Sunday, April 18, 2010

Caring For Your Fly Rod, Reel, And Line

So the first trip is fast approaching and so is the time for the yearly ritual of preparing my gear. Good fly fishing equipment is an investment and proper care is protecting that investment. Most of you who fish likely know a lot of this, but for those who don't, here is my routine.

Fly Line: Todays fly lines are very technologically advanced but still based on a PVC coating on a Dacron line. In the spring the line needs to be cleaned, stretched and dressed. During the season, several times, the cleaning and dressing should be done again. The performance of a line is based largely on it remaining supple and smooth. Grit can take the sheen off of it. Sunlight and drying out make it less supple. The line can be cleaned with soapy warm water (mild soap only), and dressed with a line dressing. Do yourself a favour and spend a few dollars more to get dressing from a fly line manufacturer. They know what they are doing. To stretch the line to get rid of reel memory, tie the line off to a post or tree in the yard, and roll it off the spool, and pull it past tight. Use some discretion. Stretching too hard can damage the PVC or the Dacron core.

Fly Reel: A modern fly reel is a remarkable piece of engineering. The tolerances are aircraft level and so are the materials. As such we have to take proper care to avoid damage. Most important? Keep the care instructions that come with your reel. Reels have different drag systems and some require different types of care. Know which one yours is. Take the spool off of the body and make sure you clean our any sand, grit, or dirt after every trip. In the spring, a drop of high quality oil (sewing machine as an example) on the moving parts and center shaft. It is also wise to check and screws that hold the reel together and ensure they are tight. A reel has a lot of movement during casting and they can work loose over time.

Fly Rod: I always check the guides for any grooves. A gritty line can make them easier than you might think. The tip guide takes the most abuse. If it is grooved or has sharp edges it should be replaced. A local rod builder can replace it easily. Also find yourself a silicone cloth to clean the blank, clean and smooth the guides and also to clean your reels as well. Check all of your fits on the rod sections and the strength of the handle and reel seat. Also check the ferrules and windings along the length of the rod. Damage to those could mean a repair or a replacement of the rod. Regular cleaning and careful use and storage can make a good rod last a lifetime.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Nova Scotia May Fly Hatch

The Black Quill. Leptophlebia cupida. The Nova Scotia may fly to most of us. It is a brief, fleeting moment really in the overall length of a season. For anglers here it is a roughly two week stretch of the most intense fishing of the year.

The Hatch as it is known is responsible for eating up a weeks vacation every year for 24 years. In my youth i fished the hatch at a lake called Governors in Harrietsfield. (Unfortunately riddled with Bass now but that is another discussion.) At 13 i was spending weekends there fishing what to this day remains maybe the heaviest hatch i have ever seen. At the age of 18 or so i started to move around the province more to target the hatch. I found out early on that smaller waters often produced by and large better fish. Not a rule, more an observation. So i started to look for those in the less pressured areas of the province. It was hit and miss but eventually, i found some.

So how do i approach it? The hatch is not rocket science, it is a blend of technique and will. It starts with wetting down some fir boughs and tapping fly from lakeside trees and brush onto them. They join me in the canoe, usually with my 8' Innovator HLS fly rod. Then, we have to find the spots to fish. Over time, you learn them. On your home waters you will in some ways master them. All are not always readily apparent. Some however, are. Points, shoals, submerged rocks, incoming streams are all good places to fish. If you have a wind blowing offshore and taking fly down a lake, usually somewhere on that winds path, you will find rising fish. On a day with a gentle breeze, you drop fly into the water and let the breeze move them. Then you wait. Sometimes not long, sometimes all day, until it happens. One raise, two more, three more. The game is on.

For a lot of years i have read, studied, explored and each year i still see something that i would not have thought of. Something that doesn't make a lot of sense. I still get surprised 31 years into the hatch. I suppose i will for as long as i am able to do it.

For fly choice, many would think the fly is known as the Black Quill, so you use a Black Quill. That is right, and wrong. In my youth at Governors, it was the fly of choice. Now, in the more pristine waters i swear by the Blue Upright. For some reason, not always apparent to me, it out-fishes a Black Quill by a wide margin. I also will use a Brown Quill more than the Black Quill. Maybe it is more comfortable for me. Maybe the Trout like it better. All i know is it works. All of the flies in sizes 12 through 16, although for me 14 seems to be best.

The best times to fish, early morning, first light in fact, and supper until dark in the evening. Now on cloudy/rainy days, this can extend all day long but a bright mid-day sun is not usually a bonus for someone fishing the hatch. For me the first and last light have been the most productive and most exciting, especially for large trout. My largest trout ever was caught in what would have had to have been the last cast of the night for loss of light. 18.5 inches and 3.75 pounds. Stephen caught one at the exact same time, almost the exact same size. When we fish our small lake near dark, seeing those large Trout move is an adrenaline rush. The most fun i have ever had fishing.

"The hatch" is a truly special time for a Nova Scotia Trout angler. For two or three weeks, we fish the most intense period of our season. Many fish have been caught, many stories told, many more to be written. We are about a month away. I am counting the days.