Some fly anglers are fortunate enough to have great winter fisheries to spend time on during the coldest months of the year. Others, like those of us in parts of the Great Plains and the Midwest, have pretty limited winter fishing options (though the Driftless region has some good winter fishing opportunities). If you're someone who is unable to fish in the winter, prefers to not fish in the winter, or have no winter fisheries near you, here are some ways you can stay busy and productive during the fishing offseason. 1. Tie Flies
If you're like me, your fly boxes are potentially somewhat depleted from giving away flies, losing flies (hopefully not in large fish's mouths), and from becoming members of your ABC (already-been-chewed) fly stash. It's a great time to hit the vise and make sure you have the patterns you need for the upcoming year.
If you are new to fly tying, be sure to check in with Kevin, Jason, Dre, or Kirby at Rod & Rivet (Des Moines, Decorah) about their fly tying classes that they offer.
When you have a long weekend or some vacation time to use, travel and fish somewhere warmer (or colder). If you haven't before, consider fly fishing the ocean for the first time. Belize, the Bahamas, Mexico, and the Florida Keys are all great winter fisheries that provide some relief from the cold and some access to some incredible bonefish, permit, and tarpon opportunities, among other species.
There are also some fantastic winter trout fisheries in various parts of the country, and they are often devoid of a lot of angling pressure during the "offseason." If you can find tailwaters (rivers below dams), the water temperatures in those rivers are often a little warmer in the wintertime and can fish really well.
Boots, waders, nets, fly reels, rods, fly lines - they all need a good cleaning every so often. Winter is a great time to do that. Keeping your gear clean can keep it functioning longer, as well as prevent the incidental transport of invasive species. Rinsing and drying your gear is usually the best practice, but be sure to check with manufacturers about what it takes to clean your particular products.
Inventory, re-stock, and sell gear
This might be a little scary, but consider digging out all of your rods, reels, fly line, fly boxes, and any other fly fishing gear. Make a list of all that you have, and see if you have any gear deficiencies...or excessive volumes of gear. It might be time to throw that old rotting tippet spool away and pick up a new one. Sell the fly reel that's collecting dust, or the rod that you haven't pulled out of the tube in 10 years. Or purchase that new 3 weight that you've had your eye on.
Map new fishing locations
Think about all the places you fished last year. Some probably had great fishing, some not so good. What new places will you explore this year? Yes, some locations might be duds with abysmal fishing. Other spots could be fantastic. Use Google Maps or Google Earth, as well as some property ownership maps, to determine your next spots to try fishing. If you need other ideas, watch this video about finding new fishing spots.
Attend trade/outdoor shows
Most of these outdoor shows are great opportunities for a family-friendly outing and interaction with lots of innovative things related to the outdoors. A few in the Midwest to consider attending:
-Mid-Iowa Bassmasters Swap Meet 2024 - Des Moines, IA
-Hawkeye Fly Fishing Association Annual Show 2024 - Coralville, IA
-Great Waters Fly Fishing Expo 2024 - St. Paul, MN
Renew fishing licenses
Of course, make sure to renew your license for your home state. If you live in Iowa, here is the link to renew your Iowa fishing license. If you plan to travel during the year, it's not a bad idea to see how much licensing will cost in your area of travel or even purchase those ahead of time depending on the trip.
Watch YouTube Videos
Sometimes, it's nice to just sit back and learn from others' videos about fly fishing. Maybe that means you are exploring other parts of the world virtually through fly fishing videos, or maybe you are learning how to finally tie a stinkin' blood knot, or watching gear reviews to see what your next purchase should be. YouTube is a fantastic resource for learning about things related to fisheries and fly fishing.
Make the most of the "offseason" in fly fishing, and make sure you're well prepared for the upcoming year. Tight lines, hope to see you on the water.
Be sure to abide by Iowa's state fishing regulations, and know before you go.
~GUIDED FLY FISHING IN IOWA~