It’s that time of year where for many of us, the fishing season is coming to a close. While some may be tempted to throw their fishing gear in the closet or garage and call it good enough, I can speak from personal experience that you will not be happy with yourself in the spring. Rusted hooks, mouldy tackle boxes, birds nests, lost gear, and ruined lures and flies are all consequences of not storing gear properly.
Rinse and Dry Everything.
This is a good idea no matter what type of fishing you do, but is especially important if you are a saltwater angler. Salt wrecks havoc on hooks, metal lures, and reels.
Most of my fly fishing in the fall is in estuaries for steelhead. One year I forgot to rinse my flies before storing them for the winter. When I opened my fly boxes for use in the spring, I found the hooks in over half of my streamer and nymph boxes were rusted to the point of being unusable. To prevent this from happening again. I now always rinse all my flies, lures, and reels in fresh water before storing them for the winter.
After rinsing, everything should be dry before putting it away for the winter. Even fresh water can cause hooks to rust, even if not as badly as salt water. If put away wet, hair and feathers on flies will often disintegrate and start to fall off the hook.
Rinsing is also especially important for those that use scented plastics or bait. I use Berkley’s Gulp Shrimp for fishing winter flounder and they work fantastically. The only issue is that the tackle box always gets the “juice” from the shrimp all over it. The first year after using it I didn’t rinse my tackle box before putting it away for the winter. When I broke it out in the spring there was a disgusting “film” of slim on the bottom of the tackle box and coating some of the lures. Metal lures were able to be saved, but I had to chuck many of my bucktails out.
In addition to rinsing the tackle boxes out, I also invested in a liquid bait storage container to keep all my gulp baits in to prevent spillage. You can also use lockable tupperware to keep gulp plastic baits in if you don’t want to dish out the money for the purpose built storage containers.
Organize equipment before putting away.
I always start the season nice an organized, with fly boxes sorted by type, tackle boxes sorted by species targeted, and all other gear (scissors, pliers, nets, etc) all in their correct spots, easy to find. By the end of the year I have nymph flies in my dry fly boxes, flounder gear in my striped bass tackle boxes. This year I even ended up with dry flies in my flounder tackle box.
Put everything back in it’s right before putting it away for the winter, and you’ll have a much easier time in the spring.
Make notes of what you need for next year.
It’s the night before opening day and you’ve rigged your fly rod with your go-to streamer pattern, throw your fly boxes and equipment into the car and have everything ready for a day of fishing the following day. The following day comes, you do some streamer fishing but have limited luck. You go to switch tactics to nymphing, the only problem is your don’t have any indicators! you remember at the end of the season last year you had run out and meant to buy some more, but never made a note of it.
The situation above has happened to me many times, whether it be indicators, a certain size of tippet, or particular flies, more often than not on opening day I’ll find that I forgot some piece of key equipment. What I do now is while I’m organizing and putting away my gear, I write down anything I’ll need for next year. This gives me a list of equipment to buy and flies to tie over the winter.
Purge or repair worn or broken equipment.
Before even being put away, there will be equipment in need of attention. Any ripped, rusted, or damaged flies should be discarded. Lines with excessive wear should be replaced, and reels that are not working properly should be repaired or replaced. Rusted hooks on lures should be thrown out and replaced in the spring.