Readers Cast


Jeff Williams - July 28, 2014


Sometimes something good results from something that, at first, seems bad, and this is a story about just such an incident.

I was returning from a fly fishing trip when I ran past a West Virginia State Trooper doing sixty-eight in a fifty five. He asked me where I was headed and I told him I was going home after a day of fishing and I wasn't paying attention to my speed and I apologized. I figured it had been at least 30 years since I had last gotten a ticket, and I was due. Plus I was out of state, so I knew I was going to get my wallet lightened. I don't know if it was my apology or if he was hesitant to alienate a tourist, or maybe he was a fellow fisherman, but he let me off with a warning. Unfortunately, I didn't learn my lesson. The very next week I drove past a member of the Virginia State Police again doing seventy in a fifty five. I tried the same story and apologized, but he wasn't very sympathetic. He handed me a $151 ticket. He was probably a golfer.

With two encounters in one week it was obviously time to assess my driving habits. I typically take my somewhat sporty SUV on these trips. It has plenty of space in the cargo area to lock up waders, boots, spare rods, sling packs, etc. Unfortunately, it does seem to cruise comfortably at 70 mph. I have good intentions to keep my speed down, but when my mind wanders to dropper choices or other urgent matters, I glance at the dash and suddenly I am booking along at a speed inviting additional points to my driving record. I needed to change something, and fast (no pun intended).

Fortunately, sitting in my driveway was a solution to my problem. Last fall a friend was selling his 1994 American made pickup truck, with 118000 original miles. I have known this fellow for many years and I know, at least mechanically, he meticulously maintains his vehicles. Cosmetic and non-mechanical issues on the other hand, (like a little oil leak or the entire passenger compartment) are not a priority. "Just check the oil and add it occasionally, it will be fine." He had 20 years of records showing oil changes every 3000 miles, timing belt changes, tune ups, transmission fluid changes, brake flushes, etc., etc.

This wasn't my first rodeo, as they say. I have had two other pickups in my past, and having given up the last one several years ago, I have missed it. A pickup is vital for certain chores, and the main chore I envisioned for this truck was to have an easy way to haul my NuCanoe. My SUV is workable for this task, with the NuCanoe lashed in the cargo area and the rear hatch tied down. The glaring exception is when a trip on a dirt road is required. The dust sucks in the partially open hatch and places a fine film of red dirt over every square inch of the interior, including the driver. I guess I could strap the NuCanoe to the top, but the hoisting required is really a two man job and most of my fishing trips are a one man operation. So, I "needed" a truck and the price was right. It's a fishing truck after all. It doesn't need to be pretty, it just needs to run. Maybe a little too anxiously, I jumped at the chance to take it off his hands.

Since that purchase I have learned this particular old pickup, like some old fisherman, has character. It has all the cool and eccentric features found in a pickup of that era: five speed manual, two range 4WD (the kind where you have to get out and lock the hubs before you shift into 4WD, assuring you get well covered in the mud or whatever you have gotten yourself stuck in that requires 4WD), and an extended cab that has no way to easily access the "extended" area unless you are an amateur contortionist. And it has a sun roof, not found in too many old pickups, which I appreciate a lot more since I have gotten most of the leaks fixed. The endless indoor blizzard of particles of foam and cloth was cured by replacing the headliner. There is that little oil leak, but an old rug on the driveway hides that pretty well. Maybe I'll get that fixed someday. As far as speeding goes, it cruises comfortably at about 55 MPH. I guess it is 55, the speedometer needle bounces between 45 and 65. Judging by the way other vehicles blow by me (and some of the looks other drivers shoot my way), it couldn't be much faster than that. Would it be politically correct to have a bumper sticker that says "Tailgaters make good target practice"?

So, if I take my truck fishing in place of the SUV, even when I am not taking my NuCanoe, it might keep me from getting into trouble, speed wise anyway. But, it is a small truck with an open bed. No place really to put all the required paraphernalia a wading flyfisher needs to haul around. A nine foot 2 piece rod doesn't fit comfortably in the cab, and I really don't want to put a lot of this increasingly expensive stuff in the open bed, exposed to the elements and to anyone who happens by. I thought a camping shell may be the answer. I quickly found any shell that looked decent to my eye does not come cheap, and my inner tightwad has some issues with adding a camping shell that costs a high percentage of the truck itself. Besides, half the year I want the open bed for my NuCanoe. That means storing the bulky shell somewhere out of the way and somewhere my wife won't see it and feel the need to comment regularly at its unsightly appearance. A camping shell just didn't seem to be the solution.

Reluctantly, I started looking at tonneau covers. All the covers I had noticed to that point were heavy metal one piece covers you see on those show pony trucks. I am sure they probably are the perfect accessory for some folks, but I always thought "What's the point?" Why buy a truck if you are going to cover the bed to make it hard to use, why not just buy a minivan? Then I discovered there is a whole different kind of tonneau cover.

The cover I found is made from light weight, heavy duty vinyl, attaches easily with hand ratchet clamps, and has a tri-fold design. No tools needed to attach or remove, and it is cinch to fold up and take off and store on the wall of the garage. Like a camping shell, it covers the bed and keeps the dust and water out. The back third of the tri-fold opens like a car trunk to allow you access to that part of the bed without moving the entire cover. Get one of these covers, add a cargo bar, a couple of milk crates to hold all your stuff, a cooler, a fly rod case, secure it all to the cargo bar with Velcro tape, and your Mobile Fly Fishing System is complete.{This Velcro tape stuff is unbelievably handy. Think instant custom bungee cord. Get the kind without an adhesive side. It is reusable and can securely strap almost anything in seconds.}

After several trips, not only have I not gotten any more tickets, organizing a fishing trip is now quick and easy. To get to my gear I just open the tailgate and flip up the back third of the tri-fold cover. If I want to make it a camping trip I just fold the second section of the tri-fold to expand the access and load all my camping equipment. I'm actually more organized with this system than I was just throwing all my stuff in the back of my SUV. When I get home, I just release the Velcro tape and take the milk crates out, hang up my waders, and all my gear is already organized for storage and for the next trip. The cover really is easy to take off and put back on, as I have done twice just this past week (once to haul some brush, once to help a friend move a freezer – this is the downside to owning a truck, sometimes actual work is unavoidable). If you have been looking for an inexpensive way to easily convert your open bed pickup to a fishing system and easily convert it back when needed, try this system.

So now I am just waiting for the next good thing will happen, like a fall in the river, a back-cast too close to my ear, a barb wire fence attacking my waders.

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