Every year we have the inevitable winter thaw that gets everyone excited for spring to come. Those dreams of an early spring are usually crushed with a late winter or early spring snow storm. I could care less either way as I have something to do any month of the year. However, March is the month that I make sure that I am prepared for the upcoming open water season, which will be upon us before we know it and many are still fumbling around trying to get their equipment ready. Those of us that had the foresight to take care of those important details can just glide onto the water and are fishing. I had not always been this way and I learned the hard way. Sitting at the boat launch with a motor that will not start is an experience that will stay with you and hopefully will keep you vigilant with your maintenance on your equipment. These preparations do not just pertain to the water as many that venture into the woods on a hike or camping trip have equipment that require care of as well.
Going through your equipment that had been stowed away after your last trip is a vital step that many overlook. Did you just stuff your waders into your bag after your last trip? If so they probably were still wet and did not have time to dry. They probably stink and may have dry rot depending on where you put them. Sunlight breaks down the materials that the waders are made out of over time, so do not hang them in direct sunlight. If you leave them in a container make sure that they are folded in big pieces. What about your tent that you last used in September and put away wet? Did you take care of it properly as well? Same rules apply here as the waders so ensure that they are dry and folded properly.
One of the most important pieces of equipment that I double-check before the season and throughout is my first aid and survival gear. You never know when you will need it and you should always be prepared. Keeping clients safe is our number one priority, but accidents do happen. The best advice I can give is plan for the unexpected. I have been through enough to know that anything can happen when you least expect it. The thoughts of the worse case scenario always push me to rethink what I bring with me. One of the most sobering parts of my first aid kit are the packets of blood clot sponges that you put into a large wound. I dread the day I will ever have to use it, but I am ready. Just think of any situation that may occur while out in the woods and water of our great state and I guarantee a guide has thought and prepared for those specific situations.
If you fly fish then your preparation takes on a whole new level. The first thing I always work on is cleaning my fly lines and treating them with a line dressing. Even with advances in technology most lines should be washed off after a day on the water. You will see a dramatic improvement in your casting distance and line control if you complete this simple step. If you feel cracks in your line it is time for new line and to discard the old line.
Now the majority of my winter is going through my fly boxes and re-organizing, culling out patterns that did not work so well and making lists of what I need to tie for the upcoming season. This is where it gets dicey and I always fall into this trap. I will see a fly pattern on social media or on a fishing show and I will immediately want to tie up a bunch. Not sure if they work, but I somehow need them in my box. Most of the time they are not as effective as what I have been using for years.
When making up a list of what to tie for the upcoming season always remember what pattern(s) worked the best. I keep a fishing journal to keep track of these small details, but you should have a good working knowledge of what has worked. Build on that and tie starting with the patterns that you will need early in the season. It really doesn’t help to tie patterns that work best in the fall when you are getting ready for spring fishing. They may be some of your favorite flies, but resist that urge. After you have determined what to tie then you have to decide in what quantity. I tie in quantities of 6. For patterns that are vital I just increase the quantity to 12. For example, I tie the Grey Ghost pattern with a marabou wing in many different variations. This pattern works for me all season long and I have tied well over 40 this winter just to start. This year I do not want to be searching for this pattern at the end of the season because I was not prepared.
This is just a sample of the type of preparation that is necessary to be successful in the outdoors. Just make sure your equipment works before you get on the water or take an excursion into the woods. You never know when you will need that specific piece of equipment in a tough situation. Give yourself that extra peace of mind and venture forth.