Fishing: For best success, plan ahead

SCOTT RALLDaily Globe outdoors columnist I was sitting on the shore of a Canadian Shield lake about 20 years ago and I watched two members of our fishing party as they drifted away in a small portage boat we had brought along. There was no formal...

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Daily Globe outdoors columnist

I was sitting on the shore of a Canadian Shield lake about 20 years ago and I watched two members of our fishing party as they drifted away in a small portage boat we had brought along.
There was no formal access and no dock. As they backed the boat in, it floated off the trailer. They pulled and pulled on the starting rope of an old outboard motor to no avail. They must have pulled that starting rope 500 times as they floated around a point more than a mile away and out of sight.
We were on a river flowage, and even if you could not see the current there was certainly one. In their haste they had no paddle.
They were up a creek with no paddle, you might say. The thing I remember the most (and this is just burned into my memory), the guy’s son hollered to his dad, “You started it at home before you left, didn’t you?” and his dad hollered back in the faintest of sounds because of the long distance, “It started great last year.”
We waited for four hours on the shore for the folks we were staying with to come looking for us. There was no cell phone coverage, as you might expect. We were all planning on fishing out of their boats and the one we brought so the boat that floated away was the only one we had at our disposal.
When the search party arrived and we explained what happened, they went down stream, found our group members and towed the dead boat back to the starting place.
That motor never did work for that entire trip. It took six hours for our guides to ferry everyone (two of them and six of us) and our gear in one boat the 90 minutes round trip to their personal cabin.
Once there, we mounted another operating spare outboard motor that our host had in the space once occupied by the dead motor.
We fished the first two days with little out of the ordinary excitement. On day three of a seven-day fishing trip the boat operator who did not know his way around ran the spare motor into the rocks and cracked the lower unit to a point that the motor was unrepairable.
There were no parts to fix the only spare motor we had within 300 miles. We again were up creek without a paddle.
On day four, one of the two operating boats we had would tow the third dead boat to a spot and we would throw out the anchor. We fished on that spot for a few hours until they came back and towed us to a different one. We fished in three spots that day and in the days that followed and guess what? We hardly caught any fish.
We did get towed to a falls area on day five where a river was running in and we did pretty good there. We fished this spot for the remainder of the trip. On the way out, when the trip was over, we used the same tow and return until all of the members of the party were back at the starting place, and then we drove 16 hours home. Not the best trip in my memory bank.
This trip had the most problems of any trip I have ever been on but it is by no means the only time something like this has happened to me.
I went on a house boat trip many years ago. We towed four boats along. We fished for the first day and when we got back to the house boat I fired up the on-board generator so we could start charging the trolling motor batteries that are used to power the electric motors used to move the boat around as you cast shore lines and other cover.
I asked the guy who was in charge of bringing four battery chargers along where they were. We found out that instead of having four battery chargers we had only one - the one I brought.
The person in charge had failed. It takes about eight hours to charge a deep cycle trolling motor battery, but every boat only got about 90 minutes because the generator did not carry enough fuel to run 24 hours per day for the entire length of the trip. Nothing worse then being in Canada with a dead battery.
I was very young at the time, but I at that very moment I became the travel planner for every trip I have ever gone on ever since. Even when someone else is in charge of this or that, I always make sure that my truck has one of everything I need.
I don’t carry emergency spares enough to cover a large group but my butt will be covered every time.
When a group of guys go hunting or fishing, they split the responsibilities to bring along the things that everyone in the group will be using. Cooking utensils, fish cookers, groceries and stuff like that. It almost never fails that if there are four people in the group that one person will miss something necessary. Most of the time you can just go to town and buy another one, but this is not always the case, depending on where you are at.
The only time I can remember a big screw-up on my part was on a sharp tail grouse hunting trip to the Fort Pierre National Grasslands in South Dakota a few years back. I left the bag with all my cold weather clothes in it at home. I made do, but not as comfortably as I could have.
Here is a list of things that every person should not rely on someone else top bring unless you have total faith and confidence in them to preform to the standard every singe time. Missing one of these items can really wreck an outing.
Number one on the list is a set of good jumper cables. Notice I said good jumper cables. Not the kind that are six feet long and use your cigarette lighter socket. I got a set at age 16 and I thought they were the worst Christmas gift I had ever gotten. They are 16 feet long and made of welding cables and you can reach just about anywhere with them. At age 55 they are still the greatest Christmas gift I have ever gotten.
Second is a good battery charger. It has to be large enough to make a dent in a dead battery in a few hours and small enough to be able to pack in a tight space.
Third is a 12-volt air compressor. I got a flat tire in Havre, Montana, about 15 miles from base camp last fall and was in a tight spot. We parked in the mud and there was no way to change the tire. It took 45 minutes but we pumped up the tire long enough to get back to the lodge and make a temporary repair with the next item on the never-leave-home-without-it list.
That is a cheap tire plug repair kit. I followed the instructions and we made it back to town where a permanent fix was done. Without these two items we would have ruined a least a day of this three-day trip.
The next item is more expensive, but the last time I relied on a different member of the party to be responsible for providing a tool box it went badly. When he took it out it looked like the equivalent of the Popeil Pocket Fisherman.
My wife kept a better tool box with her dental pliers in it in the kitchen closet. It had about 1/10 of what I would call a stocked tool box.
Needless to say, we had to wander around till we found another party that had the tools we needed, and now I take my tool box even when someone else brings theirs.
One solid jack is also a must. I carry a commercial handy man jack at all times.
When is the last time you used a regular old paper map? Kids today have most likely never used one. GPS on your phone is great, but if there is no phone signal a map is still a great backup plan.
Carry a sportsman’s atlas and you can find your way no matter if there is phone signal or not.
There is one last thing I don’t count on anyone to be responsible for. That is a first aid kit. One that fits in a post card sized envelope will have band aids and not much else. I carry my own even if another member of the party has one.
Don’t forget the little things like chap stick, aspirin, sterile saline to wash a wound and tweezers and scissors. A little triple antibiotic is nice to have, too.
Maybe it is just me, but I really struggle when the things you need for a successful outing are not present at that outing.
I figure you can’t control the weather but you can make sure that you have the things you need. This is best done by being in charge of all of the items you think are important.
The other stuff you can leave to others and if it’s not there then its really no big deal. Trust but verify is a good rule of thumb for important planning.
Last but not least, if your trip is a fishing trip bring along your own spare small horsepower outboard. Borrow one from a friend if need be. My 90 hp Yamaha outboard has never once given me issues but there is a 9.9 hp kicker on the back end of my boat for that just-in-case situation.
Proper planning is the key to a good outcome. Never leave home without a good plan.

Related Topics: FISHING
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