Putting the Fishing Gear Away
By Gord Ellis
As I sit down to write this piece in late October, I’ve just returned from what may be the last open water fishing of the season. It has been an uncharacteristically mild fall in the northwest of Ontario, with water temperatures closer to where they would normally be in mid-September. Whether this is just a blip – or a taste of things to come – only time will tell. However, it has made for some great fall angling.
However, the reality is that fall is waning, and winter will soon be upon us. The arrival of cold weather ends the open water fishing season and means it is time to put the gear away. Here is a look at a few things to do when you decide to button it all up for the winter.
Rod and Reels
When the end of the open water fishing season arrives, it is a great time to take stock of your rods and reels and assess where the various set ups are at. Most anglers have a few rods and reels they use much of the time, and I would suggest looking these ones over well. Rod eye guides take a lot of abuse and should be carefully inspected. If there are ceramic inserts, make sure they have not popped out. A missing ceramic insert will just leave a rough metal or aluminum guide that can lead to line fray or worse. You may need to replace some guides if they are damaged. This can be done DIY or via a rod repair service. Some rod companies will repair eyes as part of the warranty, but you will need to go online to the company’s website and read the fine print about what is or isn’t covered under warranty.
Another thing I do is wipe down rods, remove the goo, and grime that can build up on them. I use warm water and dish soap to do this job as you don’t want to use any cleaner that might impact the finish or cork. Some people like their fishing rods to be dirty and funky and that’s ok too. I just think that a fishing rod – like a nice car- is more attractive clean than dirty.
Reels are the engine of the fishing rod and requite at least minor maintenance before bedtime. Spinning reels should have the spools removed and wiped of any sand, mud or excess grease. Occasionally bits of line can get around the reel spindle and that is bad for business as well. Wipe the spindle and then add a small bit of reel oil. Less is more when it comes to lubricating reels, so don’t go overboard. Fly reels should also be checked for grit and sand and be lubricated after cleaning.
Cleaning the fly line is another matter. These lines can get very dirty and grimy due to algae, mud and dust. To clean a fly line, take two buckets and fill them with warm water. Put a mild dish soap in one of the buckets. Then strip the fly line and let it soak in the soapy water for at least ten minutes. If the line is dirty soak it half an hour. Then take a soft towel and run the line through the towel and into the bucket with plain water. Once the line has been all wiped off and placed in the water, pour out the soapy bucket and leave it empty. Then reverse the process, drying the line with a different towel and putting all the line back into the empty bucket. Then reel the line back on and you are ready for spring fly fishing.
Baitcasting reels are more intricate, and I would not recommend taking them apart unless you are confident about doing so. There are some good YouTube tutorials about disassembling bait cast reels but go forward with caution. All reels need to have the drag backed off for the winter. This keeps your drag discs from flattening or seizing and will expand the life span of a reel.
Monofilament and braided lines can be checked, and it is a good time to change old lines that have become frayed or damaged. You don’t always need to replace a full line, as sometimes just taking off the top 20 or 30 feet will remove a lot of the damaged line. Make sure you leave enough line on the spool to cast! Monofilament line will not cast well if it is below the half-way point on the spool. Make sure you dispose of line properly and never leave it near lake or waterway where it can
Lures, flies and other stuff
Most of us throw or lures back in the tackle box and forget about them until the next time we open it up. This is fine if you are fishing a lot. Yet a tackle box that has any water or dampness in it will soon have a rust issue. Nothing ruins a tackle box faster than water. Before you put all the lures away for the winter be sure they are dry. Open them up and looks for signs of condensation or rust. A small heater with a fan can dry things up quickly. Common problem makers include any lure with a bucktail skirt or dressing as they will hold water for a long period.
If you are a fly angler, open all your boxes and let them air out for a day or so before you box them for the winter. Flies with rusted hooks cannot be trusted to hold fish and lose a lot of sharpness. If your fly boxes are a mess, this is also a great time to reorganize and get them tidy. It won’t last once you start fishing again, but they will look great when you crack them in the spring.
Spring may be a way off but having your fishing gear prepared for its return will pay dividends. Good luck.