Surviving Winter: Tackle and Kit Maintenance Tips for the colder months

As we enter the reach the coldest time of the fly fishing year, Chris Ogborne offers some advice on how the fanatical angler can survive the end of winter and prepare for brighter times.

“Late winter can be a cold, frustrating time for the fly angler. It’s true that there is still plenty of fishing available if you don’t mind taking on the elements. Small stillwaters abound, there are grayling to be caught, and for some hardy souls you can brave the elements at sea or coastline

Winter fishing can be a cold business (above: grayling fishing on the Itchen)

But for others – and for fair weather anglers like me – it’s time for a rest. The holidays come and go, while other jobs need doing. As Danny McNicol of the infamous pub The Bell at Ubley used to day, ‘the fish need a break and so do we!’

A winter rest from fishing isn’t so bad either. It makes the anticipation of opening day all the more special so that we’re champing at the bit again come spring. Perhaps the best recipe for surviving winter is to set about all those jobs you never have time for during summer. Tackle needs sorting, flies need tying, and clothing needs attention. Here’s my list of essentials and tackle maintenance tips:

Reels: they may be fairly high tech these days, but most reels will benefit from a clean and a drop of oil. Wash them thoroughly in clean water and mild detergent to clear away any debris from the mechanism and then use gun oil, silicone spray or simply wipe over with an oily cloth.

Fly lines: I struggle to understand how some anglers try to economise on fly lines, or expect them to last for five seasons or more. They won’t. In the real world a fly line costs less than a days boat fishing on a reservoir, so in the overall scheme of things it’s not expensive. Treat yourself to the luxury – and the pleasure – of new lines where yours look tired. Or for those you intend to save, why not treat yours to a clean in warm soapy water? You can also use a cloth to remove dirt.

Your fly lines go through a lot. Why not clean or renew yours?

Rods: check the rings for any grooving and replace if necessary. Nothing tears through fly line or braid like a grooved tip ring or a cracked ceramic. Dirt and wear can also show on other parts of the rod, so now is a great time to give them a proper clean. Pay special attention to the joints and rings, and give the handle a good scrub; if things are really worn you can also gently refresh the cork with some fine sand paper.

Bags: Why not empty everything out and give the bag a good wash? Unless you’re very good, I’ll bet that there are things in the depths of your fishing bag that shouldn’t be there. At best it will be a few odd flies or sand and pebbles. If you’re more careless there could be a forgotten sandwich or Mars Bar (if it makes you feel any better, we’ve all done it!). Be slightly ruthless and get rid of any odds and ends that are past it too.

Fly boxes: The neat and orderly rows of flies of last April will probably have degenerated into a motley confused mass. You can often tell which flies have worked really well, because they are looking tired or there are some gaps where patterns have been given away to friends (and trees!). Sort out dries and nymphs and attractors into sections, and be absolutely ruthless about discarding any fly with even the slightest sign of rust.

Having your kit sorted out for the new season saves valuable fishing time!

Waders: Hang them upside down in a dry place if you can, as they can easily develop little cracks if you just chuck them in a corner of the shed or garage. Waders are expensive these days and I’m staggered at the way anglers expect them to last forever with little or no care at all

Waistcoats & Wading jackets: Check every pocket and have a throwaway session. Part used spools of mono aren’t really worth keeping if they are old. Replace floatant and line de-greasers too, especially if they are dirty. If you use a floatation device then double-check the mechanism. It could save your life next season.

Don’t let your pockets and bags degenerate into a tangled mess!

Nets: Landing nets don’t last forever and the mesh needs checking over and replaced if necessary. It can become holed or even rotted if not stored in a dry place, and the last thing you want is an opening day five-pounder falling through a hole in the net.

Before we know it, of course, it will be all change again and time to think about trout and salmon. It’s always great to have all those little neglected jobs done so you are completely ready for the new season. Should you still require a fishing fix in January and February though, you could always take a look at our recent blogs on pike, grayling and top winter fly fisheries.”


Chris Ogborne

For more news, tips and the best fly patterns to use this year, keep an eye on this blog and the Turrall Flies Facebook page for more.

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