What’s In Your Pocket?

“Oooo, cool Dada! Look it!” declared my four year old as we organized fishing gear on the tailgate.

“Oh yeah?” I asked, half listening.

“Yeah. Do you keep your Hot Wheels in here?”

It was a non-sequiter even by his standards. I looked up from my streamer box and found him wrist deep in the top inside pocket of my soggy waders. “Uh, no. No I don’t,” I replied.

“But, um…cause… did you ever know Dada that you could put some Hot Wheels in here if you want?” he pointed out.

Sure. Why not, I wondered? I’ve never known what to do with that pocket anyway. My systems are forever evolving. Items get added and dropped from the kit. Pieces of gear see more and less use. My general philosophy of streamside doodads shifts season by season. But through decades of tinkering, my indecision about that front flap pocket has remained a lone constant. Just what exactly is that thing supposed to do?

I wouldn’t (and shouldn’t) care of course, and I’d be surprised to learn that anyone else beyond the designer ever gave it a second thought. For some reason though, I can’t shake the nagging suspicion that how one uses that mysterious little pouch (and it’s double secret inner zip pocket) reveals something about you as a person, or at least your priorities.

Is it an inner sanctum, intended to shield your valuables from the dicey encounters of a day on the water? If so, what makes the cut? Do you really want to carry that kind of stuff so close to your heart when you’re fishing? And if they need so much coddling, why didn’t you leave them in the truck in the first place?

Maybe, instead, it’s supposed to be a hiding place for those items that require a little discretion – a flask say, or an illicit cigar. I’ve seen enough funny smelling little pipes pulled out of them to lend credence to the theory. But in most cases, such materials are a poor fit.

I’ve used it as a license holder, but the implicit compliance makes me feel like Dudley Doright. That detracts from the sense of wanton adventure that I prefer with my fishing.

Staging for oft-used gear seems like a natural fit – tippet, floatant, hemostats and the like. But my wide, undivided pocket isn’t very good at coughing those things back up when I need them. There are better, more accessible spots for that stuff.

A notebook is too heavy, and a pencil too pokey.

Most fly boxes are too fat.

It is, I’ve learned, a handy spot to stuff empty granola bar wrappers, and coils of discarded leader material, but I feel like I’m wasting the pocket’s true potential that way. Surely the design didn’t become ubiquitous on the strength of its performance as a trashcan. What am I missing? My inability to answer that ridiculous question has needled me for years.

But then, as I weighed my son’s proposal against the alternatives, I finally figured it out.

“You know what bud?” I said. “That’s a great idea. Can I borrow the monster truck?”

“Sure Dada,” he said, diving into his own gear stash with a big, goofy grin.

Clearly what I’ve needed in that pocket all along is less self-seriousness, and more playful abandon.

Lucky for me, he’s always around to help fill it up.

6 Comments on “What’s In Your Pocket?

  1. I keep my cigar lighter in there on cold days to keep it warm so it works better. Just say’n!

    • I like the forethought!
      Did you see Steven’s “Lighter In the Hat” post by any chance? He’s got a different strategy.

  2. This made me smile, been known to keep my pipe and nimrod lighter in mine. As for space I have a nose warmer pipe which is suitably small…..

    • Ah… the old better to have ’em and not need ’em than need ’em and not have ’em approach. Glad to hear my son’s in good company.

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