So now that you have put together the gear you’re going to need for a successful day out on the water, you are going to need to get prepared. Grabbing your rod, fly box, and a pair of pliers is the one way that most anglers “get prepared” to hit the water, but if you are wanting to make sure that you are successful more often than you strike out, you will need to take some time to ensure your gear is “up to snuff”. Go over the checklist below before you leave for the day to make sure that some of the easier-to-fix problems don’t rear their ugly heads at you once you get to your fishing hole.
Fly Rod – This is one of the most crucial parts of your fly fishing gear and you will need to be positive that it is not going to fail on you when you need it the most. Start by checking the fiberglass or graphite for any cracks, and verify that the ferrules are in excellent condition. You will also need to verify that the rod sections are seated properly into the ferrules before you start casting. The extra pressure exerted onto the ferrules during your casting stroke is enough to crack them if you are not careful about seating them securely. Check the reel seat to make sure the reel is tightened down properly.
Fly Reel – You need to go over the different parts of your reel to make sure they are working as they’re supposed to. The reel’s drag system needs to operate smoothly and effectively or you run the risk of busting your tippet or leader when you set the hook. You also need to check the knots connecting your fly line to your backing, your fly line to your leader, and your leader to your tippet. The knot is one of the weakest points in your entire setup, and if they are not tight or secure you are going to lose fish, after fish, and end up with a bad taste in your mouth about how the day went.
Fly Box – This one is fairly straight forward. Take the time to go over your box and make sure that you have multiples of each of the flies you want to fish for the day. You never know when you are going to get into a snag and lose your favorite fly, so having backups is a great way to keep the day running smoothly. You also need to check the snag guards to make sure they’re secure, but not sticking out too far to where they could impede a solid hookset.
Tools – Make sure that you have all of the tools with you so that you don’t find yourself in a situation where you are forced to improvise. A hook sharpener is crucial on the water because every small stump, rock, twig, or other piece of debris that you run over with the fly is going to dull its hook. A dull hook is not only bad for your hooksets but it also creates a much larger hole in the fish’s mouth, creating more area for infection for the fish and giving them a much better chance of throwing the hook when they jump. Keep a high quality pair of pliers or forceps with you to get the small hooks out of their mouth when you catch them, and a pair of scissors handy for trimming down your flies or cutting the leader to tie on a new tippet or fly.
After you’ve gone over all of your gear, you need to prepare yourself for what is going to be happening while you are out on the water.
You need to make sure that you clean your hands thoroughly before you head out of the house. Fish, even though you may not think about it all the time, have an incredibly vivid and acute sense of smell. They are able to pick up unnatural scents very easily, and if you are going to be handing your flies when you tie them onto the line, you want to make sure that you are not transferring any of those unnatural scents over to the fly. This is a great way to turn the fish off before you ever get a chance to know that they were ready to pounce on your offering.
Pick out some natural colored clothing to wear while you’re out on the water, as well. Fish are always on alert for whenever a predator may be around them, and you are considered a predator. Wearing brightly colored clothes is going to help the fish spot you from a long distance and either move to another area or go into an alert state where they are not going to be interested in what you have to offer them because they are afraid of being picked off by a larger predator. Natural colored clothing that helps you blend into your background while you’re on the water will help you prevent spooking the fish that may be in your immediate vicinity while you are casting.
You also need to protect yourself while you’re out fly fishing. During hotter days, and even on the cooler days, you will need to take a bottle or two of water with you in order to stay hydrated. Fly fishing requires an incredibly high level of concentration and if you are not hydrated properly you will have problems thinking clearly enough to “hunt” the fish you’re trying to catch. During the hotter months you could also run the risk of injury or become disoriented because of a lack of hydration. Some small snacks to eat will help keep the hunger pangs from putting a damper on your concentration as well. During summer months you will want to apply some sunscreen to the areas of skin that are going to be visible because when the fishing is good you may never notice that you are getting a serious sunburn. Remember to wash your hands after applying the sun block, to prevent fish from being able to smell it on your flies when you cast them into the water.
Lastly, you want to make sure that someone knows you are going fly fishing. This is especially true if you are planning on going out by yourself, or are going into a new area that you haven’t fished before. Let them know how long you plan to be out, and if possible you should carry a cell phone with you to help let them know that you are going to be running late if the fishing is good.
It may seem like a lot of work going over all of your gear before you hit the water, but as the old adage goes “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”, you will be thankful that you checked everything before you left rather than finding out once you get to the water that you are missing something, something is about to break, or you are dealing with less-than-efficient flies. Even though these things may seem like common sense, they are good ground rules to follow to ensure that you are going to have as much fun as possible while you’re out fly fishing. The sport is supposed to be enjoyable, and as long as you follow this basic checklist you will give yourself the best chances at success each time you head out for the day.