The Five P’s
Proper preparation precedes perfection in performance
The five P’s are an old army axiom that carries over into any worthwhile endeavor. Wise anglers will heed its wisdom.
The new fishing season begins now. Though we are in the midst of the winter doldrums and no-fishing despair is upon us, do not be fooled. It is the time for action: Be properly prepared.
Your rods and reels and other gear need attention, especially if you laid them up last year with little or no maintenance.
Line and Leaders
The first and most critical component of fishing tackle is the line. Any monofilament that is in the least suspect should be replaced, certainly anything over two seasons old. If you fish often, replace your mono every year. This is not the place to economize. Use best quality, recently manufactured line. You’ll never be sorry.
Spectra braids will last longer, but after three or four years they are also suspect. At the very least, cut off and discard the first 50 feet of line. This is the section that has experienced the most wear and tear over the past season.
Examine all of your leader material. If you can’t remember how long you’ve had it, it’s probably too old. Discard it. Monofilament breaks down over time; after three years, it definitely becomes questionable.
Fly fishermen are particularly susceptible to leader problems. Because of their cost, tapered, monofilament fly leaders are often retained too long. Some leaders have a best if used by date printed on the package. Be sure to abide by it.
A handy test for all monofilament is to tie a simple overhand knot in the line and give it a good yank. Knot strength is the first thing to fail in aging monofilament. Lines past their useful life will pop at the knot with little stress, much less than the rated strength.
Next, inspect your reels carefully. If the handle doesn’t turn or the spool doesn’t spin or rotate freely and silently, maintenance or replacement is in order. If salt or salt corrosion is anywhere, get out a stiff toothbrush and a can of WD-40 and clean it up.
Examine and clean your rods. Start with a thorough warm water soap and rinse. Dry with a soft nappy towel, and apply a good silicone treatment to the guides and blank. Use a good grease under the reel seat hoods and on the locking nuts.
Cork is a wonderful grip material, but over time with exposure to the elements, it dries out and degrades. If a cork grip has developed pits or is missing chunks, these areas can be filled in with a common plastic wood filler. Use 220 grit sandpaper to finish the patch into the cork. Allow all repairs to cure at least 24 hours before using.
Apply Neatsfoot oil to all cork grips, rubbing it in gently. Oiling will restore its resilience, preserve its integrity and protect it against the further ravages of sun and saltwater.
Inspect your rod guides carefully, particularly the ceramic rings. These are the most essential component of the guide. A minute crack in a ring will shred your line in minutes under the stress of a good fish; a missing ring, especially at the tip top, will shred it in seconds.
If your eyesight isn’t what it used to be (like mine), a piece of old pantyhose or nylon stocking drawn through a guide will usually catch on any defects. Any guide with even a microscopic crack or flaw in its ring should be replaced.
Bent guides are prime candidates for failure. You may be able to twist them back into shape, but sometimes that is the stress that causes them to fail. Replace the guide. Good tackle stores provide rod repair services, and right now turnaround time is prompt. Later in the season it may take longer.
Fly rods can be particularly prone to another type of guide problem. The constant back-and-forth movement of a dirty fly line through the snake guides during the basic casting stroke can groove the guides.
Grooved snake guides are often the source of premature wear or damage to fly lines and can cause increased line friction during the stress of a fish fight. Often the cause of mysterious break offs, particularly in light tippet situations, grooved guides should be promptly replaced.
Hooks and Lures
Inspect your lures from last season. If you’ve neglected to clean them, the accumulated salt may have caused corrosion to set in. Even stainless steel will oxidize over time when exposed to salt. Rinse your lures, air dry and inspect each carefully. Lure component failure equals lost fish.
Check all hooks for sharpness. More fish strikes are missed from dulled hook points than from any other cause. Believe the old saying among seasoned anglers: You’ll get hits with a dull hook, but you get fish with a sharp one.
Susquehanna Flats catch-and-release rockfish season opens March 1.