Winter in the South East sucks! Some people claim to like it, but those of us that live it, understand. Just cold enough to suck, not cold enough to snow - so you get rain. Lots and lots of rain. Eventually though, the sun does come out and the days get longer and warmer and those of us with the itch start thinking about the magic that's about to happen. Spring is my favorite season, hands down, no close second. It may have something to do with the ending of the annual seasonal depression cycle I find myself in most years, but I think it has more to do with fishing. As a professional fishing guide, my preseason checklist is longer than most and often covers things the average trout fisherman just thinks about and I'm here to give you a few tips that will have you ready for the spring trout season.
Lay it all out: First things first, grab all your stuff and lay it out somewhere. For me, this takes a lot of space, but it helps to visually see what I have and what I don't. This is the time to get rods sent off, waders patched up, fly lines cleaned, anything that could be done should be done. If you wait until the first trip of the season to find out you left your net sitting in the boat all winter and all the rubber disintegrated and now you have to hot dog grab fish for your clients all day (no? Just me?). Anyway, easy way to avoid that is taking a day and making sure you look at all your gear
Pro tip: Check your tippet spools and leaders. They go bad way faster than most people realize and really easy to forget and sucks losing fish all day and knot know why.
Organization: I like to set my stuff aside and have an easy grab and go set up that I don't have to worry about. Nice days come and go fast in the spring and half the time are plagued with high water. Being ready to go when the window opens is key. I spend most of my days in a boat so for me it's a Yeti load-out box. I can have all my stuff in there: tippet, fly boxes, spare reels, snacks, etc. and just take that box from boat to boat. Usually I keep the flies and tippet I'll be using most often in my pocket and refer to the box as needed.
Pro tip: The spring in the south is weird. Some days are hot and some are cold. I always pack some extra clothing (sweatpants/sweatshirt, gloves, sock, hat) in case I fall in or get stuck in some rain. Can totally save the day until it's warm enough to wet wade.
Get buggy: I can't recommend a bug chart more for those of us that have a hard time remembering that stuff. I’m not one of those guides that can tell you all the bugs and when they pop out. I carry a chart that gives me a general idea of the main hatches and what time of year they emerge. That way I can snag a few bugs throughout the day and figure out what I need to be throwing. I'll use the chart now, in the winter to make sure my boxes have a few bugs from all the main hatches. Fish have good memories when it comes to food. On tough days you can try flies that aren't around yet and get good results from fish anticipating the hatches (damselfly nymphs are an example that come to mind). Spring is a magic time in the south-east because there are many different hatches that could happen. Being ready for those hatches makes you a better angler.
Pro Tip: Get a stomach pump and learn how to use it properly. I can't tell you how many times it has been snowing caddis all afternoon only to find that the fish's stomach is full of Beatis. What you see obviously hatching isn't always the easiest meal for the fish in the springtime.
Spring fishing takes most of us by surprise, all of a sudden it's 70 degrees and sunny and all your fishing stuff is in a bucket in the garage. Take a day to get your stuff together and make afternoon trips to the river on the nice days easy. Get a little more intimate with the entomology (or build a cheat sheet like the professionals) and maximize your limited time on the water. The goal is to have more fun and hopefully catch some fish, all it takes is a little bit of prep work and the start to trout season will be smooth and productive.
Written by Wes Buchanan of https://www.twobrothersguide.com/
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