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Basic BC River Fishing Gear




How to Choose River Fishing Gear

river fishing gearThere are basic items which will make your river fishing experience more enjoyable, as well as more productive. If ill prepared, your trip may end up in disapointment and you may lose the chance to catch a fish of a lifetime. There are basic things that you should always be equiped with and other items you may want to add later.  Big box stores often have a wide range of gear with varying qualities at decent prices, although they likely have what you need; it may be difficult for a beginner to know what to buy or get sound advice. Your local tackle shops may be in a better position to give you advice concerning gear for the specific fish you are targeting in your area, as well as local fishing information. Either way, shop around, compare prices and get as much information as you can for the type of fishing you want to do. River fly fishing and spey fishing gear will be discussed in a future article.

Fishing Rods:  Your rod choice should be specific to the fish you are targeting, type of reel, size of line and weight of the lure/s. Someone new to river fishing should look for a rod that will handle 8lb-15lb (3.5kg-6.8kg) mono line and lures exceeding 1/4oz (7gms) unless specificaly targeting Chinook Salmon or Sturgeon. River rods should be between 8' and 10.5' with a fast action and medium power. Rods on the longer end of the scale are better for float fishing, while rods on the shorter end of the scale are adaquate for spin casting and tight spots. Good fast action/medium power rods are available for less than $90, there's no need to spend mega dollars for a name brand rod until you have more experience and money to burn.

Fishing Reels:  You need a good quality Bait Casting or Spinning reel that will last you for years, cheep reels will quickly fail under the stress of river fishing. Center-pin reels are desirable for river fishing, but are tricky for a novice to use and not recommended for the beginner. I prefer Spinning reels, they are more popular due to their ease of use and they will outcast Bait Caster reels given the same rod/line/lure. However, a Bait caster reel is a little easier to control the line feed while drifting a float and has a greater line capacity. It is also generally easier to cast heavy barfishing weights or a 3+ oz bouncing betty if using a bait casting reel.

Reel Drag: It is very importand to properly adjust the drag on your reel or you may miss the chance to land the fish you are targeting. If the drag is too tight: the line or rod could break and you might bend a hook or rip the hook out of the fish's mouth. If the drag is too loose: it may be difficult to get a good hookset and a large fish could "spool you" (pull all the line off your reel). If the "drag weights" are't set properly on a bait caster: you will either get a poor cast, or get a "birdsnest" (massive tangle on the spool). Turning the handle on a spinning reel without retreiving line (or while a fish is pulling line off the reel) will cause the spinning reel to twist up the line, resulting in all kinds of problems. Have an expert show you how to properly set the drags.
Note: it is better to set the drag higher when doing catch and release, because playing a fish too much will overtire it and increase mortality. You want to bring the fish in and release it as quickly as possible.

Line: There is no point investing in a quality rod and reel if you are going to use a cheep low quality line. Regardless of what you use for a rod and reel or how you set your drag: if you don't have good line, you will get poor casts and the fish will break it. For river fishing: the line needs to be; strong at the knots, abrasion resistant, limp and relatively invisable (the limper line will give you better casts). 12lb-15lb mono line is plenty strong for most fish, however a stronger 20lb-25lb line is better for targeting Chinook and 80lb-120lb for targeting Sturgeon. Braided lines will allow the use of stronger line of the same diameter or more line of the same stregnth, braided line also provides more "feel" when playing a fish. Mono line is relatively invisable and your success rate in hooking a fish may increase if using mono line. Never use fluorocarbon or fly line on a reel. Do not overfill a reel, that will only produce knotting and tangleing as it comes off the reel. Fill a reel to about 1/8" below the edge of the spool, stores often overfill a reel to sell more line.

Leaders:  Use a leader test stregnth smaller than the line test stregnth.  If using 12 pound line don't use more than a 10 pound leader. No need to buy expensive spools of leader, just use mono line (unless using fluorocarbon leaders or Sturgeon fishing). Don't use braided line or cheep line for a leader. Leader test weight is dependent upon water conditions and size of fish you are going after.  Low, clear conditions may require a lighter leader (and line) test than high and muddy water.  Leader legnth will also vary depending on both water conditions and type of lure/terminal tackle. Check your leader frequently for nicks or abrasions, especially when coming off a snag or after landing a fish.

Fishing Hooks:  Use a good quality barbless hook (or circle hook for sturgeon) and stay away from cheap hooks. Usually you will save money buying larger quantity packets of hooks, Gamakatsu and Mustad are popular name brands. Although quality hooks have a pretty good point: I find hooks are never sharp enough out of the package, so I always give them a few swipes with the hook file before using them...you may only get one chance to catch that big fish, so a good hook set is important. Carry a hook file and make sure the hooks stay "sticky sharp", check them frequently during use and always check them after a snag. Hook size/color depends on the fish you are targeting and method of fishing, but is not as important as hook sharpness.

Terminal Tackle:  There are many types of terminal tackle, see: "Basic Tackle".  You can use; spinners, spoons, jigs, flies, wool, corkies or bait, and there are many sizes and variations of each. Try to find out what others are using at a given time or location, especialy if they are having success. Consult with your local tackle shops and fishing reports about what people are using and what is working. Have a large assortment of terminal tackle on hand when you go to the river.  Keep it simple, even a simple strand of wool can be very effective and easy on your budget. While light tackle such as wool and flies may require the use of additional weight on the line to cast them or get them down to the fish, heavier tackle such as spoons and most spinners have enough weight built in to cast them out.

Clothing: I often go to the river with just a pair of shorts and runners in warm summer weather, but a good set of neoprene or “breathable” waders are essential to fish the river in colder weather.  Nothing is more uncomfortable and can ruin a fishing day more than to have wet, cold feet.  Wear additional clothing under the waders as needed for cold water and consider some good quality, warm socks. A wading belt to keep the water out if you take a tumble is a must, as waders can quickly fill with water and drown you. Good waders come with wading belts, some also have acccessory tackle pouches on them. Inflatable life vests or fishing vests with inflatable life vests built in, are a great safety feature to use on the river.

Tackle Boxes:  You will need a method of containing and carrying all of the gear you need on the river. Tackle boxes are commonplace and come in many sizes shapes and materials. Fishing vests or belts can also be bought for a reasonable price and allows you to carry an assortment of tackle, so you can change gear without leaving the water.

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