10 Things to Do When you Can’t Go Fishing

One of only a handful of open slots I could find on a recently thwarted fishing trip

As I sit here looking at the aftermath of the recent snowstorm through my office window, I’m reminded of the cruel joke nature sometimes plays on anglers:  the thwarting of fishing plans.  You know, those days where you could go fishing, but the rivers are frozen over, or blown out.  It’s a bitter irony and can be really depressing.  Fortunately, there are some things you can do to keep your sanity on those days when Mother Nature has conveniently decided to make your local waters unfishable.

I recently wrote a post entitled Fishing without Water in which I discussed how doing fishing related activities during the times when you can’t go fishing can help prevent cabin fever.  So I thought it might be helpful to list out a few.  I’ll admit, some of them are pretty obvious, but I find lists to be inspiring and motivating when feeling doomed.  So this might be a good list to print out and run through on those unfishable days.

1.  Tie Flies.  This one is a no brainer so I’ll get it out of the way early.  For most of us who tie, this will be the first thing we’ll think of.  But I’d like to make a suggestion.  Instead of simply restocking your staple patterns (which can feel like a chore), try something different.  Maybe experiment with a new material, new hooks, different colors, or different styles of flies.  You’ve already had your plans dashed, so why not turn it into an opportunity to take an adventure rather than doing housekeeping?  If you don’t tie, this might be a great opportunity to start.  Head down to your local fly shop and see what you’ll need to get started.  But if tying just isn’t for you, read on…

2.  Make slide shows.  Go through all those pictures of trips from the last year and make a youtube video out of them.  Maybe even put some comments on each picture about that particular trip.  It feels great to reminisce about all the fish you’ve caught and good times you’ve had.  Then, share it with your friends in social media.

3.  Hone your skills.  Downtime is a great time to practice your techniques.  Go to Animated Knots by Grog and practice tying some new knots.  Or, setup a tea cup in the backyard and practice your casting accuracy by trying to deliver your fly into it at various distances.  All of us have skills we could improve upon.  Figure out what your weaknesses are and practice, practice, practice!  The next time you’re out, you’ll be grateful that you were able to practice off the water so you can catch more fish on it!

4.  Tidy up!  Admit it.  That disaster area you call your gear room could use some organization.  But as in #1, this can seem like a chore and it’s easy to procrastinate.  To make it fun, turn it into a kind of treasure hunt.  Every time I organize, I find some fly tying material or piece of tackle I didn’t even know I had.  Make the goal to find these elusive treasures and try to find something interesting to do with them.  By the end, you’ll not only have some “free” new gear, but a tidy space.

5.  Watch videos.  There are tons of excellent fly fishing videos on Youtube that could easily consume your whole day.  And if you can’t be on the stream, the next best thing is watching videos.  Search for some topics that you’re specifically interested in or techniques you want to learn.  Then, go ahead and practice them as in #3.

6.  Fix it!  All of us have some gear somewhere that could use a little attention.  Maybe it’s the worn out laces on your wading boots, the busted buckle on your wading belt, or that wonky zinger that needs to be replaced on your chest pack.  Go through your gear and triage what needs the most TLC.  Most repairs like cleaning your rods or washing your favorite fishing jacket only take a few minutes but can improve their performance.

7.  Waterproof it.  Speaking of fishing jackets, now might also be a good time to rewaterproof some of your fishing clothing.  For most waterproof materials, the simple act of washing and drying can restore their finish.  But it might not hurt to get some waterproof spray and give a good treatment to anything that could benefit from it:  jackets, hats, gloves, etc.  Your trip might have been ruined today, but it won’t the next time you’re out in a driving rain.

8.  Make a fishing kit for your car.  How many times have you been somewhere when an unexpected fishing opportunity presented itself, but you didn’t have any equipment with you?  It’s happened to me so many times that I finally decided to put together a small fishing kit that I now keep in my car at all times.  It’s doesn’t have to be elaborate.  Just a general fishing kit with a range of flies that will cover all the species you’re likely to encounter in your area.  I used “seconds”–gear that I have duplicates of or better versions of so I didn’t diminish my main arsenal.  You’ll feel better knowing that no matter where you go, you’re always ready to fish when serendipity appears.

9.  Experiment.  What’s a fishing-related problem that you’ve always wanted to solve?  List some out and brainstorm ideas for solving them.  Then, do a little DIY experimentation to see if you can figure it out. Just make sure to share it with us if you do!

10.  Get creative.  If you’re a writer or an artist, why not take this opportunity to express yourself?  Write a blog post, paint a picture, carve something.  Or, maybe you’ve always wanted to start a fishing blog, but never had the time.  Well, now you do.  Get started at in minutes at WordPress or Blogger.  It only takes a few minutes to get a blog set up and you might discover a new lifelong hobby!

What is your Plan B when you can’t go fishing?


Author: Jason Klass

Jason is an avid fly angler and backpacker. As a former fly fishing guide originally from Western New York, he moved to Colorado and became an early adopter of tenkara which perfectly suited the small, high altitude streams and lakes there. He has not fished a Western-style fly rod for trout since.

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  1. All of these are great ideas! And since I’m out for another month or so in crutches I’ve had plenty of time to figure out some ideas(I also can’t work due to the injury so I have lots of time). One of the things I have recently gotten into is archery, so I’ve built a jig(with help) and am getting ready to tie my own strings for my bow. I also love the regular ole bass fishing so I’ve completely reorganized my tackle box. I’ve been tidying up the tying desk, tying new flies like you suggested, and using alternative materials for my proven patterns trying to switch things up. And when I’m not immobilized, I go indoor rock climbing, great way to gain strength and stamina in your finger and forearms which help prevent arm fatigue when fishing long lines, and it’s a blast! And holy smokes longest comment on record for me.

  2. Work on that net branch you collected 1 year ago. It’s perfectly dry now.
    Okay, this one is for me and net projects I put aside sometime ago.

  3. Good one Daniel. I knew I was forgetting something! I still need to get on a DIY net.

  4. Jason:

    I spent the day, watching my kids play in the snow, sipping Stranahan’s and searching through Colorado fly fishing books looking for new rivers to explore this spring. I found two off the beaten path that I’m looking forward to hiking into this year.

    Love your blog.


  5. Argue with wife?

  6. Very good suggestions ..! excellent …. thanks …

  7. Furl some horsehairlines for this season and cut some branches for netmaking next winter.

  8. How about get cranky and argue on FB and other FF/tenkara forums? This seems to be a popular choice. 😉

  9. Anthony, hey, I resemble that remark!

  10. Great list, Jason!

    I’ve been busy with 2, 5, 8, 10. I’m also planning trips for the coming season and buying much needed gear!

  11. …11. Punch a hole through the ice…

  12. I hang out at the local fly shop with the other shop rats and complain about the weather. Wine and beer help take the edge off!

  13. Jason I was just sitting down to tie some flies when I read your Tenkora talk–it is raining and cold here. any suggestions that I might try for eastern streams here in the Blue Ridge Mountains?

  14. Hi Luther, you mean for flies?

  15. Yes Flies Thanks

  16. Great suggestions! Thanks.

    Speaking of horsehair, there has been a lot of horsehair thieves in Wyoming lately… I hope it’s not you guys! lol

  17. Hi Luther,
    Well, I am really of the “any fly” philosophy so I would think any of the sakasa kebari or wet flies I use would work there: http://www.tenkaratalk.com/category/tenkara-flies/

    The stream probably doesn’t matter as trout are trout.

  18. I just bought an old beat up split cane fly rod for a restoration project that’ll fill the hours I can’t get fishing, at least for the next couple of months.

    Why not try to furl a line for tenkara ?

  19. Play video games! I particularly like fishing master myself. Wish they had a wii fly fishing game.

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