A fisherman describes the preseason rituals he undertakes in anticipation of each fishing season. He goes through his fly boxes and throws away any flies that did not catch fish and repairs leaks in his waders. Having enough gear will help you to catch fish, while too much is cumbersome.
There’s a moment in late winter when it’s suddenly time to start, thinking about the fishing season. For me, it’s usually toward the end of February, with a week or so left in the last small game hunting seasons. Then, believe it or not, there’s only a month or six weeks until trout fishing starts. With any luck, that is. Here in Colorado, we don’t have a closed fishing season, so we don’t have an opening day.
We also have a few rivers that stay open more or less all, year, so if you just can’t stand it anymore, you can slog through a snowbank, fish in 34F water and maybe even catch a few, cold trout. In fact, most of the fishermen I know own a pair of monster insulated chest waders for just that purpose, although we all still think of “fishing season” more in terms of April days that are merely chilly.
I tie most of my own flies, and over the years I’ve developed a winter ritual: I go through all my fly boxes and get rid of any fly I can’t remember catching a fish on. Most of these are patterns I decided to try and that didn’t pan out for one reason or another. I have to dump them to make room for the next batch of flies. (Okay, I don’t actually dump them. I usually give them to friends who then go out and catch fish with them, which is a little frustrating.) I figure after another 20 years of this, I’ll have the ultimate fly selection.
I do the same with gadgets: If I can’t remember the last time I used it, I toss it into a desk drawer that’s already full of gizmos that also didn’t produce. Actually, I’m developing a kind of sales resistance to gadgets, because a lot of the new ones are, modern versions of ones I, tried a decade ago.
As long as the fishing vest is half empty anyway, I go through everything else, to make sure the items I need, are there or to replace what’s empty, worn out or lost. I also throw out the sandwich wrappers and snarls of monofilament and shake the sand out of the pockets.
I resist any temptation to undertake a major reorganization of the vest. I did that once and it was catastrophic. By now, everything has its place even if it’s not always the most convenient and I found that if I move something, such as the bug repellent, from one pocket to another, I might as well throw it into the river because either way, I’ll never find it again.
Now is the time to inspect lines, clean them and think about whether or not they’ve got another season left in them. If there’s any question, you probably need a new line.
I’m talking about fly lines. I think all your monofilament should be replaced every season. Mono can get weak and brittle with time and exposure and you don’t want to be the fisherman every guide can tell, you about: the one with the new waders and expensive rod and reel who broke off all his big fish because he was too cheap to spend a few bucks on some new spools of tippet material.
Patching waders is another ritual, and I’ve determined that there are two kinds of leaks: the injury leak and the wear leak.
The injury leak is the hole that got poked in your waders by, say, a sharp stick in a beaver dam or maybe a run in with barbed wire. These things are unavoidable; in fact, if you don’t get them now and then, you’re not fishing enough.
The wear leak is more ominous. I usually get them on the feet, where the material is compressed and grinds against sand that gets in even if I remember to wear gravel guards. How many times you patch waders before you break down and get a new pair is a personal matter and I’ve seen people go to great lengths.
My old friend, A.K Best, once kept a pair of canvas chest waders alive and more or less waterproof for a decade. He said later that he did it because he was broke, and wanted to prove some kind of the point, although he can’t remember what it was now. Anyway, he finally got tired of it, and of people asking me, “Who’s your friend in the clown suit?”
By the way, the best wader patches are pieces cut from your last pair of waders, so don’t throw the old ones out.
About the time, I’m getting geared up for fishing season, the spring tackle catalogs start to arrive in the mail: all that neat stuff pictured in color on glossy paper, modeled by handsome young people with perfect hair except maybe for the guy showing off the size waders.
I have to be careful about these catalogs because I’m a tackle freak from way back. Still, I have learned that how much gear you have is a delicate balance. Just enough will help you catch fish, but too much gets in the way.
If you need something, you should probably get it, and you might as well get a good one. In the long run, the good one will cost less than the two or three cheap ones you’ll wear out in the same amount of time.
On the other hand, if you weren’t casting last season as well as you’d have liked to, take a deep breath and ask yourself “Do I really need a new rod, or do I just need casting lessons?”