fishing gear. Sorting out that old chest pack the other day had got me thinking about the other bags I lug around.

For many of us the contents of a woman’s handbag holds a certain fascination. How so many items can live in those bags and why said items are deemed to be so necessary remain one of western civilisation’s greatest mysteries. Helen got a nice new bag the other day and she decanted the contents from an earlier model into the new one in what appeared to the uninitiated (me) to be a complex and fraught task. Then it dawned on me – my fishing bags are just as full, if not fuller. So what is in my fishing bags and does it all need to be in there? Most of the tackle and tools have been in there since Adam was a boy so maybe I could slim the contents down a tad.

My personal system for lugging gear around is based on my different waistcoats, the pockets of which keep my smaller items of gear. When river fly fishing that is all the storage space I need. On the boat though it is a different matter and my large Fishpond bag comes along on every trip. The designers at Fishpond must have been working to a simple brief; to fit in as many pockets as possible and they achieved their goal with great aplomb. Us anglers follow a simple code – under no circumstances can a pocket be left empty – EVER! This unwritten law must be obeyed so we all find excuses for bringing along all manner of stuff which rarely, if ever, sees the light of day. Let’s start by taking a look inside my old blue bag which is home to my boat fishing gear.

First off there is the bag itself. It is a Cloudburst model made by Fishpond in USA. I think I am right in saying this particular model was replaced by the Green River bag. If memory serves me right I bought it while I lived in London so that makes the old girl about 15 years old. Given its age and near constant abuse it is in remarkably good condition. It replaced an earlier Brady canvas bag which itself is still usable and lives in the back of the car in case of emergencies. It’s important to understand that while 90% of my boat fishing is with the fly I do a bit of trolling so bits and bobs for that code also need to find a billet in the bag.

As fishing bags go it has a lot of good features and has served me well. My only gripe would be that the bag is not waterproof. It comes with a waterproof cover which unfolds over it but this is very awkward and I never use it. Many, many times I have had to dry it out at home after a day out in rough weather. There is a solid base on the bag so it is protected from water on the floor of the boat but heavy rain and water splashing in from waves on a windy day leave the bag and its contents wet through. Despite this rather critical flaw I have no plans to replace the bag anytime soon.

I began by emptying out the whole lot. Two large fly boxes live in the main compartment, one for trout wets and the other for salmon flies. In a flap on the top of the main compartment there are three slim compartments which house a small box of salmon baits, a tiny box of small items such as swivels and spare hooks and a cast wallet with steel traces for pike fishing.

One of the two front pockets is a fly dock with a fold down foam tray. Sometimes I use it but most of the time I just store a cast wallet or two in there. The other front pocket is where anything that does not have another home ends up. Some small tools, a lighter, etc live in here.

The right hand exterior pocket is where my spools of leader material reside. A messy jumble of spools, I should find a better way of storing them really.

The left hand exterior pocket holds tools for the engine, some spares such as shear pins and spark plugs. Hopefully never needed but at hand if required.

Here is everything from inside the bag laid out

There is a zippered back pocket inside the main bay and my dry flies live in there. This is not ideal and I want to find a better place for them, somewhere easier to access.

Some hidden pockets inside the front of the bag hold a spare tholl pin, some more spools of line (including a full 100m spool of 12 pound Maxima), a few cable ties, spare floatant and other small items.

A map pocket inside the flap of the bag houses a couple of spare fly reels. My reels are in another case but twice over the years I have arrived at the lough to find said reel case is still at home. By having a couple of old reels in this bag I will at least be able to fish if my memory lets me down again. Indeed, this has saved the day once already since I tucked the reels in there two seasons ago!

Then there are all the small pockets dotted around the interior of the bag. Honestly, what they are supposed to be for is beyond me, but as pockets I simply must fill them. Wye leads (in case I want trolled baits to swim deeper), a screwdriver, a roll of electrical tape, a spring balance, many spools of line, a bottle opener – the list goes on…….

Some nice baits but I probably don’t need them in the bag all the time

So, did I actually remove anything from the bag, some small items which I came to realise were not actually fundamentally prerequisites to catching fish? Not much is the answer. A small box containing some plugs and small bar spoons came out as did three empty cast carriers ans a tub of ferrule wax. I know that if I went fishing with one reel, a floating line, a spool of tippet material and a wee box with a dozen trusted patterns I would in all probability catch just as many trout but that really isn’t the point, is it?

This was all that I rejected in the end

I mentioned the reel case earlier. It comes with me all the time in the car. A lovely but hard used case it has eight compartments but I cram in 7 fly reels, some spare spools and two fixed spool reels. Part of me thinks I should invest in a new bag and combine everything into the one. Some of the enormous totes I see in use could easily swallow all the gear I bring with me. Maybe someday, but for now the elderly blue bag will soldier on through sun and rain, its innumerable pockets holding exactly what I want – if only I could find it!

In case you run away with the idea that is all the bags I take on the boat let me assure you it is not! There is an old hessian bag for my kettle, a small black bag of tools/rope etc (in case of breakdowns) and a rucksack for food and drink. If I am planning a day with the trolling rods there is a green case full of baits to load up as well. What does your bag(s) contain? Going by what I see when I have other anglers in the boat my huge volume of tackle is not unusual.

Then there is the seatbox I use for most of my coarse fishing. This old plastic box was used for sea fishing for many years and it has only relatively recently that I transferred it to coarse angling. It weighs a ton and I curse it profoundly and frequently. So can I reduce the weight of this behemoth? Lets take a look inside.

The seatbox in action. Don’t be fooled by its compact size, it weighs roughly the same as a neutron star!

2 reels, a large tackle box, 4 rig wallets, a couple of catapults, unhooking mat, some rod rests and a few odds and ends. I carry bait and groundbait in a small rucksack separately.

The rig wallets have to be reduced obviously. Somehow they just grew there. One is full of carp rigs which rarely see the light of day so that can go. The other three need to be weeded out and a sensible selection housed in one wallet. That sounds like a great job for a sunny afternoon sitting outside with a cold beer.

Other than that I use all the other contents of the box so I guess I will just have to put up with the weight for now. My little folding rucksack/chair is fine for some venues so between both of those options I am happy enough.

I will try to get the bags in some sort of order today as I am ghillieing tomorrow on Lough Conn. That could be a tough gig in this hot weather!

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