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New Year’s Resolutions 

Layton “Skip” James

Anglers, how many of us have promised ourselves to simplify and refine our trout fishing gear?… when, according to the carol, “earth stood hard as iron,” and fishing was a dream of Spring? I know I have. Here are a few of my ‘kept’ resolutions.

 I used to carry a lanyard with a ring on the end, with eight spools of tippet. I wondered at the ability to market this nylon at outrageous prices for ridiculously small amounts of material. But I replaced it only occasionally, and the stuff that always ran out first was 5X and 3X. Then I discovered that at Fleet Farm I could purchase Trilene XL in 2lb and 4lb test, on the same size spools as fancier tippet. The diameter of the 2lb is a little less than 5X, and that of the 4lb is a little fatter than 3X. That season, I fished with only two spools. And would you believe it? The fish didn’t seem to mind. 

At one time in my fishing life, I used to sew vests. The ladies would look at me strangely at fabric shops where I examined dirt-colored cloth of various weights and weaves. I sold my vests for $100, but I never made any serious money at it. I made one for Bob Mitchell, and my fishing partner, and one for myself, of course. I thought the arrangement of pockets was much smarter than the Orvis one I had used previously. But then, I saw this little vest pack with a central zip compartment for a standard fly box, two side pockets for smaller boxes, and room for two tippet spools, tools, a flashlight, strike indicator yarn, and some non-lead split shot. I bought it and have never used my vest again. In fact, I bought two, just so I’d have a spare if anything happened to the first one.

Another result of the Trilene experiment was an examination of leaders. I had been buying knotless leaders because some guide told me that knots in a leader would catch bits of salad in certain rivers, like the Big Horn, particularly if you had a powerful fish on who dove into the weeds. But upon thoughtful reflection, that meant that the weight of the green stuff would slide down your leader until it reached the very thinnest and most breakable part, causing you to lose fish. On the other hand, if a hand-tied leader had knots at regular intervals, the gunk would not slide to the tippet, but be held away from it. I began making my own leaders, tying them with blood knots according to various formulas espoused by respected authors. I used large spools of Trilene XL, which was very cheap, and very handy. I haven’t bought a tapered leader in years. 

These are just three New Year’s resolutions that have worked out for me. When fishing is impossible, think about ways to improve your own technique and equipment. Spring will come, eventually. 

Tight lines,

Skip James 

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