by Corey Cabral
Here in South Western Ontario Dec 31st is the last day of the season for pursuing Steelhead (Rainbow Trout) on most of the tributaries of the Great Lakes. This signals the end of another year of creating memories with friends on the water. At this point the options for getting your fly fishing fix dwindles significantly. The list of options is not a long one and often leaves you with the choice of chasing fish on the hard water, fishing the small sections of river that are open year round, or hunkering down inside preparing gear and tying flies for the following year.
In the past I have hunkered down and called it a year, focused on restocking boxes, cleaning gear and checking over all my equipment to make sure it was ready for the next season. This year has been a bit different however with my introduction to ice fishing. My annual cleaning, maintenance and preparation has been on the back burner for a while, and is overdue.
With trout opener a little more than a month away now is the time for many of us who have been slacking to kick into high gear. Here is a short list of some of the activities that are on my to do list over the coming weeks in preparation for spring.
- Cleaning Rods: Cleaning your fly rods is always a good activity to pass some time while waiting for spring and will assure that your equipment will give you many years of trouble free use. I clean the blank of any dirt or debris with a damp cloth and inspect all the guides for any signs of wear or damage. I then clean the cork handle with a mild dish soap before rinsing and setting aside to dry. I make sure my rod sections are left to dry in a spot where they will not be disturbed or damaged.
- Reel & Line Maintenance: I will take all of my reels and inspect them for any damage, signs of wear, failing drag or parts etc. Reels that are simple to clean I will take apart and clean as per the manufacturers specifications adding reel grease if necessary. I will then make sure the drag on all my reels are backed off on the lightest setting. As for lines a quick wash with soap, water and a clean cloth is in order. After cleaning I will either dress the lines right away or sometimes I will wait until I am ready to use the reel and line before applying any dressing.
- Sorting Fly Boxes: I go through all of my boxes and throw away any flies that are damaged, broken, rusted badly or otherwise not in good shape. Any flies that I have since learned to tie better I will remove and set aside to give to friends or kids getting into fly fishing. I usually take some time to reorganize my boxes and try to create some sort of order with my flies as far as grouping them by type, size, color etc. I also make note of any effective patterns I am running low on and need to restock so that I know what I need to tie.
- Cleaning Gear: Any bags, wallets, or organizers I will go through and clean, remove any garbage or trash and reorganize and inspect all the items held within. I have moved away from vests and prefer sling packs and bags so this is a fairly quick process. I will take inventory of any items I need to replenish, dry fly floatant, leaders, tippet materials, etc. Also be sure to check safety gear, wading staffs, wading belts, first aid kits etc to make sure everything is in order.
- Tying Flies: No better time to restock boxes then while waiting for opener. I will try to restock any patterns that I seemed to use a lot of in the prior year.
This year my excitement starts a little before opener! I will be participating again in the second annual Sotto Fly Fishing Club spring fly fishing competition on April 18th. The event is being held again in New Dundee, Ontario and is a 30 man competition. You can find rules, regulations, and instructions for signing up at:
The first fishing I will be doing after opener will most definitely be Steelheading. Each spring when the season opens I cannot wait to get back on the rivers to chase the chrome beauties. Depending on the size of the river system I will use a 7wt 11ft switch rod, or a 7wt full spey. On smaller systems I like the versatility of the switch rod to allow me to switch from shooting heads to nymphing within minutes but when using a switch on bigger systems I definitely feel under gunned.
Nymphing: For nymphing my go to flies include medium to large stone fly nymphs, double standard nymphs, hares ears, pheasant tails, san juan worms and egg patterns.
Swinging: I love articulated intruder style flies for swinging along with speys and irons. Water clarity and conditions will dictate size and colors I will use. Usually in the springs flows are strong and at times dirty so lots of blacks, browns, olives, medium to big sized flies, and I am sure to use flies with hot spots such as egg sucking leech style patterns.
Living in South Western Ontario is a blessing for any fly fisherman. Depending upon where you live you can usually be on the shores of a steelhead or trout river or stream within a few minutes to a few hours. Regardless the options and opportunities for an angler in Ontario are limitless, get out on the water, explore, and enjoy!
Wishing everyone a safe and successful opener,