That’s my buddy Nick in the photo below. Over the weekend he and I decided to make a 2-plus-hour drive west to hit a few Pennsylvania limestone spring creeks, because finding moving, fishable water that’s not iced over closer to home is real chore this winter. I picked Nick up at 6 a.m. At 8:15 a.m. we pulled off a quiet country road in the hinterlands and got our first view of the gorgeous stream with its waving green watercress and little curls of rising steam. About 30 seconds later, Nick realized that only one of his wading boots made it into my truck. Cue panic.


Showing up without a critical piece of gear is a product of hastily packing the truck 99% of the time, and if you’ve never experienced it, you’re either just plain infallible, insanely lucky, or you don’t go on enough fishing trips. I’ve forgotten many things, but my biggest blunder happened during a steelhead trip with a friend last winter. We left my house at midnight, drove 5 hours north to get a good spot on the river at first light, then realized upon arrival we had seven fly rods and only one reel between us. I’ve sadly seen this happen to myself, friends, and guides enough that I’ve noticed a pattern in how these crises unfold.

Stage 1. Confident Denial: You swear there is no way you could have possibly forgotten the item. It’s here. Somewhere. You tear the truck apart 8 times, dump your gear bag out 10 times, and possibly even check under the hood in desperation. This stage can also include accusing friends of trickery.

Stage 2. Useless Confirmation: You call home. Subliminally, I think this is in hopes that the item is not there, in which case, despite stage 1, it could be here. But then your wife or girlfriend or roommate or whoever says that yes, the item is home, which leaves you no better off and only confirms that you are screwed.

Stage 3. False Acceptance: With as much conviction as you can muster, you explain why not having the item is in no way whatsoever a big deal. In fact, it’s so insignificant, you don’t even know why you’re freaking out.

Stage 3 is fun to watch if you’re not the one missing the item, and awful to execute if you are. In the case of my steelhead trip, I told my buddy we’d be better off taking turns drifitng runs anyway, because someone should always be ready with the net or camera. No worries. As for Nick (who is a better man than I) he said, “Dude I’ve caught a ton of fish here. I want to see you catch them. It’s totally cool. I’m just going to walk the bank and help you spot trout.” And he did. He crunched through ankle-deep ice and snow in flat-soled leather boat shoes for 2 and a half hours until the first not-so-close-by tackle shop opened and new boots could be secured.

You’re up. What’s your worst tale of forgotten gear?