By Kent Danjanovich
With spring upon us and summer just around the corner, if you haven’t hit the water yet, it’s time to head out to your favorite fishing hole. But, wait just a minute! What kind of shape is your fishing gear in after a long winter of non-use? A few hours’ worth of preparation now could mean more success and less unexpected headaches on the water.
First let’s take a look at the big stuff – your rods and reels. Just like anything else in life, periodical maintenance is a must. Rods can develop weak spots and their “eyes” can become rough, with the results weakened and frayed line that will soon result in a malfunction at the worst moment during your outing. Reels can become “gummed up” and lines brittle.
Many of todays fishing rods are almost indestructible and even if they are not, warranties are a wonderful thing. Every spring, before I even think of heading out on my first fishing trip, I go through all of my rods, both spin cast and fly, to make sure they are in good shape. I check my eyelets for rough spots, seats for wear and wraps for weak threads. One thing that I have learned over the years, is to carry a couple of spare eye’s, especially tips, just in case of an emergency.
Reels require a little bit more attention. Water, dirt and grime, not to mention salt (a subject all in itself), all contribute to mechanical problems. Each off-season you should thoroughly go through your reels to remove the build-up of grime and gunk, ending in fresh grease on the gears and a little WD-40 everywhere else. And a little side note for those of you that are not too mechanically inclined, you can even box up your reel, if you purchased a quality one and send it back to the manufacturer for reconditioning in some cases. I know many fishing guides from around the country that send in their reels every year after their season ends for refurbishment.
Now let’s talk about some new line. I remember when I was young, you didn’t replace your fishing line until there was hardly any left on your reel. Now that I do this for a living, I have figured out just how important your line is to your success. Monofilament and fluorocarbon both have memories and with use, develop weak spots. Also, heat and cold play a factor in the deterioration of your lines, so at least yearly replacement is a must. There are a lot of line companies out there and the cheapest priced usually are that for a reason. I recommend taking your newly reconditioned reels in to your local Sportsman’s Warehouse and asking their experts to fill your spools with good line to the recommended capacities.
As for fly lines, run them through a cleaning cloth complete with a good line cleaner. As you do this, look for any imperfections in the lines coating and wind knots. Now’s a good time to replace your leaders as well.
Everybody’s tackle box is a little different, but the essentials are pretty much the same. Give your tackle box a good go-through, then a good wash job. If you like to throw hardware, a little soap and water will go a long way on your favorite lures. You can even touch-up many with a permanent marker or your wife’s nail polish. Do you have a go-to lure that just doesn’t retrieve the way it used to? Check their wire eyelets as they may be bent out of line. They can be fixed in most cases by using a pair of needle-nosed pliers to straighten them back into perfect working order.
Next, take a look at your hooks to see if they need to be replaces or sharpened. Take a hone, sharpening stone or small file and sharpen them, so to give “Mr. Big” a little extra sting on your next trip.
Check your fly box for much of the same. If the hook is rusted, I usually throw the fly away. If the tail on my bunny leech has hardened, its time has come as well. Action in the water is of utmost importance when fly fishing, so make sure you are using your flies in the way they are supposed to be presented.
If you use waders, check them out for wear. Remember, on a couple of your last trips of the year, your socks were a little wet at the end of the day? Now’s a good time to check for possible leaks and if you find a small one or two, you can save yourself a few bucks by doing a little patch job. Also, check your wading shoes for missing eyelets and worn laces. And I never thought that I would say this, but if you are still using felt soles, even if you fish in states that still accept them, think about buying a new pair of rubber soled ones. They have come a long way and I do think it helps on the invasive species being spread from water to water.
Well, as mentioned in the beginning, a little preventive maintenance will go a long way in making your next great outdoor adventure a special one. Don’t let your equipment deteriorate to the point that you have to go out and purchase new, just because you didn’t take the time to preserve what you have! A little time and preparation will make your life a lot better on the water.