Gearing up for a day on the river.
In my earlier article "Fitter To Fish", I talked a bit about preparing yourself for the new season so now I'm going to run through a few things that you may want to consider before you disappear into the hills.
If you are planning a trip into the NZ backcountry, whether for a day or a week, it pays to give some thought to what you choose to take with you. Most places I fish require a long drive, a long walk, a big day on the river and a walk back out at the end of it. Sometimes with a buddy, sometimes on my own but either way, I make sure I always have the same basics with me.
I think a lot of people don't give enough thought to preparing themselves for a day in the hills. It's easy to underestimate the bush and terrain in NZ and you can easily come unstuck. All you have to do is roll an ankle and your fun day chasing trout just got serious and pretty unpleasant.
I'm going to run through what gear I take with me and what precautions I put in place so I have my ass covered should something go wrong out there. I'm not saying it the best system or that it can't be improved, in fact I'm open to suggestions on how I can improve it, but it's what works for me.
First Aid Kit
A basic first aid kit that includes bandages (lots), tape, gauze, saline solution, Band aids, blister pads, sterile wipes, surgical gloves, scissors, tweezers.
Personal locator beacon - in my opinion everyone that goes backcountry should have one of these with them. Hopefully it's something that you never need to use but if that time comes that you ever do......damn you'll be glad you have it! You'll happily drop a thousand bucks on a decent stills camera but you grumble at a few hundred for a beacon, stating that you probably won't need one because you're careful or whatever but careful or not, everyone takes a tumble sometimes and all you have to do is be unlucky once.....
Once you have bought one, make sure you keep it ON YOU. It's no good in your backpack if you have lost it downstream on a deep crossing gone wrong. They make them small these days - I keep mine around my neck and don't even know it's there.
base layer pants (if I'm wearing waders)
Base layer long sleeve top
Quick dry t shirt
I've fallen over and ended up in the drink more than a couple of times. It can spoil your day and hypothermia is a real danger if you are a long way from the truck and the weather is bad. If you do get wet, stop and get into dry clothes as soon as you can. Once your core temperature gets down low, and everything is wet, it's hard to get warm again. All it takes then is for the cloud to roll in and a bit of wind to pick up and it's really uncomfortable. They don't take up much room when rolled up in a dry bag and have saved the day more than a few times for me.
I run a camel back and swear by it. You need to keep yourself hydrated and I find that I drink way more if I can just sip away all day rather than have to keep taking my pack off to get at a water bottle.
Take food that is easy to eat on the river, calorie dense and make the time to eat it! It's easy to get caught up in what you are doing and not eat but make the effort and eat - you will feel better for it. Sandwiches, muesli bars, scroggin and chocolate are all good choices that will keep you going all day.
No matter what the forecast is, I take a rain jacket. It's New Zealand and the weather can change quickly. What starts out as a warm, sunny morning can become cold, grey and miserable without warning. It keeps the wind off you too and nothing chills you down quicker than a cool breeze and a bit of cloud.
Fire lighter and tinder
I always carry a zip lock bag with some cotton wool smeared with Vaseline in my emergency kit, along with a fire lighter. Easy to light and it burns for a good long while and that really helps get a fire going, even in the wet.
Packs down super small and can be used several different ways. It's all about staying warm if shit goes down.
I keep a few spare muesli bars in with my emergency kit. Just in case.
Wader repair kit
It's easy to put a hole in your waders and usually you are wearing them because it's too cold to wet wade. Take a tumble, slide down a bank or bash through some thick bush and a hole can appear, just like that. Grab a repair kit and keep it in your bag. It takes up no room, weighs nothing and you'll be glad you did when you feel that cold water running down your leg.
ALWAYS leave an itinerary with someone. Write down where you are going, who you are going with, when you plan to be back and what they should do if you don't. Include as much info as you can so that if Search and Rescue need to go looking for you, they have a good idea of where to direct their efforts. It could make all the difference.
I hope this gives you a few things to consider before you head out on your next trip. Eat and drink plenty, have your safety pieces in play and have a great season exploring our amazing country.