Muck Boots/ shoes. These are the most recent acquisition that I will never be without. I have both shoes and boots, and they are , without a doubt, the most comfortable footwear I've ever worn. Being neoprene, they are too warm for the summer, but that's the only drawback I can see. I wear the shoes for fishing from a boat - they're waterproof - and the boots for pheasant hunting. The shoes when its cold outside. I also happen to be afflicted with gout about once a year, making walking nearly unbearable. The shoes are the only things I can function with when gout flares up. These shoes/ boots are awesome!
Fenwick HMG UL spin road, circa 1985. This is one of the first "good" rods I ever bought, and I still use it as much as nearly any rod I own. I love to fish for panfish, so it is usually along with me on my walks around the local ponds. It's too short (4-1/2'), too light and whippy, and the cork handle is so dirty its hard to see the cork anymore. But - it works. This would be hard - to - impossible to replace, because the rod isn't made the same way it used to be.
Weighted bobbers and Cubby Mini-Mites. I found weighted bobbers about 6 years ago, and my panfishing has expanded tremendously because of it. These bobbers let you cast a mile, and the weight renders them close to neutrally buoyant, easily detecting the most subtle strikes. Paired with a Cubby Mini Mite, they create a perfect panfish combo. I don't know what it is about the Mini Mite that makes them work so well, but they just flat-out catch fish. I've tried the knock-offs, and I fish a lot of grubs (see below), but Mini Mites are my go-to baits when UL fishing.
Jig and Grub / Twister. The classic "nickle crankbait" - just cast them out and reel them in. At times they're almost too easy. At other times they're the only way to find and catch fish. Size of the grub and weight of the jig vary depending on the target species. And these are not just for freshwater - they 'll catch fish everywhere. Over the past year I've fished them from 1" long for panfish to pulling a gang of 9" 'ers on a dredge to attract blue marlin. It doesn't get anymore versatile than that. And I literally never go fishing without having some along. I'm not quite as fanatical about them as an old friend from PA who, to the best of my knowledge, never used anything in his life other than a chartreuse or motor oil "twister" - right Ken?? - but I do use them a lot, and catch a lot of fish with them.
F9 Floating Rapala. The old standby - the original floating balsa crankbait. Years ago, these were the most expensive lures you could buy, but everyone had some. Now they have been overshadowed in some circles by the Japanese baits (Lucky Craft, Daiwa, ....) but they still work. Very well. It's probably out of a sense of nostalgia, but I always have some of these with me. HINT - if you break off the lip of one of these baits, don't throw it away. Turn it into a good topwater - the bait will dance and dart erratically when twitched and ripped.
Barbour Border waxed cotton coat. My Border is now 15 years old, and is starting to really feel like it's getting broken in. It was worn everywhere for about 8 years, and has been relegated to hunting and fishing in cold, windy, rainy weather for the last 7 years. It has frayed sleeves, a few patches on the back and elbows. In short - it's almost perfect. I send it back to get re-waxed every 2 years (it's due right now). When I'm going pheasant hunting in a rain/ snow mix, with a stiff wind - the Barbour Border is the perfect coat to keep you warm and in the field. This jacket, with its liner, were my primary means of warmth in Norway at the Winter Olympics in Lillehammer in 1994, when the temp. rarely got north of 20 degrees.
Those who have read this blog know I love to flyfish for trout. I have a ridiculous amount of trout flies, but a few always go with me. West, East - doesn't matter. Brook trout, cutthroat, browns, 'bows, grayling - this trio has caught them all. The elk hair caddis is a terrific fly in and of itself, and also serves double duty as a high floating indicator. The cone head Wooly Bugger just plain catches fish, especially in black or olive. And the bright pink San Juan worm is flat out deadly everywhere I've fished it, including the famed technical waters of flyfishing lore. A day on the West Branch Delaware River about 10 years ago illustrates this perfectly. Dave Colley and I were fishing with a guide (I've forgotten his name) and he showed us a deep run that held some nice fish. He suggested bh caddis pupa or gold ribbed hares ear, but Dave put on the worm. "They don't work here - these aren't those stupid fish from out west" was his reply. 15 minutes later, after a 18" and 16" brown brought to hand, he was a believer.
Let me know your favorite things - just the ones you can't live without.