Where I like to fish, come late April, life turns viable again. Fiddleheads. Trees leafing out. Loons calling. And smallmouth bass, after a long fast, are ravenous and bedridden as they prepare to spawn. My spot — a shining, coldwater secret wrapped in long, green hills — always blindsides me. We’re talking a mile of shoreline under red spruce and hemlock, shallows rutted with bass beds, some so near the surface you can almost reach down and scatter the stones. I tried counting them once but gave up on the third bed as a beer-keg smally, my fifth of the morning, charged off with my line. Northern Vermont, if the soul survives winter, delivers huge rewards.
All through the dark months I’d been trying to imagine how best to approach the spring, not just emotionally but materially. What did I lack? Like most fishermen, I tend to play an annual roulette, trying to shorten the payout odds of each painstaking purchase: is this the year I re-up on sunglasses and a vest, or splurge on a fantasy accessory, like a carbon-fiber boat net, a cold-cell beer cooler, an immaculate large arbor reel for my sink-tip line? Or all of the above? Certain years, like this one, when I’ve gone six-odd months with no fish, Monopoly bills start to look real. Inevitably, I begin filling my fly-box and overhauling my canoe, not quite believing my credit card bill will ever arrive.
This question feels innate, essential even to our humanity: what accessories best accommodate a freshwater canoe fisherman? We’ve all been there, fumbling with second-rate sunglasses, headlamps, thermoses, rods, reels, etc., or reaching for something in the boat that isn’t there, or discovering that your dry-sack suddenly isn’t as dry as advertised. I’m still worried that a piece of hate mail I penned to a certain rod manufacturer last year might draw the attention of the FBI. At any rate, the salesman in me hesitates to oversell these things, but I cannot name or imagine better products. All have been ruthlessly field tested — fish-slimed, beer-soaked, and in some instances, lake-dunked — and I’ve come to love each one.
The ultra-fast action Sage Bolt 590-4 is engineered to deal with nagging winds (a ubiquitous lake-fishing irritant) and reduce casting fatigue over long distances; your arms will get tired from paddling, but not from casting. Ideal for throwing heavy bass poppers, streamers and nymph rigs.
Made of aerospace-grade aluminum, Sage’s large arbor reel is an eerily light (4 1/8 ounces), impeccably balanced, uncomplicated workhorse. The anodized finish is bulletproof against sand, sunscreen, dirt, floatant, mayonnaise, whiskey, bug-juice, you name it, and requires only a quick après-fishing rinse.
InTouch RIO Gold
The new non-stretch line from RIO pairs with the Sage 4250 as seamlessly as a porterhouse with an Old Fashioned. Aimed specifically at big trout and bass, the “ConnectCore” technology greatly lessons line elasticity, meaning you can feel hits more easily and better control your cast and presentation.
Nomad El Jefe Grande
This featherweight, lumbar-soothing miracle makes netting from a sitting position feel second nature. Crucially, as I learned to my substantial relief in situ, it also floats.
Yeti’s welcome contribution to the highest form of bliss — the canoe-drunk — is watertight, indestructible, easy to sling over your shoulder, and made to hold a case of beer plus a day’s ice.
Revo’s “Green Water Lens” technology was conceived as a curative to the retina-burning reflective qualities of low-light lakes and streams. Say goodbye to the squint headache.
Fishpond Drifty Boat Caddy
In one fell swoop, the Fishpond brain trust has nullified the need for a cumbersome vest. Gunwale hooks, built-in fly-box, tippet spool, and of course a beer koozie mean the days of fighting the many-zippered beast are finally at an end, not to mention kicking over your beer mid-retrieval.
Fishpond Sushi Roll
The only downer with this roll-up foam fly box — the best wet-fly storage unit imaginable — is that, like the upside-down Heinz bottle, we’ve waited so long for it to appear. It’s not like we didn’t have the technology; it’s just sometimes the simplest things are the hardest.
Black Diamond Storm Headlamp
At 250 lumens, the Storm has klieg-light capacity, but its power is thankfully concentrated into a night-vision column that makes retying in the dark a matter of course.
Avex 3Sixty Pour Thermal Bottle
Avex’s seemingly dubious claim that their thermos retains heat for 16 hours turns out to be, in a word, true. Before Vermont, I happened to have the 3Sixty with me on a glacier in Norway, and it kept my coffee piping hot for at least that long.
Sea to Summit Lightweight 8L Drysack
Made of something called Siliconized Cordura — a waterproof nylon textile — the Sea to Summit (unlike most dry-sacks) isn’t just light and hardy, but actually keeps your fleece, binoculars and camera (and ham sandwich on rye) utterly, irrefutably dry.