Mike Jones - KEEPING UP

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Tuesday, April 10, 2018
They Eat What?
Wednesday, April 25, 2018
Cover Shot

The Carry-On Choice
Over the years, I’ve been on the road a lot and from that experience, I’ve developed two mantras when it comes to the gear I take along: Travel light and choose wisely.

The traveling light part of the equation has become easier over the years with lightweight fabrics that can keep you warm or cool, dry quickly and protect you from the sun, wind and rain. They take up very little room and can be washed out in a pan of water. So when it comes to clothes, if you overpack, it’s on you.

fishpondscastawayFISHPOND’S CASTAWAY ROLL top gear bag takes the waterproof duffle concept and refines it with a padded interior.

More and more, the choose wisely conundrum comes back to fishing gear and what to carry it in. As for tackle choices, let’s table that lengthy and complicated discussion for future columns. For now, I’d like to focus on the ever-shrinking space known as carry-on. Specifically, the area immediately below the seat in front of you.

No matter where I’m headed - a Minnesota smallmouth powerhouse like Lake Mille Lacs, Montana’s Yellowstone River for trout or Turneffe Flats, a Belize bonefish paradise - I’m going to need something in which to carry my stuff. Since water is inevitably part of the equation, it’s got to be waterproof and sturdy and functional. That’s the baseline. But, what it really has to be is airline friendly. That’s the rub.

Quite often, the better the fishing, the smarter you have to be when it comes to luggage. The farther away from civilization, the smaller the airplanes. Even on the big ones, the space you’ve got to work with is very limited. In that space, I need a bag that checks all the boxes previously mentioned plus one more – it has to fit under the seat. The range varies from airline to airline with Southwest and Virgin America offering just 8½ inches in height while Aloha and Delta give you 11 inches. Not much either way.

This small bag under the seat is in addition to a carry-on and most likely, a checked bag in the cargo hold. It is the place to store those personal items that can make or break a trip. Cameras, sunglasses, a reel or two, maybe a change of underwear. In other words, this is the stuff you’ve got to have when you get to where you’re going. Then, once you get there, it has to be the bag that goes in the boat. Although waterproof duffels are handy for a lot of things, especially keeping clothes dry, they never provided enough protection for cameras and such, so I didn’t consider them in this evaluation. What did make the final cut were two boat bags that come from very different problem-solving angles.


SIMMS DRY CREEKS boat bag is fully waterproof with the zipper closed and in the heat of battle, the lid is held shut by a magnetic latch.

The first of these is the Simms Dry Creek Boat Bag (medium). As a matter of full transparency, you should know that I own enough Simms stuff from waders to boots to Solarflex shirts to Flats Sneakers that if I died suddenly it would be a case where I hoped my wife wouldn’t sell my stuff for what I told her I paid for it. Simms is unquestionably top-flight, but it’s not necessarily for the budget-conscious. But this is where the choose wisely part comes into play. I don’t give up on gear easily because I expect it to last, if I pay for quality. The Dry Creek Bag is fully waterproof with the zipper closed and in the heat of battle, the lid is held shut with a magnetic latch. With detachable side pockets, quick access and typically clean Simms design, it could very well be the ideal boat bag for you.

The contender for your affection is Fishpond’s Castaway Roll Top Gear Bag. Instead of starting with the more rigid design of the Simms Dry Creek, Fishpond’s vision is based more on that waterproof duffel concept I mentioned earlier and $40 cheaper. The difference is how the outer TPU welded fabric is stiffened by a divided, padded interior that can be removed and folded flat if you discover, mid –trip, that you don’t need it. Or, if you run headlong into a storage situation or a TSA request that demands some polite, instant adaptability.

Both bags are undeniably well-built and provide the protection promised from water and things that go bump in the boat. Where they diverge is in their dimensions. The Simms Dry Creek is taller and narrower at 14”W x 8”D x 12.5H” while the Fishpond Castaway is more in keeping with the dimensions of a carry-on type bag at 13.5W x 10”D x 9”H.

Buying both and not having to choose is, by far, the best solution. Short of that, the decision probably boils down to what you know about where you’re going. The Fishpond just feels better slung over the shoulder and offers a priceless advantage on the road – versatility. But, once on the water, in the boat, I believe the Simms Dry Creek excels in convenience and accessibility. If I knew where I was going and what I was getting into, this would be my choice. If not, I’d go with the Fishpond.

As you might have guessed – choosing wisely ain’t all that easy.

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