It's springtime in Alberta, and with warmer temperatures comes increasingly numerous fly fishing opportunities. Even though I fish through the winter, that's a season that's hard on equipment and I find spring to be the best time of year to go through my stuff and get everything on point. Prepping my fishing gear for the warmer season is one of my favorite chores simply because I am both flooded with memories of seasons past and looking forward to more fishing as the season advances. I have a lot of stuff and it seems like more collects every year, but even if you are a minimalist angler you might find this checklist helpful.
- Clean/inspect fly reels - Modern fly reels are generally pretty low maintenance, but it is important to clean out any grit and possibly grease your reel at least once per season. Grit adds to wear and tear and can affect proper function. A good rinse under cold water is a must-have on a regular basis for me. Some styles of reel require regular greasing and others require none. Check the maintenance instructions for your reels.
- Clean/inspect fly lines - Look for cracks in the coating, damage to the welded loop (which can be rewelded), etc. The Bow River and winter ice are hard on fly lines, and if you didn't clean yours the previous fall, it should be done in spring before the season gets going. I like to strip the line off the reel into a sink full of clean, cold water and then run it through a microfiber cloth. Then, treating your line with a dressing like Loon Line Speed will help it float better, longer, and protect it from harmful UV rays.
- Clean/inspect fly rods - A cold water bath to remove grit and chemicals and a wipe down with alcohol to remove old wax is a regular thing for my rods. Properly waxed and fitted ferrules will save you possible breakage down the road. Apply a little bit of Loon Graffitolin Wax and check the fit. Additionally, inspect your rods for nicks and cracks so you don't have an unpleasant surprise on the river
- Put on new leaders - When I finish with cleaning my line I like to replace the leader with a new one for the season, rather than trust the old one. Nylon and other leader materials deteriorate faster with moisture and UV exposure and might not be up-to-par after being stored all winter. A new leader will ensure your best chances at landing your first fish of the season. Pick up a 3-pack like the Rio Powerflex Trout Leaders and you'll save a bit and be prepared.
- Clean out pack (or vest) - My pack always has things like trash, expired sunscreen, loose flies and broken indicators floating around in it after a season. I picked up a Fishpond PioPod Microtrash Container last year and that has really helped cut down on the amount of tippet bits and broken flies that I have to sort out. I take everything out, wash my pack, and then it's ready to be reloaded. This also gets me ready for the next step.
- Take inventory - Sort what came out of your pack and assess the condition. Is your floatant almost empty? Do you have spare leaders? All out of 3x? This is a good time to take note of what you need and drop into your local shop on the way to the river.
- Organize your flies - This is a good opportunity to get your flies in one place and see what you're low on, what's trashed and what you have a lot of. I always have a ton of good useable flies that are loose, in fly cups, and once I get them back in my boxes I am surprised at what I actually have. I have a few confidence flies I like to always have in my pack and it's good to know when those are getting low.
- Check tippet quality - Nylon tippet expires and it is a good idea to test your spools if they are more than a year old to make sure they are not brittle before you use them on a fish.
- Wash your waders and boots - Start the season off fresh without the smell of fish slime and old wader farts. Always follow the manufacturer's recommendations. Many breathable waders are machine washable. Take this opportunity to repair leaks. Wash boots and check the laces while you're at it.
- Make a fish wish list - Take this opportunity to look at the season ahead an plan a couple of outings to new or favorite places. Got a species you want to target? Always wanted to hike into an alpine lake? Write it down and set an intention.