Get the gear out and in shape

Bill Graves, Special to The County
17 years ago
   Believe it or not, there were a few trout caught by bait fishermen April 1, then the big snowstorm arrived four days later. First two weeks in the month of April burdened us with more snow, while last year the Aroostook River was already ice free and ready for trolling. I had big plans of check-over and preparing my canoe, motor and trailer a week or so ago, with hopes of dragging a lure or streamer fly around the river, but couldn’t even get past the snow drift in front of my storage barn.
To solve my irritation and frustration with Mother Nature, I spent a couple of hours each day of locating and prepping my spring fishing gear, rearranging my tackle box, and tying a few streamer fly patterns for ice out stream and lake fishing. Perhaps some other Aroostook anglers need a few more flies, I suggest some tandem streamers as well as a few long shank, Carrie Stevens style, single hook patterns.
In the way of bucktail patterns, consider a red and white with real jungle cock eyes, a blue devil, a Herb Johnson special or a rainbow ghost. Proven feather-wing streamers, both attractor and bait fish imitator patterns include the gray ghost, Ouananiche special, counterfeiter, and black nose dace. Every one of these streamers will attract both trout and salmon on East Grand, Pleasant Pond, Drews Lake, Squa Pan and all of the Fish River lakes. I recommend using a dual leader set-up which allows an angler to troll a bright bucktail attractor fly on a longer, shallow-running leader and a feather-wing smelt imitation on a shorter, deeper running leader. Variety catches more fish, especially in cold water.
I also spent some time rearranging my spring-trolling tackle box, replacing worn out flies and repairing the ones that could be salvaged. As I put my plugs and lures in some semblance of order, those most used got a quick touch-up on all hooks to assure a needle-sharp point. I also made a quick check to be sure all anchor eyes for line and treble hook attachments were solid, using needle nose pliers and clear glue to remedy any loose spots.
Since three spinning reels and two fly reels rigged for ice-out trolling were also stored in this tackle box, I gave each of them a once over. One open-face spinning reel needed new line, so I replaced that, and then built a tapered leader for each of the fly lines. All of the reels also got a quick clean up, using solvent and degreaser to remove any gravel, grit, dust and even the old grease and oil on moving parts. Then with a Q-tip I sparingly applied a sparse coat of new lubricant in areas of consistent motion and stress.
One thing leads to another, and since I had all my artificial baits and monofilament at hand, pretty soon I was practicing my angling knots. Up until four years ago, four knots were all I ever used to serve any angling attachment – line to backing, leader to line, leader to leader and flies or lures to leader. Then two things happened that threw my knot-tying into disarray; I started doing a lot more salt water fishing and I read about and experimented with a couple new knots which proved far superior to my current favorites. Now I have too many new knots and not enough memory space over the winter, so I have to practice a bit to retrain my brain and fingers each spring.
If you’re still using the same old knots, perhaps a couple of new ones might improve your line or leader integrity and lessen the number of lost flies and lures. The needle knot and blood knot are still dependable connectors for lines and leaders, but there are other options. Every angler should learn to tie the simple yet strong Albright knot as well as the triple surgeon’s knot. For attaching bait hooks or lures, a Palomar knot is extremely efficient; and in place of that old standby, the fisherman’s knot, try a Trilene knot for flies and lures when using 4- to 12-pound test mono or leader material. After just a couple of half-hour sessions, my knot-tying agility and speed are now equal to a well-trained chimp, so I’m ready to go fishing.
I’ve located my fly vest, net and my thick neoprene waders for insulation. There’s a fly rod and a spinning rod rigged and ready. Just in case your gear isn’t already in order or a bit of knot-tying practice wouldn’t hurt, now is the time to take a few minutes here and there to assemble all the necessary equipment. Nothing is more frustrating than wasting good fishing time looking for misplaced items, unless it’s repairing a piece of gear along the stream while others are catching fish. That first outing is just around the corner, so get ready.