Tip — Don’t Rig Up at the Truck

by | Jun 30, 2021 | 28 comments

“What fly are you starting with?”

“I don’t know yet.”

“How much weight are you using?”

“Not sure.”

“How long of a tippet are you tying on?”

“I haven’t decided.”

At the start of the trip, after lacing my boots and grabbing the fly rod, I’m gone. I don’t rig up at the truck. Instead, I walk to the river before making these decisions. Rather than guessing what I might need for my fly or tippet length, I wait until I see the water in front of me.

Some of my friends (maybe most) do it the other way. They thread the line and leader, make some tippet adjustments, add a fly or two or even throw on an indicator, perhaps making a decision to nymph before they ever come close to the river’s edge. But I don’t understand this logic. (That doesn’t mean it’s wrong. It’s just not my way.)

Why guess about what the trout will be eating? Why decide how much weight you will need? Why even choose nymphs over dries or streamers until you see the water? Unless you back the truck down to the river’s edge and drop the tailgate right there, you don’t really know what the water will look like. And you don’t have enough intimate detail about where you’ll make the first cast.

All the Things

I enjoy being a versatile angler, ready with any method at every moment. And however I’m fishing, I’m always willing to adjust. So it’s a rare day when I decide to throw big streamers ahead of time or plan to fish dry flies only. But on those odd days, then sure, some of the choices are easy ones, and I might not need to see the river first. However, day to day, I want to look at the water and gauge its depth, speed and clarity. I scan the creek for bug life and fish activity. I watch for birds eating spinners at the tree line — anything that might provide a hint about the best tactic and approach for my time on the water. Only then do I choose a method, a fly, a weight (if necessary) and a tippet.

One more thought here about rigging up at the truck . . .

Why spend any more time away from the river than necessary? Odds are, you took some time to get here. You’ve daydreamed and made plans about this fishing trip for quite a while. So go to the river. Even if you’re sure that you’ll fish a pair of wet flies, take a walk and find your starting spot first. Scan the water as you rig up those wets. Read it while you tie the leader knots. And your first casts will be full of hope, educated by a deeper and longer look at the currents ahead.

Fish hard, friends.

 

** Donate ** If you enjoy this article, please consider a donation. Your support is what keeps this Troutbitten project funded. Scroll below to find the Donate Button. And thank you.

 

Enjoy the day.
Domenick Swentosky
T R O U T B I T T E N
domenick@troutbitten.com

 

Share This Article . . .

Since 2014 and 700+ articles deep
Troutbitten is a free resource for all anglers.
Your support is greatly appreciated.

– Explore These Post Tags –

Domenick Swentosky

Central Pennsylvania

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.

More from this Category

They Don’t Have to Eat It to Learn to Reject It

They Don’t Have to Eat It to Learn to Reject It

You’ve probably heard this a lot: “These trout have been caught on that fly before, so they won’t take it.”

Or this: “Once trout are caught on a fly a few times, they learn that it’s a fake.

But trout don’t have to be caught on a fly to learn that it isn’t real. In fact, just seeing one bad drift after another is enough to put trout off of a particular pattern . . .

Never Blame the Fish

Never Blame the Fish

When everything you expect to work produces nothing, don’t blame the fish. Think more. Try harder.

When your good drifts still leave the net empty, then don’t settle for good. Make things perfect. Never blame the fish . . .

How the Bobber Hurts a Fly Fisher

How the Bobber Hurts a Fly Fisher

Don’t be a bobber lobber. Bobbers are an amazing tool in certain situations. But learn to cast it with turnover first. Avoid the lob.

Instead of using the bobber as a shortcut to getting the line out there, first learn a good casting stroke — with speed, crisp stops and turnover. Then, attach the bobber and see the supreme advantage gained when the fly hits first and the bobber comes in downstream, with the fly and indy both in the same current seam. Oh, hello dead drift. Nice to see you . . .

You Already Fished That

You Already Fished That

If you’re committed to working a section of river, then once you’ve done your job in one lane, trust what the trout tell you. Don’t re-fish it, and don’t let the next cast drift down into the same spot again either. Sure the water looks good, and that’s why you fished it in the first place. But you’ve already covered it. So let it go, and focus on the next target. Trust the next opportunity . . .

Trout Like To Line Up In Productive Seams

Trout Like To Line Up In Productive Seams

Trust the lanes. Trout choose them for a reason. And while it might not make sense to us why they pick one lane over the next, don’t argue with the fish. Wherever you fool a trout, expect to catch his friends in the very same lane. Follow that seam all the way to its beginnings, even if the character of that seam changes from deep to shallow or from slow to fast. Stay in the lane, and trust that more hungry trout are there, waiting to be fooled . . .

What do you think?

Be part of the Troutbitten community of ideas.
Be helpful. And be nice.

28 Comments

  1. I agree and disagree… I agree when it may be new waters and you just don’t know… I disagree when I’m fishing known waters, especially local waters, where I’m pretty attuned to what works… and I will disagree with myself LOL because even on the known waters I’ve left the truck rigged up only to change it up when I get to the water! I do like to be limbered up though when blue lining or have some brush to hack through. I’ve lost tips by not being limbered.

    Great article… love these… keep them coming…

    Reply
  2. Another added benefit of rigging up at the water is fewer damaged fly rods and longer lasting fly line.

    The hike in can be hazardous to hard earned fishing tools.

    Great content as always!

    Reply
  3. Not to mention it’s a lot easier to get through the woods with an unstrung rod.

    Reply
    • Good article, as always! I usually have a good idea of what type of line and leader I’ll be using for the stream I’ll be fishing. Tippet and flies change, as you say, based on the stream flows, bugs on, in, or under the water. But, I usually tie on a dry fly with about the tippet I think is good for the conditions I expect. Using the dry, even if I don’t see any rises, I can see if the water flows and currents match what I can see.

      For me, that’s a good way to get started. And sometimes a nice fish will come out and smash the dry!

      Reply
  4. I agree wholeheartedly, but I still do it anyway. But then again, when you only fish Greenie Weenies like I don’t have to use my brain much…!

    Reply
  5. I was walking down a trail to a creek I used to fish. In those days I never strung up the rod prior to getting to the waters. This particular time I had walked maybe a quarter mile down the trail when I realized the tip section of the rod was missing. I retraced my steps but never found the tip section. I know I assembled the rod. I was on a trail, how hard could it be to find the tip section. But it was a brownish blank color and I was walking through a forest. Luckily I had brought a spare rod but the rod I lost a section to was one I had built so it wasn’t expensive per se but a bit more of a bummer to lose a rod I had built.

    Reply
    • Was just coming here to post that. Lose a rod tip coming onto or off the stream (I’ve seen and been search party to both) and you’ll regret NOT being strung up with something.

      Bottom line: regardless of how you hit the water, you need to be prepared to adjust tactics based upon changing conditions.

      Reply
    • Richard and Heather,

      I would never suggest to carry a four piece rod without being in touch with all four sections. I’ve seen my guided guests start off down the trail like this — with the rod put together but not strung up — and I won’t let them do it. Because exactly what you described can happen too easily.

      Instead, I walk to and from the stream with my four piece rod broken down into two sections — often strung up still. And those two sections are held together with a simple hair tie. I rag or many others things work too.

      Hope that helps.

      Cheers.
      Dom

      Reply
  6. So many guys just jump in and start fishing instead of taking the time to see what is going on in the river – I understand rivers are so busy now you want to jump in and get a spot but take the time to see and plan your attack

    Reply
  7. Hmm. I’ve heard the first argument about not rigging at the truck before. Sometimes I violate that suggestion, generally to my dismay. But the second reason, the more artful one, is refreshingly new. Less rigging at the truck for me. Thanks Dom.

    Reply
  8. So obvious it never occurred to me…funny how that happens lol. Do you only carry one rod when wading? I have typically carried just one an 8 1/2 ft 4 wt. But now that I’m nymphing more and trying to get into the streamer game it seems that two (maybe three?) would be more appropriate. Although it seems carrying multiple rods would be a hassle leaving one on the bank while you get into position then coming back for it before moving on. What are your thoughts?
    Keep up the good work Domenick, your site has become my favorite place for solid, well written fly fishing info.

    Reply
    • Hi Bruce.

      Please don’t do that to yourself! Ha.

      Actually, you’ll probably have to take three rods on the stream to realize that taking even two rods is way more hassle than it’s worth, and not much fun at that.

      For the way most of us wading anglers fish, specialized rods are a bad idea, in my opinion. And yet, the industry keep cranking out one specialized tool after the next. Remember, just a few years ago, the most popular rods were versatile tools. And i believe, as a wading angler, having a rod and a leader system that will do anything at anytime is absolutely key to consistent success — and fun.

      https://troutbitten.com/2017/10/15/fifty-fly-fishing-tips-12-use-a-versatile-and-general-fly-rod/

      Cheers.

      Reply
  9. I usually string the rod at the truck, unless I’m walking through brush, but don’t add tippet or flies until I scan the river. Sometimes, though, when going for a specific reason like a spinner fall, it’s pretty safe to add tippet and fly ahead of time.

    Reply
    • Most often I have some fly on there as a placeholder at least.

      Reply
  10. My SUV can accommodate a 9.6 ‘ fly rod and a rack on the wall in my garage is available with several rods always together. Rarely do I start with the same setup that I last fished with. The best wade fishermen I know always watch the water for a while before making their first cast. Your information is always thoughtful! Incidentally, this also applies to saltwater.

    Reply
  11. Closest to rigging at the vehicle is fly line and butt section of leader rigged only if I am fishing right at the parking area. Usually a half mile hike to starting point. 4 piece rod assembled to 2 sections and bound together with bungies. Always observe the water at the place I decide to start at. After deciding how I plan to fish, then I string up the rod and decide what flies I will be using.

    On a side note: When done fishing for the day. At the stream or river I cut my flies. Let out the fly line into the water and reel in the line wiping the line with my hand towel. No matter how clear and clean the water looks my white microfiber towels show the skid marks of dirt pulled from the line. Break the rod down to 2 sections and bungie up back to the vehicle.

    OK Dom, I’ll admit I don’t do it 100% of the time. The one time I didn’t I ended up putting the rod on the roof of my car and drove off. 1 Lost rod is all it takes to get back on the program.

    Reply
    • Hi Joe, I carry the rod the same as you described, although I use a hair to for the binding.

      Cheers.
      Dom

      Reply
  12. I have always done this and agree with you 100%. Even just being by the river longer, this is why I nearly always rig on the river especially since my rod of preference is a 10’6″ 3wt euro rod. But I will tightline, dry fly and even indicator nymph with the rod so I never know what reel to put on until I see what is happening on the river.

    That being said I have found one situation that rigging up at the vehicle is best. And that is in super cold situations where I know I will be just indicator nymphing. Warm hands make rigging much easier for me.

    Reply
  13. I often rig up the night before (GASP!!!). I do this to straighten my leader so when I’m “tight-lining” my leader is straight and no curls. Also, I know what I’m using based off 32 years of records I maintain in an Excel spreadsheet. I’ve been jokingly accused of “cheating”, because I start off catching instead of changing flies.

    Reply
  14. Sort of related, but does illustrate the point to some degree…..

    I’m normally fishing in very tight quarters, with lots of overhanging trees/brush. This means that way more often than I’d prefer, I hang a fly up in the branches, with some of those moments ending in the necessity to tie on a new fly (and/or tippet).

    This of course takes a minute (or 2, or 3) to accomplish. During this time I’m pretty still and the fish around me start to relax a bit and become a little less spooked. Invariably, once I’m rigged back up again, I get a strike on my (now) “first” cast. So, both myself and the fish relaxing a bit, taking a moment to get settled, and thinking through what might work best are productive in terms of catching fish.

    I would guess that the same principle that Dom is presenting here applies.

    So, if you DO end up rigging up at the truck despite this article’s advice, I highly recommend losing your first fly on a tree or somewhere else you can’t retrieve it, forcing you to re-rig on the water. You might catch more fish!

    d.

    Reply

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recent Articles

Recent Posts

Domenick Swentosky

Central Pennsylvania

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.

Pin It on Pinterest