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Get Ready for Spring Flyfishing

By Robert Piorkowski - April 1, 2001
All I have been hearing lately is "You're flyfishing at this time of year?" My reply has been, "Yes I am". Its been cold out, but there are plenty of places to go flyfishing around northern Illinois and Wisconsin, and probably your town. There might be snow and ice on the driveway, but some of the rivers are clear and fishable. Spring fishing will be here this month, and now is the time to get ready.

I managed to get out several times recently to flyfish on the Fox River at Batavia and on the Des Plaines River. Wading was relatively easy, especially on the Fox. Depending upon the temperatures prior to fishing, water flows are the focus of even trying to go wading. But, after heavy rains, or a snow melt, the rivers can become a torrent. I like to wait a few days for levels to drop, but I know guys who do well fishing tight to shore during high water conditions. Because it was late winter/pre-spring (and I hooked no fish), I decided to focus my attention on preparation for spring flyfishing. It was good to get out and fish, but I should have stayed in and completed some maintenance on my equipment. I have included here several items to be considered as a "Spring-Tune-Up" prior to the flyfishing season.

I try to clean my flyline after several outings. This past month, I cleaned all my flylines with warm water and a clean towel. Next, I used flyline dressing to add a slick finish and a protectant to the lines. To clean the flyline, fold a damp towel over the flyline and slowly pull through. (Don't apply too much pressure on the flyline or the coating may be damaged.) After cleaning several feet of line, move the line to another spot on the towel and continue. Dark patches will appear where gunk was removed. Sometimes several wipes for the same length of line will be needed. As a final cleaning, I wiped my rods down with a clean damp cloth. Whatever gunk clinging to my lines was surely all over the eyelets and rods.

After cleaning, I made several casts in my front yard, and the rods performed like new, and with little effort. (To my wife's dismay, I often fish in my front yard. The 5-minute practice helps my flycasting tremendously.) The difference before and after cleaning was very apparent. After a good cleaning, you might also be surprised with your increased rod performance.

Practice knots you will be using while fishing. This will minimize wasted time while wading at a hot spot. Nothing is as frustrating as locating a fish, and not being able to tie on a fly before it's gone. The trick is to be able to tie knots on your line without wasting half of your leader. Optimally, I like to only snip off less than one inch of leader for each new fly. I know when I'm tired or cold, I probably waste too much line when tying on flies. I plan ahead and assume that after several hours of switching flies, I'll need to add more leader.

Fly Box
Spend these cold pre-spring days organizing your boxes. Decide what was successful last year, and remove flies that were not. Prepare a box with only a select number of patterns for a location. I was carrying three to four boxes of flies until I dropped one into the river. I had everything in that flybox except my name and address. Now I only carry a small set of flies in different colors. This helps reduce decision problems and gets me back to fishing. I was prepared before, but I looked like I was going off on a two week adventure instead of wading for an hour. Recently, I was given a new fly box as a gift. The box was the new nubby tacks model which grips around the flyhook, and will not dull the hook points. No more searching through a box of feathers and hooks, now each fly has its own place.

Two years ago, I started tying my own flies. I quickly realized that I needed a little help, and direction. So as a gift, my wife purchased me a flytying class from a local flyshop. The classes taught basics and starting techniques for flytying. Check your local shop for classes, usually they are scheduled in the spring. For my class, tools and materials were supplied, I just showed up and practiced what I learned. After learning the fundamentals, I started tying patterns for use on bass and bluegills. Before the flytying class I was struggling to make my own flies. Now I can follow the books and start making more advanced patterns. For information regarding flyfishing, flytying or casting classes, give Greg Katello a call at Fishing Connection (708) 532-1476, or stop by his shop at 7897 W. 159th Street, Tinley Park, Ill 60477. You can also see their website at (

So be ready, spring will be upon us in a flash. By getting ready now, I will spend less time preparing and more time fishing. When spring hits, I know the exact spot where I want my first cast to land. I plan to start the year throwing a modified clouser minnow that I prepared over the winter. All the information I have collected this winter from magazine articles, at shows and from videos of fishing will pay off with my first cast. See ya on the water.

Good Fishing!

Author Robert Piorkowski
Robert Piorkowski
Rob is a Field Editor for Midwest Outdoors Magazine, Featured Columnist for, Contributing Writer for Illinois Outdoors and works as a Environmental Project Manager near Chicago, Il. When not casting for bass out of his boat, you'll find him wading local rivers searching for bass with a flyrod. If you have any questions or comments regarding this article, contact Rob at [email protected]
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