I'm sure that if you're like me, you'd much rather be out fishing, and not stuck at home thinking about all the awesome places you had planned to visit this April. Just because we're landlocked for the next couple of weeks, however, doesn't mean you can't get ready for what's to come! This is a great time to get your fly gear cleaned and organized, work on your fly-tying, get your knot tying and fly-casting skills tuned-up, and make sure you have the right flies in your boxes. So, I've taken the liberty of making a little guide on how to prepare for this upcoming season, and I've provided you with a plethora of helpful links to aid you in getting your gear ready. That way, when this pandemic subsides, you'll be ready to go fish! *If you would like us to help you get ready for the upcoming season, you can call the shop to set up an appointment to come in, then we can get you outfitted and service all of your reels, lines, etc. The shop number is: (801)-521-6424.*
Gear Prep: Fly Lines
If you haven't taken your gear out of the closet since last season, or if you've been putting off the daily post-trip maintenance, now is the time to take a look at your fly lines, leaders, rods/reels, etc. If your fly line has multiple nicks, cuts, or tears, it is probably time to get a new one. A new fly line will aid you in your casting, mending, and make your fishing experiences much more enjoyable than a beat up fly line ever will. If your fly line is in good shape (no cuts, tears, nicks, etc.), it is still important to give it a good cleaning, and then lubricate it with a fly-line dressing to make sure it casts and fishes well for you. We at the shop use and sell the RIO Fly Line Cleaning Towelette, or the Scientific Anglers Fly Line Dressing, to make sure our fly lines cast and fish like we just took them out of the box.
It is important to note that not every fly line requires the same maintenance or cleaning as others. RIO fly lines require a slightly different cleaning process than some Scientific Anglers fly lines do. To check out how to best clean and lubricate a RIO fly line, check out Part 1 of the video here, and Part 2 of the video here. Scientific Anglers fly lines that contain their AST, and AST Plus lubricants found in their Mastery Series, Amplitude Smooth, Amplitude Plus fly lines, do not need to be cleaned with their SA fly line dressing! Instead, the folks at SA recommend you clean those lines with mild hand soap, and lukewarm water like this.
Gear Prep: Leaders, Tippet
Leaders and tippets are vital accessories that you want to make sure don't fail you when fishing. If you kept your gear stored in a cool, dry place that was not exposed to UV lighting between fishing trips, your gear should be good to go. If you didn't store your gear as mentioned above, or you have any doubts about your leaders and tippets being too brittle to fish with, then it is time to replace them. No sense in losing flies and getting frustrated when all you need do is get some fresh packages of leader and tippet! For the upcoming late-spring through early summer season, my go to leader will be a 7.5'-9' 3X leader, and my go to tippet sizes will be 3X-6X. Why?
By the time we're able to get back out on the water, we'll most likely be fishing larger flies, dealing with higher water flows, but still have the possibility on running into small Baetis and Midge hatches. A 3X leader is a very versatile size, and with the addition of adding tippet when needed, it will allow you to adjust to a variety of conditions with relative ease. For fishing large flies, multiple fly rigs, and windy conditions, I'm a big fan of RIO's Powerflex Plus Leaders and Tippet Material. If you only want to fish one leader and tippet material, in order to keep things simple, it's hard to beat the Powerflex Leader and Tippet Material from RIO. This leader and tippet material has been a staple of the shop for nearly two decades, and it works great in every trout fishing condition and situation. So, if you're in need of fresh leaders and tippet for the upcoming season, you now have some great products to try!
Gear Prep: Fly Reels
Fly reel maintenance is relatively simple compared to the other gear we use. If your fly reel is coated in dust, dirt, mud, etc., a simple rinse in warm water, and thorough drying with a soft towel/cloth will make it ready for the season. If you have a "modern" fly reel, it most likely has some sort of a "sealed" drag system. This means that the guts of the reel are self-lubricating, not exposed to the outside elements, and should not need any additional lubrication or cleaning. If you have a more traditional fly reel, like a Hardy click-pawl, your fly reel will need a little lubrication on the spindle and gears to make sure it is in fighting shape for the upcoming season. We are willing and able to look over you fly reels, and lube and clean them as needed if you don't want to have to deal with it.
Gear Prep: Fly Boxes
If your flies are scattered to hell and back, this is the time to whip your fly boxes into shape! There are limitless options on how to organize you boxes, but I'm going to share with you how I prep my boxes for the upcoming season. I start by looking at what insect hatches are coming up, and then I look to put all stages of the various insects into my "go to" boxes. My "go to" boxes consist of my core four boxes; the boxes I always have with me whenever I go fishing. In my "core four", I have one dry fly box, one nymph box, one streamer box, and one soft hackle box. I will go through these boxes throughout the year, take out flies no longer relevant for the season, and replace these openings in my boxes with flies I need. If things return to "normalish" by the end of April, we may be able to get out and fish. There could be Blue Wing Olive mayflies and midges still hatching, but we will also have some bigger bugs making an appearance.
While it is not a bug that usually hatches in large numbers, we will see Skwala Stoneflies on our local waters. This is our first big bug of the season, and we have the flies you'll need to cover the both the nymph and dry stages of the Skwala hatch. I always make sure to have Prince Nymphs in a #12-#14, Olive PMX's #10-#12, and Little Olive Stones in a #12 as well. These insects will be most active on warmer, sunnier days, and will be found next to faster riffles and runs. Unlike other stonefly species, Skwala stones are not good flyers. In fact, the male's cannot fly due to super short wings, and even the females (who can fly) prefer to scurry over the rocks as opposed to flying. So, when looking for these insects, it is better to look at your feet, than to look up at the sky.
Another important insect hatch that we should be getting ready for, especially in late April and early-mid May, is the "Mother's Day" caddis hatch. The actual caddis species is called the American Grannom, but it is often referred to as the "Mother's Day" caddis because it typically first emerges around that time of the year. Our M.D. caddis are usually best imitated with flies tied on #16-#18 hooks, and all stages of their life-cycle are of interest to the trout. Like all caddis species, M.D. caddis have a larva, pupae, adult, and egg-laying adult stage. Some of the most productive flies we fish and sell for the M.D. caddis hatch are cased caddis nymphs in #16-#18, Olive Deep Six Caddis Pupa in sizes #16-#18, Olive X Caddis in #16-#18, Olive EZ Caddis in #16-#18, Hemingway Caddis in #16-#18, and the Peacock Spent Partridge in #16-#18.
Other things to fish during the mid-Spring through the early Summer season are the baby Brown Trout Fry that are starting to emerge from their redds. The size of the brown trout fry range from #8-#12, and while it is virtually impossible for us to see them in the water, rest assured that every large fish in the river will be on the lookout for these little guys. I like to fish baby brown streamers anytime there is a non-hatch period during the day, in the mornings and evenings, and on stormy days. One of my go-to flies for these fry are the Platte River Spider, and the Rolled Muddler. There are other flies that will work well too, but these are my confidence flies, and when the trout are on the brown trout fry, they produce.
Working on your knots when you're not fishing, is just as important as working on your fly-casting. If you can't rig up your own gear, you won't be able to fish-it's just that simple. While there are a host of knots you can use for your fishing, the five that I use the most for my own fishing, and the knots I teach to my students and clients are the Perfection Loop; Loop to Loop Knot; Double or Triple Surgeons Knot; Non-Slip Loop Knot; and the Clinch Knot. I have found that using old fly line, or old tippet material to practice your knots, allows you to develop your fingers muscle memory, which ultimately means you'll be able to tie these knots with your eyes closed. That is, IF you take the time to practice. So while you're binge watching your favorite show, you might as well take the time work on your knots!
Fly-Casting Prep: Tune it Up!
If you can't put your fly where you want it to, you're not going to enjoy fly-fishing very much. Fly-casting is not the easiest way to get a lure in front of a fish, but it's not impossible either. The easiest way to improve your fly-casting skills is to work on them when you're not fishing. Spending anywhere from a half-hour to an hour a day working on your cast will pay huge dividends when you get on the water. Specifically, focusing on the roll-cast, the back cast and forward cast, basic "fishing casts", and learning how to recognize and correct your casting mistakes should always be priority number one. That way, when you want to learn more advanced skills and techniques, you'll be able to learn them faster, and with proper technique. I'll be posting some helpful casting videos over the next couple of weeks covering each one of these skills and casting issues, so make sure to keep an eye out for these via social media!
I hope that everyone reading this is staying healthy and safe, and I cannot wait to see you all back in the shop once this storm blows over. Even though we can't get out on the water right now, we'll still have over six months of awesome fishing to look forward to this year. Keep the faith, wash your hands, wear your face-mask, be kind to each other, and everything will return to "normal" eventually.