While most of us would prefer to be on the water as opposed to be sitting inside, sometimes conditions don’t allow you to do so. Now that can mean many different things of course, it can be commitments to work or family, poor weather, broken gear or boats, and even god forbid…injury. How you make use of your downtime can be key to making sure that when opportunities are presented, you can be ready to hit the water with everything you need to have a great time on the water.
I’m a fairly organized person so some of the things I take for granted in my world may not be true in yours. For example, when I come back from a day on the river and have wet boots and waders, my first stop is the drying rack for the boots, and to make sure that I hang my waders up inside out to dry, and then turning them back right side out later to complete the process. Nothing ruins a trip faster than rank, stinky waders that have taken on the wonderful smell of mildew, or have wet feet from the last trip out.
Another thing to consider are your reels. For reels, especially fly reels or the higher end saltwater ones with disc drag systems, make sure that you loosen the drag completely before putting them away. Failure to do this on some manufacturer’s reels can result in poor performance of the drag system over time, eventually leading to an “all or nothing” scenario. It’s a simple thing to do and will save you money and potentially lost fish in the future. If you have invested considerable money into high end reels, it’s a small investment of your time to protect them.
And then there is your tackle. For saltwater gear the best practice is always to rinse with fresh water after use and hang to dry but at the very least a rinse is critical. This will ensure that those critical lures, spoons, flashers and hooks will be in prime shape when you need them the next time out. And don’t be fooled, it can only take a day or two before the rust and surface corrosion can occur! Even a small amount of corrosion can affect the performance of your gear and even the sharpness of your hooks. And while you’re at it, give your fishing rods a quick rinse too.
Fly lines used in salt water should be rinsed as well, and a good cleaning several few times a year or more even after fresh water use with a cleaning agent will do wonders for the lifespan and casting smoothness of your line. You would be amazed at how much dirt and grease accumulates on fly lines even in fresh water just from regular use, and this affects how it floats, sinks, and moves through the guides. Trust me, a clean line will cast much further and perform better if it is well maintained. And with some fly line costing $100+, it’s worth doing. One additional benefit of stripping off and cleaning the lines is that it can also help reduce line memory, resulting in smooth presentations.
If you have an inflatable raft, make sure that you take time now and then to cast your eyes over the entire kit. Make sure that there are no weak spots, frayed stitching, leaking valves, or cracks in the rowing seat frame. Check that any frame attachment points are still solid and not at the point where failure could happen. Take a look at your on river repair kit – does it actually have anything of use? Could it be improved or are items missing? A good tip that I can pass on is don’t store your inflatable in the sunlight! Not only will the materials be subject to UV damage and fading, but you run the risk of the pontoon or bladders actually over pressurizing and bursting in the hot sun. Trust me on this one….it happened to me. My laziness cost me a day on the river.
Finally whether you fish flys, terminal tackle, or any sort of jigs, take time to go over your assortment of pre-tied rigs and fly boxes to see what your inventory looks like. Check for frayed leaders, old hooks, worn out tackle, and missing gear. If you spend some downtime preparing your equipment it gives you time to set things up properly in the comfort of your nice dry warm house rather than in the dark and the rain on the river or ocean. Being able to fish with confidence means knowing you have what you need when you need it, and that you know it’s not going to be an exercise in frustration during valuable fishing time.
So those are just a few quick tips, for anyone reading who has more to add, please feel free to post your ideas in the comments section.