Picking gear that allows you to take advantage of your destination, plus keep a low profile while you are at work....SCORE.
- Avoiding the perception that your priority is play, not work (bringing 7 rods, 3 shotguns, or 5 surfboards with you on the trip would do that)
- Having gear that requires minimal maintenance during your trip
- Having gear that will work in the widest range of "expected" conditions
- Eliminating from consideration those activities that do not meet the above criteria
Easier said than done, right? It's honestly not that hard - just be honest with yourself. We'll walk through my "slick day" tricks of the trade:
FISHING - this one is pretty easy, because everything but your fishing rod can be secretly stashed in your luggage or professional gear bags. What you are going to need is a 2-piece rod and your most dependable reel (and a protective reel case). I personally hate 2-piece rods, but I own 3 of them. Why? Some of the reasons include hotel elevators, rental car trunk space, and ease of preventing theft (I dare you to leave that 7'6" St. Croix in the bed of your work truck in the Days Inn, or McDonalds, parking lot).
Make it easy on yourself - take a 6'0 or 6'6" medium action rod, and if you don't have two spools for your reel, make sure you've got 6lb or 10lb mono for freshwater, and 18lb or 24lb mono or braid for saltwater. Again - you're trying to "get out," not catch a citation. These days, I often forgo the 2-piece for the 5'6" ultralight rod with 6lb test. Same concept though - small and easy to pack/hide/carry/store. Will catch a variety of small and medium size fish. Done.
Tackle should include a soft tackle bag with no more than 4 Plano clear inserts - packed with your most sure-fire gear. You know what works for you - what are the lures you go to when you're getting bites but no hook-ups? Those are the ones you want for your trip. Forget the "tiger stripe diving crankbait" and the "Mega Rattl'r Fat Shad,".....leave that crap at home.
Choice gear: Cabela's/Okuma spinning combo ($65), Cabela's salt striker combos ($55- $110), any rod case, Cabela's tackle bags ($22 - $150). My personal setup is an Okuma hardstone on a 5'6", 1 piece Wally Marshall signature crappie rod, occasionally switched out for a Berkley carbon rod (5'6", 2 pieces)
KAYAKING - This is one of the toughest of all. Do not take your kayak or canoe with you on your work trip unless you can legitimately defend its use for work purposes (i.e. bridge inspection, pond surveying, etc.). Perception is sadly, just as important as reality these days. Do your homework ahead of time and find out where you can rent a boat. I know - Heresy again! First I recommend a two-piece fishing rod, and now, a rental kayak! O Noes! Those of you who have spent a lot of time on the water recognize that you can be comfortable (just not high performance) in a rental boat if the rest of your gear is up to your regular standards. I will take a rental kayak over rental paddles any day! I want you to pack a rubbermaid tub and include your best paddle (2-piece again), your most comfortable PFD, and a helmet if you will be hitting Class III waters, or above. And for God's sake, pack a nautical chart and a tide table. Please?
Choice gear: Riot Angler 9.5 or 10.5 (fishing), Perception Patriot Angler 11.9 (fishing), Dagger RPM 9.0 (general whitewater, river runs), Paddle - Werner Corryvrecken - carbon shaft, plastic blades (since you don't know the river)
HUNTING- Know ahead of time that if you do not properly scout, you will probably not end up with any harvest to speak of, and in fact you face a greater likelihood of drowning or getting shot. That being said, you can have a lot of fun on a weekday with your favorite shotgun (pump please - remember failproof maintenance), your 3-day license, and a map of the area you'd like to hunt. Again - please scout! Look for the high-effort, low payoff hunt. The WMA pond that is 3 miles down a forest road (walking only), and maybe only has 3 turkeys, 2 wood ducks, and 1 doe hanging out around it.........yup.......that's your spot. Especially if it's raining or snowing.
Since a successful hunt typically does not end in a "catch and release" type scenario - I want you to think very carefully about what you'll do with your harvest ("begin with the end in mind"). If your boss does not mind deer blood all over the bed of his truck, you are in outstanding shape! Otherwise, this falls under the heading of be careful what you wish for. Prior to your trip, find out where the nearest butcher's shop is. Have a plan to prudently and quickly deal with game (butcher's shop, giant cooler with ice for dead birds, etc), because YOU NEED TO GET BACK TO WORK. You cannot spend all day butchering that deer in the hotel parking lot. If you can, then I need your job.
For decoys, I want you thinking "minimal" in two different ways. In the obvious way, pack 12 or less dekes that represent the typical birds hanging out around your destination - for us it's commonly black ducks, buffleheads, and greenwing teal. "Minimal" in a second way because you must focus your potential opportunity in a way that "might" net you a few birds without needing 6 dozen dekes, 3 mojos, and 4 motorized duck butts. Don't take those 10 dekes out on a 500 acre impoundment, and then get ticked off that the birds ignored your spread. NO! Find a hole in the timber, a sand & gravel pit, a fish pond, or somewhere that a small spread will be appropriate.Choice gear: Remington 870, 12ga; Summit 4-point harness, GHG life-size decoys (cheap, light, decent paint), Herters lightweight waders, Walls insulated bibs.
SURFING - Surfing is another tough one. Check the swell and tide forecasts regularly before you depart. If the forecast looks "average," then pack your shortest, fastest board that can catch small surf. For most of us, this is a fish or funboard. If the forecast looks "poor" or "epic," know and accept that by picking a single board on either end of the spectrum, you are pretty much locked in to the limitations of that board. Notice how I didn't mention longboards? Unless you have no fear of your board being stolen overnight, or smashed in the front door of a hotel as you've bringing it indoors, leave the 10'6" x 4.5" thick beast at home. 2.75" thick boards between 6'6" and 7'10", usually rounded pins or pintails, can ride 90% of the waves you'll find (unless you work in Tahiti). Many surfers refer to their chosen board in this size range as their "desert island board," for good reason. In fact, Rusty markets a Desert Island Board - dimensions 7'8" x 2.75". Yay Capitalism!
Now...what to wear? If you are traveling in New England or Michigan in February and you want to surf during your trip, I have to trust that you have moved beyond the scope of this article. You should know what to pack....or you absolutely should not be in the water. Most of the rest of the year (April to October) in the Mid-Atlantic, I pack my summer surfwear (shorts, LS rashguard) and my 3/2 and booties. Why those? If the water's over 65, I'm wearing shorts. If the water is over 45, I will be comfortable in a 3/2mm, rashguard, boots, and no gloves for just long enough to catch a couple of waves. If the water's over 52 degrees....Eureka....perfect. Again, the goal is to absolutely minimize your gear stash during your work trip. Pack one wetsuit. If you are on the road for one week, and you will have one morning to surf, you will not need your 7/5/3mm, your 5/3mm, and your 5/4/3mm. Pick one. And as for the boardshorts (or boardshort / bikini top combo for the ladies)........if nothing else, you will be the only one of your coworkers who is able to go relax in the hotel's pool and hot tub (and not in your underwear). All of a sudden...look who's the professional traveller! It's you!
Hit up the internet before you leave home, and find out where the most common spots there. Make sure you have a backup plan, for when you arrive at your "dream spot" and there are 300 people in the water, fighting for 2' surf. Go where they are not. The surf will probably be 7" smaller, and you will enjoy your brief few hours away from work.Choice gear: Rusty Desert Island 7'8", WRV Soap Bar or Bonefish, Dewey Weber Flying Pig, Natural Art Missing Link; any flexible 3/2 wetsuit.
There are lots of reasons for wanting to sneak in some outdoor recreation while you're on a work trip - and it's like a dirty secret among us "road warriors." Yet, as you drive by the boat ramp on a tuesday morning, check out the armada of contractors vans, European sedans with suit jackets hanging from the window, and SUV's with a laptop bag in the front passenger seat. There we....I mean, there THEY are. The important thing is to keep focus on doing your job, and after that focus on enjoying the outdoors. Every fish, duck, waterfall, deer, and wave beyond that is a wonderful little bonus from God. Count your blessings and GET OUT THERE!