In the same vain as the Season’s End article we posted recently, I thought it useful to pen one on the Season’s Start. The game fishing season is imminent, and I can’t wait for it to start. My mind however is beginning to nag me. Where’s my tackle? Did I clean down all of those reels, lines, rods and waders? Have I got enough flies? And don’t forget to organise the licenses! I could of course simply wait until the night before my first outing and then dig everything out and see where I stand but that won’t leave much time to resolve any issues that I’m likely to find! You can tell I like to prepare, not preparing to fail.
I don’t know about you, but I am a salesman’s dream for new rods, guns, knives, and pretty much any game pursuits related apparel. As a result, I’ve got a garage full of rods. I’m blessed to have a couple of RL Winston’s, a Salmologic, a few Orvis and even an LL Bean suspended in the rafters. Then there are some old, but trusty, Shakespeare’s for sea and coarse angling! If I’m honest, most of them haven’t seen daylight for some considerable time. I have my ‘go to’ rods and the others don’t get much of a look in. Regardless, now is the time to get them out, give them a wipe down with warm water and inspect them for any damage. I agree, this should have been done at the end of last season but I’m a changed man now with new resolutions!
How many of you change your fly lines regularly, or even remove them from the reel for the closed season. I don’t. I know, shame on me. I do change them when I’ve managed to stand on one and crunch it between my boots and a sharp stone. Fly lines aren’t cheap so unless I can see damage, I hope there isn’t any. Not ideal, but by ensuring I conduct some preventative maintenance I should be able to trust the lines when I come to use them. What I do need to do before the season starts however is stretch out the lines to remove the coil memory that it will have created being tightly wound on a reel for the last few months. I do this by looping the braided loop onto a nail hammered into a fence post and then extending the line completely before stretching it and holding it stretched for a few minutes. Having it stretched out also allows me to run my fingers down the length of it to check for any damage. What is possibly worth replacing each year is the braded loop. Its likely to have seem some action and may be ready to start fraying. It’s a quick, easy and cheap job so not something to make excuses about!
Moving onto the reels, start by removing the line and backing. Dispose of the backing but keep the line handy if not changing, so you can put it back on once the reel’s cleaning and maintenance is finished. The first job is to give them a bath in warm water. No soap or additives, just clean water. Remove the spool from the frame and use an old toothbrush to access the nooks and crannies. Don’t worry about removing any grease as once the reel is bone dry you should apply some new lubricant. Whilst drying them off inspect them for damage and make sure they work as intended. Let them air dry in a warm place fully before applying reel grease, such as Penn Precision, to the centre spindle and any moving parts. Its worth applying some oil to other parts such as the handle. With the reel clean and dry put fresh backing onto the spool. How much backing I hear you ask? Well, the problem with trying to determine this is you need to put it, and the line, back on the reel to see if you have got it right! Essentially, once the line and backing are completely wound onto the spool you should have about 5mm of space to the edge of the frame guides. Once finished, replace the fully assembled reel back in its clean protective case.
What about your flies? Is there much you can do to prepare them? I would suggest the biggest failing of a fly, apart from one that is simply worn out or fraying, is that the hook is blunt. Some might even be rusty. Go through your fly boxes and organise them back into the compartments you may have once had them in such as dry, wet, lures, etc. During the process discard those which have obviously seen better days and are only likely to catch the foolhardiest of fish! Check for rust and clean off if possible, using a sharpening tool. Discard if not. Now use the sharpening tool to make sure the hook is fit for purpose. Sharpening is easy. Check out this Orvis guide if you are unsure - https://howtoflyfish.orvis.com/choosing-equipment/equipment-articles/475-how-to-sharpen-a-hook
As with all of the game pursuits we enjoy, there is a vast array of choice for the ‘necessities’ to ensure success. In reality, we only need a rod, reel, line, a knife and a few trusty flies and probably a good pair of glasses. However, we all end up with a collection of nets, priests, tying tools, snips, wading stick and a multitude of other ancillaries to assist our endeavour. Take a few minutes to inspect all of these, clean them and make any repairs or re-supplies you need prior to your first outing. I do have one ‘fish bag’ that can sit in the water until the end of the day which I lay on a plastic tray in the boot of the car for the journey home. Once home I take out the fish and wash both the bag and tray in an effort to cut out using lots of carrier bags throughout the season.
If, like me, you have used the same few knots your whole life it may be worth learning a few more this season. You may not need them but its always good to expand your knowledge. Once you have, you may be surprised at how useful some of these new knots would have been over the previous years. I find them quite fascinating and it never ceases to amaze me at quite how many there are. Even more intriguing is trying to figure out how someone created the knot in the first place. I mean, the Turle knot wouldn’t be something that easily springs to mind before it existed would it?
Last, but not least, turn your attention to your clothes. I remember one year getting my waders from the cupboard in the garage. They were neatly packed away in the draw chord mesh bag that they originally came in. I threw them in the car and headed off for a day’s river fishing. It wasn’t until I took them out of the bag that I saw a mouse or rat had chewed through the rubber leaving me with not so waterproof waders! I now keep them suspended from a rafter in closed season! Make sure you have your hat, glasses, waistcoat, boots / waders, and jacket. The waistcoat will probably take most time to prepare as you may have emptied it to go through everything else mentioned in this article and now you have to put it all back!
The thing about prevention being better than cure is that you can’t ever be sure you prevented anything because it didn’t happen! My take on this is that if nothing detrimental happened then the effort taken at the start was a success. It’s different to insurance as you absolutely know at the end of the term whether you needed it or not. The cost benefit however of carrying out these pre-season checks and preparation is of course time. A fishing outing cancelled at the last minute not only leaves you feeling grumpy, but it has also cost you time. Time is our most precious commodity and can’t be replaced so protect it. Better therefore, than pre-season checks, is to run through everything at the end of each outing. That way you know everything is ready to go when you head off on your next adventure. I’m now off to the OCD specialist doctor….