So what can one do that keeps them active in their sport even in this cold? Well you can just get out there and do what you were doing all year, or you can use that time to get your gear ready for the following year. The first item on my winter gear to do list is always my tent. There are a lot of weekends in the summer when this is my home. And in order to make sure that my home away from home stays comfy, it needs a little love.
Take the time to back your car out of your garage and put your tent up. Seriously, there is no telling what all is left in that thing, you know small birds, rocks, sticks… ‘Cause there is a 90% chance that the last time you put it up, you were in a rush. I go ahead and make sure that I have all of my stakes and that all of the tabs are in good order. Once that’s done I don my hazmat suit and vacuum out the tent. Usually there is half the sand from each river and half the pebbles from each camp site in there. So after cleaning it out, I generally let it sit out over night. The following day I hit it with some camp dry and let that dry and up she goes to the closet.
The only issue that I have ever had with taking care of my tent in the prescribed manner was when I lived in an apartment. Boy did my girlfriend get pissed! On to the next item, whether you use a therma-rest mattress or if you’re like me and use an old school air mattress, it’s a good time to take these things out and inspect them for holes and evaluate whether you can patch them, or if it’s time to replace them. Don’t be like me and ride into a remote area, portage a half mile, and find a dime sized hole in your air mattress.
If you have a canoe with wood trim on the gunnels like a Mad River Duck Hunter, and that trim is flaking and starting to crack, you need to fix that now. Nobody wants to paddle a canoe that looks like a p.o.s., sorry they just don’t. To prevent you from losing your paddling partners, I have three tools to help out. Sand paper, paint brush, and tongue and groove oil. After years of use, especially if you keep that puppy in your yard, exposed to sunlight, the finish is going to go to ruin. To fix that problem all you need to do is sand off what’s left of the varnish, smooth out the wood (finer grit paper), then take a brush with fine bristles and give that wood some juice. What the tongue and groove oil does is to return the love to the wood trim and help the wood return back to its original form. Make sure you remove any runs and after that you can even apply a few layers of spar varnish to the trim. After that folks will be asking you when you got the new canoe.
Fly-fishers, we all know that after using our gear in saltwater, that the reels, rods, and the line have to be cleaned. The same thing is true about fresh water. Even though we don’t have to do it as often, we need to do it. For your rods just take the time to use a bit of soapy water (use original Dawn), a sponge, and clean that rod.
Take special attention to the guides, that build up of grit is bad on your fly-line, and over time will pit your guides. On your up or down locking reel seats you might like to use a bit of Penn Rod and Reel cleaner. I try to keep if off the cork even though it promises not to hurt it any. This will not only clean and mildly lubricate the reel seats, it will also prevent corrosion during future uses.
With your reels, it is ok to oil your bearings but DO NOT oil the drags. Some drags will take to it fine but others will not. Check with yours reel manufacturer. I like to strip all of my line off (backing too) and give the reel the same love I gave the rod. Also while the line is off it’s a great time to clean your fly-line. The best way to do this is to soak it in hot water with a few drops of Dawn, then use a sponge and go over the line until you remove most of the scaling. Then rinse the line, allow it to dry, then apply your preferred line dressing. I like Umpqua’s Glide.
Now if you’re like me, by the time you are done with all of this, it seems like there is no way I’m letting another day get by without getting out there. So go and do!