Season Starts - Organizing Fishing Gear

Go Fishing! Organizing Fishing Gear and Other Fishing Season Prep Tips

It’s been a long winter, but before we know it, and spring fly fishing will soon be upon us. Except for the few hard core individuals, many if not most anglers put their gear away for the season sometime last fall and it’s been collecting dust or snow ever since. These suggestions are aimed at you! Don’t assume that everything is in the same good shape as the last time you used it. Or, maybe you intended to clean your gear before putting it away for winter, and time just got away from you!

Organizing Fishing Gear for Spring

Nothing can ruin that first outing of the spring faster than gear or tackle missing or not performing as it should. I suggest getting organized ahead of time and having a systematic approach so nothing gets left to chance.

1. First, don’t forget to renew your fishing license.

In Montana, the new license year started March 1st!

2. Next, I’d break out the rod and reel.

Give it a thorough going over and cleaning if it wasn’t done so before it was put away. That includes the line. Strip out the line well beyond the length normally fished with and clean it with one of the commercial cleaning products. In a pinch, I’ve used something like Armor-All wipes and they seem to do the job too. It’s amazing how much grime the line picks up from the water as well as the ground it comes in contact with.

In fact, if you’re not already doing so, try to get in the habit of cleaning your line frequently during the season too. You’ll be amazed at the improvement in performance as well as extending the life expectancy of the line.

Simultaneously inspect the line for any nicks, cuts, or abrasions. A grimy, nicked up line will not cast or perform properly, as there will be friction when running through the guides, as well as not floating properly in the case of floating lines.

Don’t forget to check for any knots too! Believe it or not, I’ve had clients whose gear just didn’t seem to be performing right and upon inspection discovered a knot in the fly line! If it is anything but dirty, meaning several nicks or cuts, then consider replacing it. You can always spool it onto a spare spool for casting practice in the yard!

If there is still a leader and tippet attached, I’d recommend throwing it away and starting anew. Inspect the rod for any damage. Check things like the striping guides, ferrules, and reel seat to be sure nothing is damaged. Give the rod itself a once over to check for any nicks. Stuff like streamers and split shot can put a small nick in a rod tip that weakens it enough to give way at the most inopportune time.

Make sure the reel is functioning properly; check the drag adjustment, and clean out any sand or gravel that may have accumulated. Rewind the fly line by feeding it with a little tension to get a nice, smooth fit back on the reel arbor.

3. Next comes the gear bag.

Whatever type of system one uses, go through all of the tackle, supplies, flies and tools.

Leaders and tippets will most likely need replacing for the season.

Tippets that are carried externally on a lanyard, vest or pack are particularly vulnerable to UV damage during the course of the season and will weaken over time. They should be replaced. Double check to make sure the supply of items like split shot, strike indicators, floatant, etc is all on hand in sufficient quantities and serviceable.

Tools should also be checked.

Things like nippers, particularly cheaper ones, can dull with use. Don’t assume everything is just the way you left it. Unpack and repack every pocket, etc. Most likely if nothing else, you’ll find chewing gum wrappers, old licenses, mouse poop, etc. that need to be discarded. You don’t want to get out on the river this spring only to find a half open package of old sunflower seeds in your gear!

4. OK, now the fly boxes.

Make sure that fly box that you were caught out in the rain with completely dried out and you don’t have a box of rusty hooks and moldy materials! Obviously, if you haven’t already done so during the winter, check the boxes for stock and refill any shortages in type, quantity, size, etc. Unless you’re the Felix Unger of fly fishermen, at the minimum, your boxes probably at least need a little reorganization.

5. Finally, check the boots and waders.

Make sure that a mouse or two didn’t winter in the foot or pocket of the waders.

Take a look at the boots. Hopefully they were stored clean, but in case they weren’t give them a cleaning. Check the laces and if felt soles, look at the felt. If the felt is worn to a nubbin, it may be time to consider replacing those favorite wading boots.

Take a look at clothing items like rain jackets too. For quality Gortex fabric jackets, it’s not a bad idea to retreat the garment with a water repellent product like Revivex to make sure it’s ready to go for that spring snow shower or summer thunder storm.

6. For those anglers who have water craft of some sort, be sure and check the boat and trailer.

Rafts or pontoon boats should be retreated with one of the commercial UV protectant products.

Check things like anchor ropes and anchor cleats for wear and abrasions, frames, seats, etc. Basically anything involving a knot, screw or bolt should be examined.

Go over all of the extra gear such as PFDs, spare oars and oar locks, first aid kits, etc to make sure they’re all in good shape and stocked up.

The same goes for drift boats. Double check everything to be sure it’s ready for the river.

Trailers should be gone over carefully. Particular attention should be paid to wheel bearings and tires. If it can break down it will, and again, at the most inopportune time. Check straps, hitches, and wiring connections too.

That should just about do it!

This article was intended to provide a few suggestions and ideas….as with so many other things fly fishing related, there isn’t necessarily any right way or wrong way. Everyone has their own system. It is simply hoped that this might provide some proverbial food for thought.

Chris Fleck
Stillwater Anglers Fly Shop and Outfitters