When my dad first handed me a fly rod, he said to me, “get ready, son.” I replied, “get ready for what, dad?” He said that I would learn every curse word in the book the moment my hand touched the cork. And at the age of eleven, I was both riddled with questions as well as excited about the prospect of learning some new language to share with my friends.

Fast forward, and my dad was right. Not only have I learned almost all the curse words, I have also learned them in different languages. But the cursing didn’t just extend to my frustrations of hooking a tree, tangling my line, or missing that fish over and over for the last 24 years. But also at the amount of money I have spent on gear, on flies, on rods. And now, these curse words extend to my dwindling bank account and the lack of space I have to put it all.

With deep contemplation, and many more casts and hooked trees, I think I found myself a solution. I moved into a van to have constant access to my favorite waterways whenever I wanted them and to power save money to afford the gear and destinations I desired. But I lacked space in the van to store it all. So I applied and found myself with a 5×10 foot storage unit that has ample space to store all my fly fishing dreams wrapped in a metal container.

I have insurance and should one of you reading this be inclined to stalk me and find out where it is, you can rest assured that I am not only covered, but karma will come to you as swiftly as the fish that will strike my fly with the new gear my insurance money will give me.

Nevertheless, I needed a space to put all this gear, and not only am I satisfied with where it’s located, but so proud of it in fact, that I felt inspired to write an article about it. My life for the last ten years or so has been in a constant state of go. Perhaps even my whole life, I have always wanted to hit the road and chase fish whenever and wherever they swim. I searched for work either seasonal or those that gave me ample time off. When the concept of writing began, I dove head first into the idea.

But the point of the matter is that I want to be a versatile angler, and one that isn’t tied down to one location. I want to be able to chase fish and be ready for when the time comes. I don’t come from money, and as a writer, many of you reading this know that it hardly ever is a lucrative business unless you’re Norman Maclean himself.

So aside from selling my second kidney so I can put a down payment on a house one day, this is the closest thing I can get to being a full-time paid angler. Although, wishing I had a third kidney to buy a house in the Pacific Northwest or the Seychelles, or Alaska, I will clearly die of renal failure before that dream ever comes a reality. So I have laid my eyes on the van life aspect to save money and live by the nearest water I can, all the while having a storage unit to store everything I have for when the time comes.

And with my desired employment as a seasonal guide in Yellowstone National Park, all the while writing down on the keyboard and pen and paper to further make ends meet, when something pops up, I can disappear. That pull has felt strong these last few months, and the door has been luckily knocking relatively close to home. The summer heat of home was baking down on my van and the nearby trout infested waters. So the easy pull out stand in my storage unit that has a dozen or so of my rods assorted by weight was drawn and the three and five weights were pulled out. The terrestrial pattern box of flies was thrown into the van while the waders were hung up for time further down the road.

The water cascading down the creeks from high elevation was inspiring, but the snow encapsulated on the mountains still reminded of the impeding dangers up high. But down on the valley floors, hoppers were clicking away on the farmers grass, and for the next month, brown and rainbow trout were gorging themselves on the clumsy casts and poor presentations.

As summer progressed, the snow melted and the door was not only at my metaphorical footsteps, but my key turned the lock open on the storage unit and the five-weight was set aside and replaced with a backpack and sleeping bag. The door slid down and slammed against the concrete while it baked in the summer sun. I hiked into my favorite high alpine lakes and set up camp amongst granite spires and grizzly bear prints. With the sun painting the landscape orange, the native cutthroat came to hand at the fist slap of the water the fly made with my three-weight.

With a couple weeks of that, the seasons were changing and the cold came in swiftly. In the mountains the early snows are always welcomed, but seem to hit when I am never really prepared. With the fall never showing up, it was time to head south. A quick stop at the unit and the three-weight and backpack were replaced with surfboards and the ten-weight. A quick grab of my passport as well, and south bound I went, into the deserts of Baja. Cast after cast while scanning the waters for that dark shadow and tug was clearly there and a cabrilla, or speckled bass, and a few needlefish presented an opportunity between my sun burnt lips and the waves crashing the shore.

With the money slowing down and the need to head back to the cold to soothe my sunburned skin, the snow riddled storage unit was once again visited while a few guided clients needed to be had in the depths of Yellowstone’s winter. But after at least a month of work, the need to grab the waders was apparent, but this time, the four-weight trout spey came to hand. While people were hitting the slopes of the nearby mountains with the fresh powder that had fallen, the first tracks I was seeking were of the river banks, and the green woolly bugger came to hand while it swung through each bucket hoping for a response.

With little action, but those that shown interest were of quality, it reminded me that it was indeed after all winter, and a fish similar to this action was on my radar. A quick transaction at the bank and a stop at the unit was required. The trout spey was a good start, but I went for the same action a full ten-weights larger, and the rain jacket and dry bags were also thrown into the van while the unit door slammed shut with ice trying to prevent it from closing.

With each mountain pass questioning my driving, the harder and more ridiculous it seemed to drive to the coast all to try my luck at yet another season of swinging flies for steelhead. Just in case, I never took my surfboard out of the car, but only kept it for the rare day where the rains really poured. But finally making it the coast, the evergreens dominated the landscape and reminded me why I came all this way through snowy mountain passes and questionable road closures. The wind swayed in the canopy while the water drops fell onto my wet forehead.

The cast, step, sweep and step pattern lasted all day until the final hour of the short-lived winter. One more step while the fly sunk further before the swing when the line came tight and the headshake began. I couldn’t believe it. It was a fight to the end but as the line was grasped in my hand, the large hen shook her head and bolted, spitting the hook out with it. Reminding me of my drive home with the ridiculous gas prices to pay to get there.

I was on fumes financially, but the experience was well worth it and the next endeavor presented itself. But as the spring season was slowly opening her eyes, the job still needed an employee, so for another month, the unit remained locked and the fly rods slowly collected dust in between bouts of 70 degree weather and the occasional spring snow storm in the mountains. But with spring came the migratory patterns of coastal fish, and with my paycheck coming in right as the spring and summer seasons collided, I stopped at the storage unit for the surf-spey, stripping basket, and sunglasses and hit the Southern California coast for the world’s tiniest coastal fish.

In between surf sessions, when the sun beats down and waves are fun, the little surfperch swim between the lineup on the in coming and outgoing tides. A small sand crab is tied onto the thirteen foot seven weight and the two handed rod chucks that sand crab out between the waves and bounces around like pebbles of sand on the ocean floor. The hit is strong and hook is set. The first initial tug is astoundingly strong, then the realization comes to hand with a fish that barely flops the perimeter of your palm. It swims off after the hook is removed, and back to scanning the beach for both fish and plastic surgery between casts is admired.

The summer season came knocking once again, and the five and three-weights were still sitting there, leaning against my rod holder slowly collecting dust. But the transition of seasons and my plethora and variety of tools were all easy to grab and move while being in my storage unit. And as of now, it’s a system I have adored this past year. One day I’ll grow that fourth kidney or donate some other body part to perhaps not have to live the van life and dirt bag it next to riverbanks or coastlines chasing fish. But until then, this system works and I cannot wait to discover what else and where else fish swim to discover.

Article written by Sean Jansen @jansen_journals. Sean Jansen is a freelance writer for Flylords Magazine, and spends his time in Bozeman, Montana where he guides tours through Yellowstone National Park.

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