By Nick Simonson
The depths of winter and the long dark nights can often trigger a lot of indoor time. Whether it’s a weekend outing cancelled by a blizzard, or just the hum-drum routine of not seeing the sun after five o’clock for a few weeks, time spent inside is a frequent occurrence in the coldest months of the calendar. That time, however, can be very productive in terms of getting set for the fishing seasons to come. From those first openwater opportunities where panfish flood the shallows after ice out, or spawning pike and walleyes make their way up the runoff-charged creeks, having the tackle assortment set for spring and summer comes from those winter nights at the fly-tying and lure-making desk.
Now is the time to look into those tackle packs and fly boxes to take stock of those reliable patterns and lures that get the job done in March, April and May. Make a note of the patterns and sizes needed, and catalog a list of fly hooks, jigs and materials to add to them to create some fish-catching offerings in the off-season. Adding a few new patterns or adjusting colors to what worked last season will help get a shopping list together for the projects ahead, so consider some tweaks or some new recipes on the vise to expand and create experimental lures to try out in the spring and summer. Compile the necessary items on a list for those patterns currently in short supply from last season’s fishing activity and place an order now to ensure timely arrival and a plan for putting those patterns together in the coming weeks.
Save the Dates
A fun way to plan those January and February nights is to lay out a calendar of sorts for tying the flies and crafting the lures which will be needed in the near future, complete with the number of patterns required in various sizes during each time frame. One standard way of setting out projects at the fly tying vise is to knock out nymphs, then dries, then streamers, then terrestrials based on frequency of use, or employment as the warm water season progresses, to provide some logic and prevent falling behind. The same can be done for crafting crappie jigs, then walleye jigs then bass jigs.
Pencil in a few patterns to be tied up each week to set a schedule and check them off as they are completed. A solid routine of each type of fly or lure helps make those later-produced patterns better than the first ones as skills are sharpened and practice makes perfect. Put basic flies first, and those with more features later to help work the kinks out before getting into the advanced techniques.
Remember that sometimes jumping around from pattern or lure type can be fun and prevent a rut, so schedule in some free tying time to get creative or allow for a little bit of a distraction from a winter of repetition. Know that no matter how a season of fly and lure creation comes together, the option exists to mix things up and keep it interesting, and if the materials are there, to experiment and tweak classic patterns with something new.
Stock and Share
Tie up those frequently used patterns in bulk, and maybe crank out an extra dozen for a fly swap somewhere along the line. A fun way to ensure enough flies is to set out a used fly box and fill in the gaps where previous patterns have disappeared. Sock the extra ones away in a small plastic container and search various fly tying forums or local groups for an upcoming swap. Not only does the event allow for a chance to add some experimental patterns sent in exchange for your favorite, but it also provides ideas on tying options before the preparatory season is over if any of them look to be promising for your particular waters.
Winter has just begun, and while it often brings conditions too cold and inhospitable for even ice fishing, those times indoors aren’t wasted when they’re put toward filling fly boxes and tackle bags with patterns that work. Take stock of what’s needed and order the materials now, set out a plan and a timeline for the winter months to get them done, and fill those fly boxes with new options and those that are tried and true.