It’s a common sentiment, written about with great regularity, that the packing for a trip is often as exciting as the trip itself. The suspense, the planning, the first steps into what one eagerly anticipates being a glorious adventure. The rod selection, the preparation of flies, the compilation of outerwear, footwear, underwear, and where the hell’s that bug spray. It’s heady stuff, anticipating the trip as one counts down the days to departure, but I have a confession to make. I like the unpacking better.
Don’t get me wrong, I love the lead up, but it’s not without tension. Truth is, I tend to overanalyze. What will I need? Do I go with just the large duffle or split out the gear into a rod case and pack some contingency clothing? What’s the weather going to be like? Which waders? How do I keep the big bag under fifty pounds and not have to lug lots of carryon around? What will TSA think of those 2/0 stingers? Take the 8wt and the 6wt, or just a 7? Will I carry too much? Will I carry too little? What truly essential, lifesaving item will I completely forget? The preparation is fun, but it’s stressful.
And since my forays of late have been to a wide variety of locations for a wide variety of fishing experiences, it’s been tough to get a pat checklist in place. Every trip has its peculiarities and its special considerations. Michigan has one list. The Bahamas, another. Starting from scratch every time has its challenges.
But when I get home, that load is lifted. There’s nothing to think about except unpacking the bags and remembering the trip. I get to replay it all, what worked and what didn’t, as I dump the contents out on the floor of the office. I get to touch everything one more time.
I take note of what’s still clean and add that to the Exclude Next Time list, what’s well worn and dirty goes on the Frequent Flyer list, and what smells like fish on the Must Take Again. The new gear (for one must always take something new to try out) is assessed and what’s tried-and-true is once again acknowledged as the touchstones of my fishing life. And every item unpacked plays back into the adventure I’ve just experienced. Each piece bears a memory from the trip. Every object still resonates with the previous week’s travel. And here’s where it gets weird. I get great joy from putting it all away.
You see, I have this obsessive/compulsive issue in which I derive insane pleasure in restocking the gear closet, returning everything to its proper place. The outwear hung in the right order, the fly lines stacked by ascending weight, the flies in their proper drawers or boxes, the rods standing neatly in the corner. Having that pile of dirty clothes laundered and hung gives me the giggles, the bags empty and stowed gives me peace.
And while that might seem odd, it makes perfect sense when you consider that this actually means that I’m just a bit ahead of you in my anticipation of the next trip. I’m poised, ready to start it all over, eagerly awaiting the time when I can pack it all up again and head out.
I’m ready to get ready to go. My pre-trip packing, whether I know where I’m going next or not, has already begun. I've just started early.
Unpacking simply closes my möbius fishing loop.