by Bob Shannon
As the cold, dark days of winter quickly transition during the month of March, anglers should prepare for the opening of trout season. After the long winter, the anticipation of Vermont’s 1st National Holiday of the year approaches. It’s time to get the gear ready that was put away in haste on the last day of October last season as many of us headed into the woods for Vermont’s White Tail Deer season.
After twenty seven years of guiding I can tell you that a little preparation can go a long way in getting you started for a safe and comfortable opening day. It’s time to pick up that pile of gear in the dark musty corner of your basement and get ready for trout season to open on April 13th.
Those leaky waders from last season should be repaired, replaced, or if nothing else…cleaned. Fly lines should be cleaned and checked for excessive wear. Spin reels should be spooled with new monofilament, hooks checked for rust, and leader and tippet material replaced. It might even be time to purchase a new rod. So let’s take these one at a time. Here are a few helpful hints to get you ready for spring’s opening day.
For those that exited the river in the dark on October 31st, the last day of Vermont’s trout season, you may have to begin by pulling the damp, musty socks balled up in the bottom of your boots from last year. It may be time to upgrade to a pair of breathable waders or you can check those from last year for minor leaks and punctures, and be prepped in advance for a more comfortable and DRY opening day. In prepping your waders for this season, you can begin by turning your breathable waders inside out and spraying them with a solution of water and alcohol to find all minor pinhole leaks that can be easily repaired with a small tube of Aqua Seal. Once these repairs have been completed and the inside of the waders have been washed (oh yah, by the way you’re supposed to wash your waders) they can be turned right side out and cleaned on the outside. This is easily done with a sponge and a liquid solution of water and detergent, and then rinsed. Once air-dried, you can go one step further in making those breathable waders almost brand new by spraying them with a bottle of Revive-X and drying them with a hair dryer. This will make the fabric bead water just like they did the first day out of the package. For more information on this process you can visit the Fly Rod Shop website and watch the video demonstrating the cleaning process I just described. I can tell you based on years of retail experience that most people don’t take the time to perform these minor maintenance practices.
Next, check your wading boots (don’t forget Vermont’s felt sole ban) requiring us to use rubber bottom boots. Check the soles for wear and for those that have not invested in a relatively inexpensive package of boot cleats, now’s the time to add a pair of carbide screws or star cleats to the bottom of your shoes and add another season of traction to those soles wearing out from last year.
Next would be reel and line maintenance. For those spin fisherman out there, re-spooling your spin reel with new monofilament is a must. Many an early season humongous brown trout or rainbow trout have been lost on opening day due to old brittle line from the previous summer. Monofilament deteriorates very quickly to exposure to UV light and temperature making it brittle. Simply replacing your line at the beginning of the season can assure you of having to use a different excuse for why the big one got away. For fly fisherman, using Scientific Angler’s line cleaning pad and line dressing to revive your PVC fly line will make you a better caster before you hook your first tree of the year. Fly lines cleaned and treated throughout the season also adds a significant improvement to your lines cast ability through the guides of your fly rod. All fly fisherman should consider replacing their leader and tippet spools from the previous year, especially if you’re like me and hang your tippet spools on the outside of your fishing vest. Again, their exposure to UV light from the previous season can significantly compromise their breaking strength. Also, a small $5 investment in a tub of reel lube can dramatically improve the performance of the reel.
Now it’s time to pull out the tackle box or fly box from last year’s years damp fall day. For the spin fisherman, check all hooks for rust and replace those that look marginal at best. A hook file and a few minutes of hook sharpening can go a long way to increasing the performance in setting the hook on that giant trophy this season. For the fly fisherman that left their hooks in their foam fly boxes, it’s really important to remove them and check them for hook rust. An easy solution to this problem would have been to have removed them from the foam box last fall and put them in a Plano compartment box for the winter months, but that would have been too easy. If the hooks have rusted, replacing those flies is a must. I can tell you that there have been occasions when large fish slammed a rusty hooked fly to only have it break at the bend or barb due to rust and corrosion from the previous year.
And last but not least is the anticipation of that new gear for the upcoming season. We’ve spent all winter looking online and through catalogs at the latest and greatest equipment for 2013. Now may be the time to try casting that new fly rod, switching from your old fishing vest to a chest pack or fanny pack for lighter travel, replacing those leaky hip boots with a pair of breathable waders, or just simply replacing your stinky, bug- dope saturated, favorite fishing hat with a new one. There’s no guaranty that you’ll catch more fish this season with that new gear but its sure going to be fun using it!