It’s April at last and we’re on the very cusp of Spring. The new trout fishing year is just around the corner, so Chris Ogborne gives us his top tips on how to make sure that you, AND your gear are fully ready for the season ahead!
I absolutely love this time of year! The wet, grey and overly long winter is almost behind us and all thoughts now are for the new fishing season, in whatever form that takes for the individual angler.
It matters not whether you’ll be heading for the lakes, the rivers or the coast. What DOES matter is that we have that wonderful feeling that the whole season stretches away in front of us, with over six months of great fishing to look forward to. Very soon now we’ll be out there with the sun on our backs and hopefully a decent bend in the rod as the first fish takes hold!
But to make sure that you enjoy it to the full, it pays to have a quick check through ahead of time, to make sure that all your fly fishing tackle is in perfect working order. For me it’s a fun job and one of the real pleasures of Spring. I usually do it on a Sunday morning, laying all the gear out on the patio and spending a few happy hours oiling reels, checking lines, wiping down rod handles and giving the fishing bag a good shake to clear all the debris.
OK hands up, I’m guilty of the following: Like most anglers, I’m lazy in Autumn and just chuck everything on the corner of the garage to be forgotten for the winter months. Our gear that gives us so much pleasure deserves better treatment, so here’s my detailed recipe for a spring clean:
Leader material: It’s absolutely crazy and false economy to make do with old leader material. Be ruthless and throw those old part-used spools away. In the overall scheme of things it’s the least expensive element of our gear, and you SO don’t want to lose the first fish of the year because the old material had de-graded. Spools get knocked about in jacket pockets, they get wet and shrink, or they get bashed about against harder objects so give yourself peace of mind and buy new. Whether it’s co-polymer or fluorocarbon, do it now. It’s a great investment!
Fly lines: of equal importance to the leader material is the fly line. There is a strong argument that the single most important item in the tackle box is the fly line, yet we seem to expect them to last for five years or more without any care at all. In most cases, a fly line costs less than a day out on the boat on your local reservoir, so it just isn’t reasonable to expect them to last forever. Unless you treat them regularly they will stiffen, become less supple, and the edge will be taken off their performance. Even the very best lines will degrade slightly in time so go on, treat yourself to new lines this year! Nothing quite compares to having the feel of a brand new fly line on opening day on the reservoir – the feel-good factor is well worth the cost!
Reels: check your reels BEFORE opening day! Modern reels are marvels of engineering but even the very best need a little TLC every now and again. Just check them over and even if it’s nothing more than a clean up you’ll feel better for it! The debris that inevitably collects can be washed away in warm water (top tip is to use an old toothbrush) and this applies to all reels, even the modern ones with inter-changeable spools. The more traditional alloy reels with spindle will benefit from a light grease (use top grade fine oil or grease) as well. As another top tip, I always like to take all the lines and backing off and then re-wind neatly.
Butt rig: If you don’t use a permanent butt rig system on your lines then this is something to consider. I use an Airflo polyleader on ALL my lines in the appropriate density as this provides the all-important clean turnover when casting, which in turn gives better presentation. These leader rigs are inexpensive and WILL make a difference to your fishing.
Rods: Modern rods are pretty bomb proof in design, but if you do little else apart from a wipe down with a damp cloth then there is one thing you really MUST do: check the rings for wear! Grooved rod rings will play havoc with your new fly lines and in the worst cases they can seriously damage them beyond reclaim. A quick check one will save a lot of frustration on the bankside in April. For more tips on fly rod care, click here.
Clothing: It’s been said before but is worth saying again – a warm, dry and comfortable angler is a MUCH more effective angler. Early season can be pretty cold so make sure that you’re prepared for the elements. More importantly, make sure that the extra layers don’t impair your casting, as too much bulk in clothing can have nightmare restrictions on your movement. The Airflo clothing range includes no end of great layers, from lightweight and breathable through to sub-Arctic survival and it’s all made from the latest high-tech materials designed for anglers. My personal favourite item of clothing from their range has to be the Airflo Thermolite hoody.
Fly boxes: this is my absolute top tip. PLEASE check your fly boxes for any sign of rusty or damaged hooks! Modern fly boxes are designed to prevent rust but even the best will be susceptible to being stored in damp conditions. In recent years I’ve been using the Airflo Slim Jim boxes which are nothing short of brilliant – easy to see the contents at a glance, quick fly selection, and sure grips that won’t leave you with loose flies everywhere. The bonus is that they fit into a shirt pocket so they’re great if you like to travel light
Waders: make sure you check your waders and boots NOW! This vital element of tackle is another one we tend to take for granted, expecting them to last forever. After three seasons of faithful use, especially if you’re a regular angler fishing once or twice a week, I’d reasonably expect to look to replace them. Far better to do this ahead of time as leaks on opening day can be VERY cold!
Enjoy your opening day, Chris.