Preparing for your First Fishing Trip of the Season by Brian Chan

A variety of reels

We are getting close to having ice free lakes in many areas of the western provinces and states. If you have not already checked over your fly fishing equipment now is the time to do it. There is nothing worse than having a simple piece of gear fail and ruin the first outing of the season. So here is a quick checklist to go through now while the ice is still thawing on your favourite waters.

  1. Check your fly rod guides for any wear or sharp grooves that can damage your fly line. Just run a cotton swab or Q tip through each guide and watch for any of the swab to get caught up. Snake guides can wear depending on the quality of material used to make them. If you find a groove or sharp edge on one it is best to replace it. Fly lines are expensive and designed to last many seasons so it pays to check guide wear.
  2. Clean your fly line. A lot of dirt can accumulate on a fly line over a season of use. Dirty fly lines are harder to cast and the dirt on the line will shorten the life of the fly line. A dirty floating line can also start sinking on you. Wash your floating and sinking lines in a mild dishwashing detergent, run the line through a damp cloth to ensure any dirt is removed. Apply fly line cleaner/conditioner to your floating line but not your sinking lines. Sinking lines are fine with a gentle dishwasher detergent wash. While the fly line is off the reel take a minute to stretch the line out and remove the memory that has set in over the winter months.
  3. Replace your leader. A tapered leader is not an expensive purchase so why not start the season off with a fresh leader free of any wear spots or wind knots from the previous year of fishing.
  4. Take your reels apart and clean/lubricate the parts as identified by the maintenance instructions that came with each particular reel manufacturer. Often, brand name reels will have maintenance instructions or videos available online.
  5. Start the season off with a clean rod and cork handle. Take a few minutes and wash the rod in mild dish detergent, use an old toothbrush to clean in and around the snake and stripping guides. Clean the cork handle with a general household cleaner like Vim which will remove the oil and dirt that has accumulated in the cork. Apply a bit of cleaner onto a damp sponge and work it over the handle and the dirt will show up on the sponge. You will end up with a new looking handle.
  6. Check your spools of tippet material to make sure they are still in good condition. UV light does break down monofilament so replace any old spools that have discoloured or appear cloudy. You want to land that fish of a lifetime!