As winter surrenders its icy grip, snow begins to melt and the days get longer. In many ways, it feels like the whole world is coming back to life. With the start of a new season upon us, it’s time to make sure that you’re fully prepared for the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead. While it may be easy to procrastinate on prepping gear, tying flies, and scouting new spots, we all know where waiting until the last minute gets us. If you’ve been putting off your pre-season checklist, it’s time to get down to business.
For trout anglers, the arrival of spring is marked by the pursuit of increasingly active quarry. Winter Snowflies, Caddis, and prolific hatches of Blue Wing Olives have begun to signal the arrival of some of the best dry fly opportunities of the year. Elsewhere on the coast, Striped Bass are running close to shore, and Redfish are schooling in the hundreds, not at all shy of accepting a topwater offering. Whether you’re a seasoned angler, or gearing up for your first year on the water preparation is key. Here, we’ll dive into some of the tasks that will set you up for a more successful and enjoyable year on the water.
Check Your Gear
The gear you use won’t always make you a better angler, but taking good care of what you do have can be the difference between landing your new personal best, and heading home defeated. Before you hit the water this spring, inspect your gear and make sure everything is in working condition. If you find any damage you may need to replace or repair the item.
- Rods: Check your rods for any damage, like cracks or guides that may be close to failure.
- Reels: Inspect your reels to make sure they’re functioning properly. Check the drag systems, spools, and handles for any damage or corrosion.
- Lines: Check your lines for any cracks, nicks, or cuts. Make sure they are clean and free of debris, and that they are the correct weight, profile, and sink rate for the fish you'll be targeting.
- Waders: Check your waders for any leaks or tears. Fill them with water and check for leaks. Make sure the seams are intact and the boots fit properly.
- Boots: Check your boots for any damage, such as cuts or punctures. Make sure the soles are clean and have good traction.
- Packs and Bags: Check your pack for any damage or wear and tear. Make sure all the zippers, pockets, and straps are working properly. Clean and lubricate zippers on submersible packs. See CARE INSTRUCTIONS for further detail.
- Boat: Check that all registration and licenses are current. Inspect your boat trailer, noting the condition of rollers, pads, wheel bearings, tires, and lights, and make any appropriate repairs. Review and update any required safety equipment. Check the oil, filter, and battery on your engine, or inspect your primary oars and spare for wear and integrity.
Organize Your Flies
Depending on who you are organizing your flies can be either a meditative and therapeutic exercise, or a dizzying battle with tangled masses of hooks, feathers, and thread. Either way, an organized fly box makes a massive difference in the quality of your time on the water. Embrace the challenge, and we guarantee you’ll notice the difference this year.
- Sort your flies: Whether you sort by size, fly type, target species, body of water, or some combination of each, pick a system and stick to it.
- Replenish your supply: Identify gaps in your selection and fill them, either by tying your own patterns or paying a visit to your local fly shop.
- Label your boxes: Label each box so you can quickly find the fly you need when time is of the essence.
Much like organizing flies, most anglers have a love or hate relationship with casting practice. Whether you enjoy it or not, the more practice you put in, the more efficient you’ll be on the water. The truth is that it’s impossible to improve your technique in the heat of the moment. If you’re counting on figuring it out while a 150 lb Tarpon slides across your field of vision, you’ll be in for a very long day.
- Start with short casts and build up: Practice casting short distances to get your timing and accuracy tuned up. Increase distance as needed.
- Make it a game: Set up targets on the ground or in the water to practice casting to a specific spot. Work with a friend, asking them to hide markers behind you. Practice the urgency of turning around, finding your target, and quickly delivering your fly into the zone.
- Introduce some variety: Practice different casts, such as the roll cast, double haul, and sidearm cast, to improve your skills. Give special attention to those methods that you may not have as much experience with.
Explore New Water
Sure, much of your year may be spent on the home water you know like the back of your hand, but why not take the opportunity to expand your horizons? If you’ve been turned off by packed parking lots and limited space in the past, this should be a deliberate area of focus.
- Regulations: Check local regulations and restrictions on fishing and access. Make sure you have the proper licenses, permits, or permission from landowners.
- Water conditions: Begin checking water levels, flow rates, and temperatures now to get an idea of the conditions you'll be fishing in, and how they may change throughout the year.
- Break out the maps: Today, there is no shortage of information available to the enterprising angler. Source maps, tide charts, and other location information from your local shop, or on the internet, and start searching! Take care to make sure you follow all local fishing rules and access regulations before setting out.
- Pay a visit to your local experts: There is no substitute for learning from the best, so pay a visit to your local fly shop. An excellent shop won’t give you the GPS coordinates to the local honey hole, but they will put you on the path to discovering one of your own!
Learn About The Fish
If you’re a trout angler looking to explore warm water opportunities closer to home, or you’ve mastered Redfish and want to make the leap to Crevalle further offshore, this is a perfect time of year to prepare to leave your comfort zone. Again, the name of the game here is spending time down at your local fly shop. Make sure to ask about the feeding habits, habitat, and life cycle of the species you’ll be targeting. Remember, a case of beer goes a long way on a fact-finding mission like this, especially if it’s your first visit.
Connect With Your Community in New Ways
As anglers and outdoor enthusiasts, we spend the majority of our time outside in pursuit of some goal. That may be landing a personal best, knocking a new species off the bucket list, or just enjoying what the natural world has to offer. It’s important to remember, however, that those opportunities are only available if we preserve the integrity of our aquatic ecosystems. Fly fishing requires clean water, healthy fish populations, and thriving habitats. As anglers, we have a unique perspective on the natural world, as we spend a great deal of time observing and interacting with these ecosystems. This also means we’re in a position to advocate for conservation and to promote sustainable practices that can help preserve these resources for future generations.
As you finish preparing for the season, explore ways you can get involved in conservation efforts on your own home water. Speak with the staff at your local fly shop about river cleanups, habitat restoration fundraisers, and other volunteer opportunities. Your local chapter of Trout Unlimited is a great place to start, but don’t be afraid to explore any chance you get to give back to these resources that have given us so much. As a bonus, joining the conservation effort with these groups is a great way to meet fellow anglers and compare notes.
Fly fishing is a lifelong pursuit of adventure and connection with nature. With each new season, a new opportunity presents itself to deepen your knowledge, sharpen you skills, and discover new challenges and rewards on the water. As you prepare for the spring and summer, keep these tips in mind to set yourself up for success. If you’re looking for more information and personalized advice to your unique fishery, head on over to our DEALER LOCATOR to speak with an expert on your home water.