There is no snow, not even frost and the ponds haven’t hardened up yet. Columbus Day garlic cloves, planted deep in seaweed compost, have grown taller than their straw insulation, lighting up a dark garden landscape with bright green tips. Buckets full of tip-up’s and ice strainers sit idly by in corners of garages and sheds. On the other hand, the wood pile looks like it just might last the winter and there remains plenty of open water for paddling canoes and kayaks. Each day now, late arriving winter winds get closer to replacement by winds from the west springtime sheets-on-the-line breezes.
Being a new year with holidays now past, we might now refocus on fishing and obviously, new fishing gear. Tackle is always in need of replacement, from wear and tear, general aging or misplacement in the basement. That’s why we have winter fishing shows. The first big show within a reasonable driving time is the New England Fishing and Outdoors Expo January 29, 30, 31 up in Boxboro, Ma. The Holiday Inn will provide plenty of space to walk slowly down long aisles full of hawkers and dealers, fishermen with fish stories/sales pitches, splashy screens and gaudy fluorescent camouflage clothing. This show’s emphasis clearly is on fishing but the hunting companies will be represented as well, with names like Red Top, Ducks Unlimited, North Woods Sporting Journal and Red Oak Outfitters from up in Old Town, Maine. Lure makers, state agencies, even Cabot Cheese and Pabst Blue Ribbon will be in the house, as the young kids say, so you’ve got a fighting chance of snacking while you shop or sign up for a class with upstart Bass University. If that place was around when I was a student, I’d have a framed degree instead of a lots of pictures of beer can pyramids and a ten year loan payment plan but I digress.
Before you pack a cooler and overnight bag for a trip to the north woods of Massachusetts, a more beneficial option might be to visit a local tackle store for new year supplies and maybe a new rod. Howard Reed, owner and master rod builder at Narrow River Custom Rods is back in action at his new location in Wakefield. While his shop has changed over the years, his skill and reputation for crafting fine rods has not. He can build you a stout eel rod, one for trolling wire line, a beast of a boat rod for tuna or the sweetest ultra-sensitive G Loomis surf rod for whipping needlefish and poppers. We all know the many positives of keeping cash local, which can be difficult in an internet heavy world but Howard is the guy who will walk you through a design, maybe set you up with the pieces to build one on your own and also, after the sale, stand behind what he sells. Outside of shop hours, he has been into the holdover stripers lately, their bellies packed with peanut bunker, even bringing in the new year landing some big enough to keep. Early morning sheets of ice can make for tough fishing and keep schools of bait down low but he added, “Oh, they’re in there…”. He has a new showroom in the Kenyon building at 344 Main Street with weekend hours of 10am to 4pm or you can give him a call at 401.678.0313.
The Rhode Island Saltwater Anglers Association will hold their thirteenth New England Saltwater Fishing Show on February 26-28 at the Rhode Island Convention Center in Providence. This is a classic show right in the heart of winter when we really suffer from the fishing jones, packed right tight with vendors, seminars, famous fishermen, tv celebrities and gear. Lots and lots of fishing gear. All the big and small tackle dealers are there, including Hogy, Bass Pro, J&B Tackle and Lunker City. South County’s own Snug Harbor sets in not just one but two spaces; you need that much room to roll out all the rods, reels, bait, line, terminal tackle and the biggest of laughs from Elisa they offer every year. If you go anywhere at this show, you owe it to yourself to visit their booths, numbers 1133 and 1213.
There will be kayaks, skiffs, motors, rods, reels and guide services and even literary types, not to be confused with the American Littoral Society at booth 0232, like The Fisherman, Surfcasters Journal and On The Water magazines. There are booths full of treats from The Jerky Hut, Newport Jerky and Heidi Jo’s Jerky. Apparently fishermen eat a lot of jerky. There will be copper fish sculptures, lubricants, government types like RIDEM, the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission and hopefully the worm bar. Year after year the worm bar was a hit with cash conscious fishermen and kids who like to stick their hands in boxes full of colorful gooey jelly worms. There are many specialized speakers offering tips and counsel on haywire twists, jigging for bass and fly casting, among other topics. Conservation and forage fishes will be represented by the Herring Alliance and the Buckeye Brook Coalition and since RISAA is very family oriented, women and kids under twelve are admitted for free all day Sunday. Tickets cost a reasonable ten dollars and
if you visit the RISAA website, you can print out a dollar off coupon. Considering how much the economy depends on sportsmen like us and how we really need a shot of fishing adrenaline right about mid-winter, the bright lights and isles full of gear of fishing shows offer us a glimpse of longer days, warmer waters and greener gardens.