Presented from Issue 93 by Christopher Bassano
Winter can seem to drag on as mayfly hatches and beetle falls become a distant memory. I hate sitting around and waiting and although we are still able to fish some waters during the cold, dark months, ‘opening day’ holds a special place in all fisherman’s hearts and minds. The usual decisions on where to go and what to use will no doubt demand deep thought but it is the preparation for the coming season that can influence your success for the ensuing months.
Rods, reels and fly lines
These should have been cleaned, inspected, updated or replaced depending on what condition they are in. Methylated spirits cleans cork handles beautifully and although it may seem like an over kill, I have had fishing nets eaten by rats while stored in outside storage areas due to the remnants of fish slime on the netting and had rod handles chewed to pieces by Tasmanian Devils during over night camping trips for the same reason.
Check that your rod guides have not got grooves cut into them. The continual casting and stripping of fly lines will cut a sharp edged furrow into the metal guides causing cuts to appear on lines. It also affects a lines ‘shoot-ability’ and can cost you a fortune in new fly lines. Closely inspect each guide and replace all of those which are worn or etched. All good fly fishing stores will do this for you.
Rod wax should be applied to all ferrels to prevent them sticking together and not being able to pull them apart. I broke two rods this way last season. It can also help in keeping the rods together while fishing if you have a ‘loose ferrel’.
Fly reels have to be cleaned. The build of dirt in a reel has to be seen to be believed. Take the spool off the reel and as long as the manufacturer allows it, wipe down and lubricate the reel. Some manufacturers such as Lamson are happy to have you wipe the reel down but do not want you touching the ‘working parts’ within the housings. Check first!
If you do not have a large arbour reel, I suggest you buy one. They are so much better for many reasons and amongst others, will increase the longevity of your fly line. For those without a large arbour reel, take your lines off any spools you might have, stretch and clean them and before putting them back onto the spools, redo your connections to both the backing and leader. Some floating lines may have started to sink in the tip section. These
need to be replaced or a very small amount of line needs to be cut off to remove the core which has absorbed water. Be sure not to cut into the taper!!! Sinking lines at this time of year are very important if you are planning on fishing our larger impoundments. They help to get the flies down to the warmer water where most fish will be feeding and are more than handy throughout the season.
I guided someone a few years ago who came to Tasmania chasing a ten pound plus fish. When he did hook the fish (which headed for the other side of the lake) I asked him how much backing he had on his reel. He didn’t know! With only around 25 metres of backing out, the loop knot was spinning around the bare spool. If it wasn’t for a very cold swim and a lot of good luck, that fish would have got away. Backing is something that you rarely need but when you do, you really need it! That is the fish you do not want to miss out on because of your backing or lack there of.
Most mono filaments will also deteriorate over time. Check all of your tippet material and test their knot strength paying particular attention to the finer diameters. Many flurocarbons don’t degenerate as quickly but check them anyway.
Waders and clothing
If you haven’t already patched up any holes in your waders you had better get to it. Leaky waders at this time of the year spells disaster. There is nothing worse than being cold, and wet feet will do it every time. Neoprene is certainly a lot warmer than Gortex waders as long as you don’t sweat in them. As the sweat evaporates you will cool down.
Two pairs of socks, thermals, gloves and a beanie are essential. I recently began wearing a neck warmer and that has now become a must have piece of equipment. Definitely get one. This brings me to your outer layer. The best water proof jacket you can afford is the one to buy. The first ever pay check I received was spent on a Gortex jacket and it is still the one I wear today when I am bush walking. It practically saved my life one day while lost in the fog of the distant western lakes and is as water proof today as it was twenty years ago. Don’t go fishing at this time of year without one.
If you are a fly tier then the cold winter days should have been spent behind the vice. Those fly patterns that were not used last season are unlikely to be used this time around and a general clean out of your fly box is in order. Tie and buy more of the patterns that you like using and not as many ‘experiments’ which lead to a cluttered fly tying desk and rows of ‘test’ flies. I am not telling you to ignore your creative side but try and keep it realistic and spend most of your time tying the flies you know you will use and will work. I hate running out of my favourite flies only to find a box of flies I spent days tying that are not going to be used. Having to spend time tying flies in the early hours of the morning that I need for that day is more than just annoying.
For this time of year concentrate on woolly buggers, yetis, fur flies and woolly worms. Black and green are hard to ignore and larger flies in sizes 6 -8 are the best. Bead head flies are especially important for those fishing from a boat. Of course stick caddis, scud and snail imitations, etc. need to be included but your bread and butter will be large ‘attractor’ flies.
For those fishing the rivers, heavily weighted nymphs with a splash of colour will work well fished in deeper pockets. Tungsten beads help to get the depth you need in strong flows. Dry flies are not to be discounted in head waters. Water temperatures will surely be very low which makes fish lethargic. Get your flies to drift as close to the fish as you can. The less distance they have to move, the more likely they are to eat your fly.
Those with boats should have had their motors and trailers serviced over winter. Inflatable life jackets also need servicing and gas canisters replaced. Much like your fly line backing, life jackets seem unimportant until you need them and then you will be pleased you took the time to get it right.
The start of a new season can set the tone for the months ahead. There are a couple of things that I think are worth considering as we go full bore into another nine months of trout catching.
Over the past few years I have been getting my clients to fish with barbless hooks. They are much less harmful on the fish for those who are practising catch and release but just as importantly, they are far safer than the barbed variety. No longer do I have to pull barbs out of clothing, skin and nets. Everything happens seamlessly when a fish comes to the boat and with more than one person casting at a time, facial damage is much less of a concern. For those who think fish are much harder to land with a barbless hook, you will be surprised at how easy it actually is. Simply keep constant pressure on the fish and soon it will be in the net. Over an entire season of fishing over two hundred days, we would have less than five fish lost due to barbless hooks.
Purchase a light enhancing pair of polaroid sunglasses. Being able to keep your polaroids on until darkness falls makes for much safer fishing conditions. Most polaroids have a dark tint to them as some people think that they help in harsh light conditions. I use a light grey or yellow pair of glasses, both of which make it lighter when it is dark and darker when it is light. Saving your eyes from being penetrated by a hook is well worth the investment.
Purchase a ‘Buff’ or a Tasfish ‘Groper’ tubular neck bandana to protect you from the sun and wind. ‘Buffs’ are a tubular piece of material that go over your head and sit around your neck. They can be left as such to protect your neck from the sun or can be manipulated into different shapes to cover your entire head and neck or part there of. They keep you warm when it is cool and cool when it is warm. As they come in many different colours, they add a splash of colour to your fish pictures and are regularly seen on ‘cover shots’. Originally warn in the tropics to prevent sunburn, they have found their way down to Tasmania and I now carry three of them in my boat. With our ozone layer, sunburn is a real issue but with these you can still wear a baseball cap over the buff and be safer than when you are wearing a wide bream hat.
Good luck for the 2011 / 2012 season! I hope that it fulfils all of your dreams and wishes and is your best to date. Remember, ‘perfect preparation prevents poor performance!