Commentary Stories

The I’ll just lay my rod here for a minute mistake

September 14, 2018

People do the same things. The instincts of fishermen find identical paths upstream through the river — watery trails lead to the best water with the greatest efficiency. You can easily see where everybody else fishes. And I guess the flies and tippet-tangles in streamside branches signal that we all make the same casting errors too. Presented with the same problems, fishermen come up with the same solutions, and we make the same mistakes.

That’s all pretty harmless and kind of fascinating. But then there’s that thing we do where we leave our rod on the top of the vehicle and drive away. WTF?

I need to stop it. I had a pretty nice run of consistency where I wouldn’t allow myself to lay the rod on the roof rack. I just didn’t do it for a few years — no matter what. But lately I’m back at it:  Ya know, I’m just gonna lay this there for a minute. . .  My friend, Rene, says things like that open up a new mental pathway. If you make the mistake once, you’ll probably do it again soon enough. This happens to me when I forget the zipper on my pants, too. I create a new bad habit and can’t seem to remember the basics in life. Does the zipper thing happen to anyone else?

It seems everyone I fish with has a tragic story about leaving his rod on the roof. So I wonder, do I just fish with a bunch of fools, or does this idiocy cross the spectrum of fishermen?

My buddy, Sloop, lost the whole deal one day and never recovered it: rod, reel, line, leader. Close to a thousand dollar investment sliding right off the top of his car as he pulled away, unaware, probably with that happy Sloop John B. smile on his face too. He realized it about an hour later. No, it wasn’t in the lot when he went back.

My uncle left his rod on the tonneau cover of his pickup. Again, the whole rig. Got home, unpacked his gear and his heart sank. He never found it either.

Same with Phillip: laid it on the rooftop. Forgot. Drove away. Lost. Never found.

Darkness makes the chances of recovery worse, of course. Dad and I drove slowly back to camp one night, climbing the long road of dirt and limestone after a good evening of fishing. We dropped the dusty tailgate to unpack, and that’s when Dad realized what happened. He’d left his fly rod on the rooftop. We spent the next two hours shining dim flashlights and bright headlights into the roadside brush, retracing the path, cursing and hoping. Our situation was better than most because we knew for certain the rod was somewhere within that one mile stretch of road. No one else had gone up or down the mountain and neither had we, so the fly rod had to be there — somewhere. With persistence and some dumb luck, we found the rod and saved the investment.

If you get a little kick out of the misfortune of others (and you know you do) —  e.g., if you laugh at your fishing buddy when he falls in the river — this is all kinda funny when it happens to somebody else.

I’ve never lost mine, but I’ve had some close calls. Last time, I pulled out of the lot at dusk, traveled about fifty yards and heard it fall: Ker-clunk. It took me another fifty yards of confusion to realize what happened. Then I stopped the truck in the middle of the road and jumped out. I ran back, raised my arms and frantically flagged down the approaching car behind me. I’m sure I seemed a little nuts, but I got him to stop instead of running over my fly rod.

I’m really going to try and break the habit again— to create a new pathway.

Just one question: Where are all the stories of guys finding this lost stuff — new rods and reels, all spooled up and ready to fish? Somebody out there must feel pretty damn lucky.


Photo by Pat Burke


Enjoy the day.
Domenick Swentosky




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As I’ve gotten older I’ve become very absentminded, but I’ve never lost a rod. (knock on wood) But I have a terrible habit of taking off my tackle pack and laying it on the ground, thinking that I’m not going to far away. Then I start wandering and end up leaving it and never being able to find it. Human nature I guess.

I am considering writing another book titled: 50 ways to lose (or break)a rod. I’ve done the roof drop thing more than once. Here are a few more: Slammed in a screen door; Fell off a boat rod holder; Stood along the road during a shuttle; Backed over with my truck; Fell on it coming up a bank; Fell on it going down a bank, and many more! (I’ve been fishing a long time).


Snapped off the tip when I closed the car window.


I’ve had some close calls. Habits can be easy to pick up and hard to break, so I’ve made it a huge point to always disassemble my rod and put it in the tube, then put the tube away before I do ANYTHING else. Its become a habit, albeit a good one, to put the rod away first every time.


I did that just the other day. Put the rod in the tube, and the tube on the truck cover over the bed, got everything else organized, patted myself on the back for a job well done, and drove away. I heard it roll off and hit the ground fortunately. At least it was protected in its tube. We come out of the stream so tired, and reflecting on events of the day more than think things out completely.

Love the blog!

Bill Ferguson

God this was so cathartic reading this. Last May. On the way to my favorite stream. Going down mental checklist and packing car. it was going to be evening dry fly fishing followed by night flies after dark. “Dad, can you take me to Micah’s house?” “Uh sure.” (Darn, it’s way out of the way, I’m going to get there later than I thought.) “Make sure you guys are ready in 5 minutes”. Rapid-fire pack car. Get kids loaded up. Get son and friend dropped off. Head toward stream. My 40 minute drive is now a 60 minute drive. 2/3… Read more »

I left a reel in a parking lot. A friend found it returned it and I lost it again with in a week. I figured I wasn’t meant to have it. Never had something that stupid happen like that since. I’ve done the leave your stuff on the car and drive away thing before. Luckily I heard it fall off and stopped before going too far. I never buy expensive sunglasses because I always lose them. I also always leave a jacket at friends houses when I visit. It got to the point where people wouldn’t even call around when… Read more »

I can still see the article title in my head, just as it appeared the day I read it in Outdoor Life back somewhere in the 70s:

“Never Lay It Down”

Thanks to that article and the impression it made on my underdeveloped teenage brain, I have thankfully avoided leaving anything important behind, for good. My sympathies to those of you who missed it.

Matthew Schulte

I’m not big on losing stuff, but I have fallen in a northern Michigan river twice in the same spot two weeks apart.

Late December the river was so clear I assumed it was knee deep and stepped in. It was more than knee deep. My hat froze on the walk back to my truck. Two weeks later I paused to observe the location of my error and a little piece of the frozen bank broke off. I swam again.

michael maynard

I’ve never lost a rod, yet. I’ve never shut a rod tip in the truck door, yet. But the timing of this topic is remarkable; I was bringing my three kayaks home from camp last night and when I got here there were only two on the rack. Luckily for me the roads leading home are logging roads and when I went back, there it was, lying in the middle of the road, no worse for it’s landing. I fear greatly the impending onset of oldfarthood and so I tend to my fly gear almost obsessively when I’m loading up.… Read more »

Ed Hankinson

Never lost a rod, but I have a bad habit of leaving reels on the bumper. I’ve lost two Orvis Batenkill 3/4 reels doing this.


I never had this happen to me personally. But it did happen to one of my rods that I lent a friend years ago. He left it leaning against his truck “for just a minute” and then proceeded to back his truck over it. That bitch of it all was that I was a newbie back then 45 years ago and that was my only rod at the time.


Another brother of the open zipper here, but hey- we are FLY anglers all said and done. I do as Terry suggests, I put my rod on the bonnet (hood), vertical, sometimes with windshield wiper on the handle on a windy day, or I’ll lay it down across the hood-depends what rod it is. Some of the tricks I’ve pulled are- driving off leaving the garage door open (for a week once) welders, metalworking machines motorcycles all in plain sight-luckily never had anything go, one neat trick was having all my keys on the one bunch, opening the up and… Read more »

John Ciak

Sounds familiar, same thing happened to me, lake erie east side tribs. Tip, I went to local bait shop, east side angler, great guy, have him my name and #. Guess what, some one picked up my rof, put ad in lost & found, bait shop saw it, called me. I went to finder and got it back . There are still some good eggs out there!

Stephen Cifka

Been down the same road with “I’ll just lean my rod here for a minute.” Now, I ALWAYS walk to the front of my car and lay my stuff on the hood where I will see it when I start to drive away. So far, so good.

James Slepesky

This article resonates. I have done it sadly more than once. One time facebook group in Pa saved me. Someone responded they found my rod and returned it free of charge. Another time I sat it next to the car and pulled over and didn’t realize for an hour and was half way home. Turned around and thankfully found it right next to where I was parked. Sadly I broke rod tip but only $40 to replace the ferrule. Much better than being out $400 for outfit or more. I am AWFUL at losing glasses and nippers too. Nice article… Read more »

Mike B

Almost…almost had this happen to me. Instead I’ve managed to crunch my rodtips in my passenger window when winding it up and forgetting I had my rods assembled sitting on that side of the car. I’ve bought 2 new tips so far…

Quick fly fishing hack though: open the door to your gas cap and you’ve got a handy little rod rest when you’re messing around in the back of your car. Works like a charm and doesn’t cost a $.


This IS a good idea! I try to lean my rod up against the car, sometimes it works, sometimes they fall to the ground. I like the gas door/holder idea. Thanks!

Joe Wojteczko

I fished with a guide about three weeks ago on the Yampa river in Steamboat Springs, CO and he swears he found a fully rigged Winston Boron rod. He posted a “found” item on Facebook and the owner who lost it was able to identify it. My buddy Marty, left his fully loaded vest by his truck, came back fifteen minutes later and it was gone. Someone is going to get bad fishing karma.


By an insane twist of coincidence, or maybe a little bit of salt ground into the wound, I lost my favorite little 2wt brookie setup this weekend on a trip by laying it on my roof and driving away.


Great stories, although most are very sad. I’m sweating just reading them, knowing these things could happen to me. Luckily, I’ve avoided such trajedies to far. I did leave my rod and tube on a train platform in Oslo last year. When I realized I didn’t have it with me, a wave of panic hit me like a thunder bolt. Nooo! “I traveled all this way to fish, carried that awkward tube with me on trains and planes, and now when I’m here I lose the bloody thing?!” I was on foot, so I hadn’t covered much ground without it.… Read more »

I try to mitigate damage to my gear as much as possible. Especially as I’ve aged. I don’t lean my geared up rod in my open door or side of hatch back even though those places hold it perfectly. I also actually put away my rod in the holder when I leave. Even if I know I’m fishing later that day or the next day. I used to leave everything strung up and sticking out one of the windows if need be. I had a reel fly off the roof of my brother in laws car when I first met… Read more »

USMC ret

I have attempted to learn from the horror stories of others….and put the whole rig on the hood of my car, no matter what the circumstance. I once lost a tip of a new Orvis rod to a slightly over-powered screen door at a friend’s cabin on Penn’s Creek. That incident changed the dynamic of the trip, suffice to say!

Kevin Kane

Always walk to your truck and first thing put the cork handle of your rod under your windshield wiper.


I don’t feel as bad now. 1 rod reel and English orvis lost and line. 3 tips, latest in montana in june, rental car window. 2 full fly boxes and that’s all, . thank god I tie.

Domenick Swentosky

Hi. I'm a father of two young boys, a husband, author, fly fishing guide and a musician. I fish for wild brown trout in the cool limestone waters of Central Pennsylvania year round. This is my home, and I love it. Friends. Family. And the river.

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