Stay Fly: Tips for handling the frustrations of fly-fishing — when gear breaks
Broken rods, leaky waders and lost flies are all part of fly-fishing
One of the most heartbreaking sounds and feelings in fly-fishing is breaking your beloved rod. We have all done it at least once, and if you haven’t, you will. Fly-fishing is like any other mountain related sport, you buy expensive gear, you beat it up, and then you repair or replace it. Many people have backup skis or snowboards, similarly people have backup rods for those “just in case” moments on the river. I’m going to talk about what to do if you break your precious rod, or if you find that your waders are leaking. I’m also going to discuss losing flies and how that is just a part of fly-fishing.
Breaking a rod can really ruin someone’s day or even month. Broken rods are such a common occurrence in fly-fishing that most decent fly rod companies have limited or even lifetime warranties on the rods they produce. Most companies don’t care how you broke the rod, whether it was broken while fighting a 20-inch brown trout, stepped on in the boat or accidently closed in a car door (this is how I and many others broke their first rod).
The warranty from the manufacturer doesn’t mean that they are going to fix your broken rod for free, but it does mean that you don’t have to dish out a ton of money to get yourself back on the water. Prices for repair often vary from company to company and usually will take four to six weeks to return from the manufacturer, but can take longer in the summertime.
There are a few ways that you can protect your prized possession from the chances of breaking. If you don’t have the room in your car to keep your rods fully assembled, then break them down or at least in half. This will lessen your chances of breaking a rod in your car door or numerous other places in your car.
Another option for transportation is to invest in a rod rack. I’m sure many of you have seen SUVs and trucks covered in stickers with mounted tubes on the roof. These are designed to transport your rods without the hassle of breaking them down and having to reassemble and restring the rod. The rod racks can be locked, so your rods are safe from anyone trying to steal your gear.
The next worse thing other than breaking a rod is having waders that leak, especially in the cold months of fishing. Leaks can happen due to small pinholes, tears in the fabric or faulty seams. Some wader companies will repair or even replace waders that leak due to manufacturing defects or within the first year of owning them. Other companies will offer repairs at a small cost. It’s best to reach out to the manufacturer to see what they can offer you.
There are also patch and repair kits for you to fix small leaks on your own at home and they are very easy to use. If your waders are GoreTex or another breathable material, the easiest way to find where the leak is coming from is by spraying rubbing alcohol on the inside of the waders. The pinholes will show up as dark spots and I like to take a marker and draw a circle around the dark spot so I can go back and repair those areas. Place a small dab of Aquaseal or a similar product on the area circled with the marker and allow it to dry for at least 12 hours.
Losing that fly that is crushing fish can be almost as sad as breaking your rod. There are no warranties on flies — if you lose them to the river they are gone. If the fly starts to unravel after hooking a couple of toothy brown trout, then it might be time to get some new ones. I compare flies to golf balls. You always want to have enough to get you through the day and you should expect to lose a few in the process. Luckily, it doesn’t cost any money to fish public water (after you get the fishing license) unlike the ground fees that you must pay to golf a round. If I’m going fishing and I know that a certain fly is the one that will catch fish, I’m going to make sure that I am stocked up on that pattern(s). You never want to cut a day short because you ran out of flies.
Late fall and winter is a great time to send gear back for repair or to do some at-home repairs. Take a look through your fly boxes and make sure that you are covered for the different seasons in the mountains. If I’m lacking one area of my fly selection, then it might be time to visit my local fly shop or get behind my vise to whip up some new creations. I try to reorganize all of my gear, so when the time comes to hit the river, I am ready.
Ray Kyle is a manager and a guide at Vail Valley Anglers. He can be reached at 970-926-0900 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Jeff Shiffrin, with his wife, Eileen, made the Vail area their home decades ago, and together raised Mikaela and Taylor Shiffrin, who was a member of the two-time NCAA Champion University of Denver Ski Team.