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The life of the Maine outdoorsman revolves around two simple concepts: We’re either doing it or getting ready for it. Preparation is half the battle when it comes to a successful day afield, and there’s no doubt that whatever one decides to do it will be much more enjoyable if the participants proceed with the proper gear and know-how.
Despite the fact that we are currently up to our necks in snow with plenty more to come in the waning weeks of winter, it’s a good idea to keep in mind that opening day of the 2015 fishing season is patiently waiting for us on the other side of the Polar Vortex. It may seem hard to imagine that soon we’ll be up to our boot-tops in cold spring run-off hoping to catch the season’s first lethargic trout or salmon, but it happens every year and it’s not that far away.
I was actually reminded of all this the other day when, snowed in again, I decided to dig through my storage closet and see what I could find that needs to be repaired, replaced or discarded. Spools of old fishing line, fishing rods, a trout net and several boxes of dry flies came out and were scattered across the floor; if that isn’t a hint I don’t know what is.
Turns out my closet was full of last year’s fishing gear, all of which performed very well during the season but it’s been languishing in the darker corners of the closet since last hunting season began. Simply cleaning and sorting through the pile could take most of a snow-bound day, and if I wanted to get into repairing, replacing and reorganizing all this stuff . . . well, it’s a good thing we are getting a storm every other day!
There was a time when I’d dismantle my rods and reels down to the basic nuts and bolts, clean and oil everything, replace worn parts and then reassemble them, but because I have learned to wipe down and oil my gear after every use there’s not so much of a need to be quite that obsessive. I check all of my fishing rods and reels just to make sure everything’s clean and working properly, but now I give more attention to such things as replacing worn fishing line, polishing tarnished spinners and sharpening the hooks on all my favorite flies and lures.
Rusty hooks seem to be the biggest issue from year to year, and rust never gets better, it only gets worse, so I polish the best ones and replace the worst. Of course, this little lesson was learned the hard way when I lost one of the biggest fish of my career (a 20-pound-class togue) when, you guessed it, the rusted hooks on my prized trolling lure, a 6-inch Rebel, disintegrated just as I got him to the boat. Live and learn – replace rusted hooks!
Another fun snow-day project is making some sense out of the tackle box. I know that everything I need is in there but not necessarily in its proper order. I fish from shore, out of a kayak, a canoe, a 16-foot boat and a pontoon boat over the course of the year, in fresh and salt water, and between getting there, jumping from place to place, knocking things over and tossing one unproductive lure after another into the middle of the pile my tackle box looks more like a recycling bin than a serious fisherman’s tool box.
I can lift the entire tangle of leaders, line, lures and plastic baits out of the box in one massive blob. After a couple of hours of tedious untangling I can have everything in its rightful place once more. This is usually where I discover the half-opened bottle of pork rinds, which leaked all over my collection of copper, brass, silver and chrome lures, which are now just a jumble of rust and gunk. At best all of those lures will have to be polished, but some must be replaced or seriously reworked, and the ideal time for projects like that is when the snow is sizzling against my office window.
All of this activity is sure to have me reminiscing about all the great times I spent on the water last year, which then reminds me that I also need to patch my waders (ripped on an old piece of barbed wire that was hanging over the brook), reorganize my trout vest and tie up a new batch of leaders. Brook trout are not particularly selective but when you can’t even thread a No. 8 hook onto what’s left of your leader you know it’s time to replenish the stockpile.
Sorting through a closet full of fishing gear, clothes, boots, nets and assorted related odds and ends can take up the better part of a winter’s day, even longer if you have a lot of stuff and have neglected it since the end of last season.
At this point I grab a pen and make a list of all the peripheral stuff I know I’ll need for the coming season including bug spray, batteries, sun screen, sunglasses, fishing license, boat registration, rope to replace the painter that rotted off the boat last year, a new paddle for the kayak (never did find out where the original paddle disappeared to) and the myriad other things I’ll need for another productive and enjoyable fishing season.
As usually happens when I start digging through a pile of something I intend to work on I find a pile of other stuff that needs attention, too. Before I know it the cold and snow is forgotten and I’m surrounded by a ton of stuff that surely could not have even fit in that closet to begin with. Putting it all back (neatly, of course) will be my next challenge.
I had intended to go out to the shed and give the outboard motor a tune-up but the snow is so deep right now I can’t get to it. I’ll save that project for some dank and rainy day in April!
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