With winter knocking on our door it’s a great time to start a new hobby. Even if you love ice-fishing and other outdoor winter sports, there is still a lot of down time from December to March. Crafts and hobbies that involve creating something with your own hands have many well-chronicled, mental-health benefits. If you can help prepare yourself for the upcoming fishing or hunting season, all the better. Here are three different ways to spend cold winter evenings sitting by the fire with a cup of hot chocolate:
1. Fly Tying: At 3- to 5-dollars a pop, the cost of store-bought flies adds up real quick, so learning how to tie flies makes a lot of sense from a financial perspective. It is also a satisfying pastime. There is something very special about catching a fish on a creation you made with thread, feathers and fur. To start tying your own, you need a fly tying vice and a half-dozen specialized tying tools. You’ll also need a smattering of common fly tying materials; enough so you can tie three or four very standard and productive patterns, like the Muddler Minnow, Woolly Bugger, Hare’s Ear Nymph and The Usual. My best advice is NOT to buy a department store or mail-order fly tying kit. Most often you’ll get a bunch of materials you’ll never use, and tools that either won’t do the job or need to be replaced within months. Instead talk to someone that ties flies already. They can set you up with the basics and point you in the right direction. And a word of caution: Just about every new fly tier aspires to collect his or her own selection of feather and fur from natural sources – including road kill. Avoid this like the plague – because if you don’t, you’ll end up plagued by fleas and other nasties.
2. Cartridge Reloading: Similarly, “rolling your own” cartridges is financially cost-effective if you shoot a lot. No one wants to sit inside the house and reload while everyone else is hunting; any more than you want to be tying flies during fishing season. So winter is the go-to time for reloading. Reloading differs from fly tying in that you can’t really mix and match components willy-nilly and still do the job. Gun powder has its own set of limitations and hazards. But handled properly with the right amount of guidance and instruction, you can develop reloads for your favorite rifle that will actually perform better than factory ammunition at a much reduced cost. That is unless you consider the cost of the reloading press, scale, and a few basic tools. These will cost you a better part of a $500-dollar bill. But, if you like shooting and can see yourself launching a lot of lead into the atmosphere for the next decade; it does pay for itself eventually. If you have an inclination towards physics and engineering, and like to sound a lot more intelligent than you really are – this is your hobby. There are more confusing phrases and associated acronyms than you can shake a gun barrel at. Terms like ballistic coefficient (BC), sectional density (SD) and head space make you sound like a brain surgeon. Throw in a few acronyms like OAL (overall length), FPS (feet per second) and BTSP (boat tail soft point). Then make a sentence like, “Seating a bullet with a high ballistic coefficient and sectional density, like a BTSP, with minimal headspace will give you increased FPS and accuracy; so long as you don’t exceed the OAL” and you sound like Einstein’s cousin – or an escapee from an institution. Ask around an you should be able to find a local parts supplier.
3. Rod Building: Rod building is a craft that I took up in the eighties but it – like disco – seems to have run its course. Unlike disco, I do now and then get the hankering to build another rod. It sounds rather daunting but it is relatively simple. You purchase a graphite rod blank, find the spine on the rod and then wrap on the guides with rod tying thread, and attach a cork handle and reel seat. You can opt to build your own cork handle by glueing cork rings onto an aluminum rod and turning it on a drill press. (Conceivably you could use wine bottle corks and make a handle from them.) Rod building epoxy is applied to the thread that holds on the rod guides as the rod is turned slowly on an electric motor. (I used an old bbq rotisserie motor and it worked great.) Rod building can be very satisfying. And there are few people who do it well. If you are handy and patient this might be great way to spend your winter in truly unique fashion. I don’t know of any retailer in Northern Ontario that sells rod building components but there are several on the internet. So there you are: Three fireside hobbies to help pass the winter and prepare you for next season’s fishing and hunting adventures.
I hope next season you’ll join us on an adventure. We’d love to have you.
Send me an email and we’ll start the conversation.
Scott Earl Smith