Brian Chan: The Stillwater Fly Fishing Tackle Bag

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The Stillwater Fly Fishing Tackle Bag

with Brian Chan

Ice-off will be here before we know it so now is the time to get our stillwater fly fishing tackle bag in order. We all know there is nothing more frustrating than getting on the water and finding out a piece of equipment does not work or losing a big fish due to a worn leader that should have been replaced or retied. Having all the fly fishing gear in order means more time fishing and hopefully an enjoyable day on the water.

So let's start with fly lines. At the end of a fishing season it is a good idea to strip all the fly line off their reel spools, check them for nicks or cracks and wash them in a mild detergent to remove any dirt, oil or grease that may have accumulated on them. Loosely coil the lines in 12 to 20 inch wide loops and hang them somewhere cool and out of direct sunlight. Just prior to re-spooling floating lines use a fly line dressing to lubricate and improve floatation qualities.

This is also the time to replace leaders. Choose a good quality tapered leader rather than just tying on a piece of straight monofilament. The thick butt section of a tapered leader allows your fly to turn over at the end of the casting stroke. Leaders are available in various lengths and tippet strengths. A floating line being used for chironomid larva and pupa fishing may have a 16 ft. long tapered leader to which more tippet material can be added to fish deeper water. 9 and 12 ft long tapered leaders are generally used with full sinking lines. Check your spools of tippet material left over from last season. Monofilament does break down and weaken with time so be prepared to replace them. Spools of tippet are a minor cost compared to losing the biggest trout of the season. Carry spare leaders and a basic selection of tippet sizes such as 4, 5, 6, and 8 pound strengths so that leaders can be rebuilt while on the water.

Check over your fly rods for any cracked ferrules, frayed guide wrappings or loose corks in the handle. Pay particular attention to the rod guides including the tip one. Guides do wear and ones with deep grooves or nicks are hard on fly lines and leaders. Replace worn ones and pick up a spare tip guide just in case that one is broken off.

Inspect fly reels for worn pawls, loose parts and clean up any dirt or grease that may have built up. Lubricate those parts identified by the reel manufacturer. If spooling up a new reel make sure there is at least 75 yards of 20 pound test dacron backing on before attaching the fly line. That much backing should give you enough time to pull the anchor when that really big fish takes off to the other end of the lake.


The tackle bag should have some basic tools in it such as a pair of nippers for cutting monofilament and even trimming up flies. A pair of hemostats or slender needle nosed pliers are very useful for de-barbing hooks and removing hooks from fish. They can also be very helpful in removing hooks from clothing or body parts. A small hook file will salvage that hot fly of the day when the tip of the barb breaks off. Check your landing net over for broken mesh and large holes. If the bag needs replacement choose a soft cotton or soft nylon material with a tight weave or small mesh diameter. Hard knotted nylon net bags are hard on fish as they remove slime and scales when the fish is thrashing about. A small hand towel always comes in handy especially after handling a fish or on those cold wet days.

Make sure the tackle bag contains a tube of sunblock and use it. Time on the water means double exposure to the sun and harmful UV rays because of the reflection off the water. Anglers should also wear a good pair of polaroid sunglasses to not only further protect your eyes but allow one to see through the glare on the water and spot fish otherwise almost impossible to see. Wearing a wide brimmed hat adds further protection from the sun and it reduces glare and reflection off the water.

Finally, carry a small aquarium net to catch insect larva, nymphs, pupa and adults in and on the surface of the lake. Anglers that are observant not only catch more fish but have a better understanding of why they were successful.

Brian Chan

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Brian Chan: The Stillwater Fly Fishing Tackle Bag