Voices from the river

Voices from the River: An ode to the fishing rig

The fishing rig on the banks of Alaska’s Chena River.

By Chris Hunt

It was the first brand-new vehicle I ever bought. I showed up at the dealership, pointed to the model in the catalog and simply said, “Order it.”

Since that time, it’s been from the Gulf of Mexico to the Arctic Ocean. It’s crossed the Inside Passage on the Alaska Ferry, and spanned the Yukon River three times. It’s seen the Christmas pyres burn on the banks of the Mississippi and navigated the cramped avenues of the French Quarter. It’s been to the end of the road at Labouchere Bay on Prince of Wales Island, and traversed Texas. Twice.

It’s on its third set of tires, its seventh windshield (yes, you read that correctly) and the odometer now defiantly spits out a six-digit display. There are a few dings and some scratches. Its front license plate hangs on by a couple strands of aluminum and sheer determintation. Sometimes, after a fishing trip or two, it smells a little funky, like a pair of wet waders and a year-old Dorito enjoyed a sordid rendezvous inside a wool coat. Yeah. Funky. That’s the right word.

And it’s still going strong (knock on wood for me, would you?). It’s my fishing rig.

I bet you have one, too. Maybe it’s the family sedan, or the SUV, and maybe you have to move the car seats out to get all the gear in the back seat or to make room for the dog. Maybe it’s an old truck with nearly bald tires or the van with just enough room for you to sleep among all your gear—if you lie diagonally, you can even stretch out all the way.

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We can’t all be trout bums, but these vehicles let us all be trout bums sometimes. They take us to secret places off the blacktop, over mountain passes and across hidden streams, riding up to the axles in cold, clear trout water or bouncing along “roads” that might go somewhere fishy. They are more than just conveyances. They are the means by which we acquire adventure.

Mine is paid for, which always makes me a bit uneasy. There’s always that urge to “upgrade,” to maybe trade it in on something that’ll go the speed limit when it tows the camper. Maybe something a bit more comfortable—I’m not getting any younger. While I flirt with the idea of something “better,” I just can’t bring myself to do it. They don’t make the model any longer, and it’s still in great shape (one more knock on that wood, please). Despite the miles and the windshields and the mud, rocks and weather, I’ve been downright religious when it comes to its maintenance schedule.

There was a time when I figured this rig would be the car my kids drove. I’m not prepared for that just yet. Instead, I’ve been in the market lately for something bigger with a bit more power. Something that might be able to tow the camper on close-to-home trips—something that might keep me from being “that guy” on the freeway that holds up traffic because he’s found the “sweet spot” when it comes to RPMs and gas mileage (and that sweet spot is about 57 mph). Yeah. I hate that guy, too.

Honestly, I’m after something to spare the fishing rig a few miles here and there … extend its life and keep it happily parked in the driveway while some other vehicle takes a few lumps in its stead. It’s kind of like an old dog that you don’t have the heart to put through all the paces anymore. You just want her to be able to curl up by the fire and be happy.

Yes. I know I’m talking about a vehicle. But this rig and I … we’ve been through a lot together. We’ve seen the continent together. There’s more to be seen, of course, but I think it’s earned a little pampering … fewer mountain passes, less time in the mud and rain and fewer water crossings. A little down time. You never know when the next big adventure awaits. We both need to be ready.

It’s my fishing rig. We’re not done yet.

Chris Hunt is the national editorial director for Trout Media. He lives and works in Idaho Falls, Idaho.

By Chris Hunt.