Hardy Fin & Fly

Preparing For A New Trout Season by Stuart Minnikin

With the new Brown Trout season just around the corner now's the time to get everything prepared for the off. The last thing you want is to load the car for your first outing of the season only to find you have forgotten to replace repair or replenish something. Do it now and you won't be stuck come opening day.

Many of you will have continued to fish for Grayling throughout the winter months and will have little to do; others will have been very disciplined at the end of the last Trout season and cleaned checked and serviced everything before putting it away for the close season. However I bet the majority leave everything to sort later and then it gets forgotten. If I'm honest I probably fall into each group to some extent. However regardless of which group you belong to there is still much that can and should be done to prepare for the big day. Here are a few reminders:

Rod Licence - This is very easy to overlook. With your old rod licence expiring on 31st March and not necessarily aligning to the Trout season where you live or fish it's very easy to forget to renew it. I once had a very lucky escape! It was very early April and I hadn't even given a thought to renewing my rod licence. Literally as I drove to the river I spotted a Post Office and realised my lapse. I quickly pulled over renewed my licence and went fishing. Would you believe I got checked by an EA Bailiff that very day! I now renew by direct debit so I can't forget.

Club Memberships - It's probably too late now but did you send off your cheque to renew your club membership? I'm a member of many clubs all with different renewal dates and rules and it's all too easy to miss deadline dates. I now keep a list of due dates and have reminders repeating annually on my electronic diary. You don't want to lose your membership of that exclusive club you waited years to join because you forgot to renew on time!

Waders - It's a good idea to give your waders a thorough check over for the new season. I once pulled out a pair of neoprene's only to find that a mouse had nested in one of the feet and chewed right through it! You often struggle to find waders that fit so check them over in plenty of time to replace or repair if necessary.

Wading Boots - I've often come to my wading boots after the winter only to find the felt hanging off or ready to fall off. Give them a good once over checking the soles for wear and tear replace studs and laces if necessary.

Rods and Reels - They should be OK if they were stored dry the last time you used them but it's still worth checking the rings and reel seat on your rod. I wipe and clean my rod rings with fly line dressing to improve line shooting by reducing friction. This also allows you to inspect your rod rings for wear and have them replaced if necessary. I always remove the spool on my reels and grease any moving parts before the start of a new season.

Lines - Checking your lines is a must before the start of every season. Your floating lines need to be cleaned and lubricated with the recommended line dressing. This is time well spent at any time as the line will shoot easier and further float higher be easier to lift off and will be much more pleasurable to use. Be careful what you apply to your sinking lines as most line dressings are meant for floating lines and will stop your sinking line from sinking. There are special dressings for sinking lines so make sure you buy the correct one. Then check all your connections: line to backing and whatever connection you use to attach a leader; if in doubt renew your leader connection.

Tapered leaders and tippet - will degrade over time and become weaker. Why not treat yourself to a few new tapered leaders before the start of a new season? Check last season's tippet material by pulling it to breaking point: does it still feel as strong as it did/should. If in doubt replace. Is there enough on your spools? They often look to have more left than they do in reality. It's always good to have spares ready to go.

Flies - are probably the one area you won't have overlooked. You may well have been busy all winter tying next season's killers or buying the latest ‘must have' flies. Even so it's worth sorting out your fly boxes; removing any rusty or chewed patterns put them back into some sort of order so you know where to go when that first hatch starts maybe even remove some of the 80% of your flies that never see light of day!

Clothing - Early season weather on the rivers can be anything from winter through spring to summer (often all in the same day) - have you got the right clothing? I remember fishing two consecutive days at the beginning of May. On the first day I was fishing in a T-shirt; next day I had to go home after an hour because I was so cold. I now always err on the side of caution and get well wrapped up. I'd rather be too warm than too cold! I wear thermals under my waders right through until June and at the very start of the season I wear my extremely warm Hardy EWS fleece jogging pants.

Finally why not get in some casting practice? It's an enjoyable way to pass the time as you eagerly await the new Trout season and is never wasted. I like to practice my casting throughout the winter but ramp it up just before the season starts. I practice my overhead and side casts on grass and roll/Spey casts on water usually my local river. Many anglers feel embarrassed about going down to the local recreation field to cast a line which is understandable given the comments I've had in the past. I once had a guy come over who took the rod off me and starting ‘instructing' me! Nowadays it's water off a ducks back and I enjoy casting on grass. I go through basic overhead cast shooting line distance casting hauling side casting (both sides) and slack line casts. I often take a hula hoop for accuracy. For the roll casts it is preferable to cast on water and I practice basic roll casts and a variety of change of direction casts (all off both shoulders). You will be surprised how much your casting improves without the distraction of fish and the benefit will certainly boost your fishing once the season arrives. Tight lines.

Stuart Minnikin is a member of the Hardy ProTeam. An England International fly fisher having fished in the 2004 England Rivers Team and is a member of the Game Angling Instructors Association.

Stuart is a leading fly fishing instructor in the Yorkshire Dales being both APGAI (Advanced Professional Game Angling Instructor) Level 2 CCA qualified and an England International.

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