The new normal is here, and with it comes time, time on our hands. The standard daily tasks have been up-ended, and we find ourselves home with much less to do and more time to do it. Think of Henry Ford, and his statement, “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t, you’re probably correct.” It’s our choice, to wilt away our time wondering about what we could be doing, or we can use the time to actually do things that may have been put off for a little bit too long. Will make the time pay.
Ask yourself a simple question. When was the last time you cleaned your fly reel? And we don’t mean falling in last year, when everything got a pretty good dunking. How about the last time you took it apart, cleaned the frame and spool with some soapy water, and then re-lubricated it? If you’re like most anglers, the answer varies from never to a while ago. Well, you might have the time to do it now. Don’t completely disassemble the drag, (unless you still have the instructions!) just get the spindle clean, and a little fresh grease on it. If you can, stay away from WD-40, as it gets gummy over time. Simple 3-in-1 Oil does the trick. You’ll be stunned how much smoother everything works when there’s fresh lubricant on the reel.
Since you have your reel out, clean your fly line. It’s not tricky. Fill a sink with water and a little dishwashing soap, and then stick the last 30-40 feet of line in the soapy water. Use a couple of glasses filled with water to keep it submerged. Swish your hand around (double duty, cleans your fly line and washes your hands at the same time!), and if you get ambitious, run the line through a soapy sponge. You’ll watch the dirt come off. That’s all you need to do if your line is fairly new. If the line is a bit older, dry it and head out to the garage to get your bottle of Armor All for the car. Dab a little on a rag or paper towel, and run the line through it a couple of times. LET IT DRY! Drape it over something and let the Armor All dry. It forms a slick, protective shield over the plastic coating of the fly line, and gives that older line a lot more life.
Grab your vest. Or fanny pack. Or Sling pack. Or boat bag. Whatever! Pull your fly boxes out and do a little sorting. You probably don’t need the Purple Haze that lost its hackle. The rusty McGinty that your nephew bought at a gas station for you, well, it might be time to move that along as well. You might have grasshoppers in 4 different boxes, not to mention the 3 plastic cups you got at different fly shops last year? It’s a good time to consolidate and organize. You might find a few glaring holes that need to be filled, or learn that you have enough PMD’s to last the next 4 seasons. Either way, you’re going to have a better handle on what’s what and where it is after a little organization.
If you’re a fly tyer, the options are endless. The first is easy. Fill those glaring holes! The reason you don’t have any size 16 Pheasant Tails is because you used them all. Get some hooks out, and start filling them. But that might get old fairly soon, knocking out the same fly in the same size for hours on end. Useful, but tedious. So now you have the time, let’s do something new and different.
So many people say they can’t spin deer hair. When the pressure is on, and the boxes need to be filled, you don’t want to stumble about on the vise, struggling for one fly when you need 6. Now you have a little time. Grab that piece of deer hair, the one that has three snips cut out of it, and stick a hook in the vise. Find a YouTube video, and start spinning. No, it won’t be any easier! But you also won’t have the pressure of needing flies NOW. Spin the hair on, give it a trim, and slice it off with a razor. Do it again. And again. If you start to feel frustrated, stop. Go back to filling holes. Come back to the deer hair later. Rinse and repeat. You’ll be astonished how quickly a skill you never thought you could master becomes yours. The same goes for setting dry wings or using a dubbing loop. Branch out. Tie some Deceivers for trout. Whip up a spey fly, or go tiny. For good or not, the time is there. Make it count! You’ll only get better, you’ll have more flies, and learn skills that will help you for as long as you tie.
Knowledge is power. Remember when that bug floated by and you had no idea what it was. And couldn’t ID because it got eaten? Well, now’s a good time to do a little honing up on your bug and hatch skills. Not to toot our own horn, but if you go to https://www.missoulianangler.com/resources/ you will find a wealth of material about Western Montana Hatches, the best flies for Montana hatches and the best tips to fish those flies. The tips have been garnered from some of the best fly fishing guides in Missoula Montana, and are useful to anglers both novice and experienced. If you want to be better informed and more effective on the water, make sure you give our Resources page a hard look.
Unfortunately, many aren’t in a position to put that new knowledge to the test. But there are other ways to experience the joys of being on the water. Fly fishing is blessed with some of the most interesting and arresting authors in any sport. People like John Geirach, Sparse Gray Hackle, Steve Raymond and so many more can bring the joys of fly fishing past the page and into your marrow. We all have treasured memories of time on the water. As these authors share their stories, yours will rise to the surface like a Mahogany on a crisp Fall day. There’s time to read a page and then pause, sitting pretty as we read about our passion, communing with all the fishermen who’ve gone before and will come again. Because it’s going to come again. You can’t keep ‘em down on the farm forever! It’s why we’re cleaning lines and lubing reels, sorting flies and stretching our tying abilities. So when the bell sounds and we emerge from our shelters, we can hit the water running hard, with more flies, knowledge and a sense of why we fish than we ever had before.
Because whether you think you can, or you think you can’t, you’re probably right!