My outdoors equipment eagerly awaits this time of year. Wintertime is when my rods and reels receive the best maintenance, my boat gets deep-scrubbed, my tackle is sorted out and organized, my guns are cleaned more thoroughly, and my sports clothes get scrutinized, patched up or replaced.
It is good to have a slow season, because it always amazes me how much attention my gear needs and how much time is required for thorough annual maintenance.
For those who aren’t completely comfortable tearing down sporting equipment and knowing just the right products to deep clean, lubricate or preserve everything and then putting it all back together in perfect working order, this is the season to take rods and reels to your favorite fishing tackle shop or your guns to a reputable gunsmith for proper inspection, repair and maintenance.
You will be happy with your confidence later in the year when setting the hook on a big bass or drawing a bead on a buck, skipping the waves as a kite surfer, negotiating a cliff face in an updraft with a hanglider. Whatever your sport of choice, confidence in your equipment and in your own skills is of paramount importance.
Winter is also the best time to pick up new sporting skills. Here is a classic example. Folks are taking more to fly-fishing on the salt water these days. Some fabulous fly-fishing is done along sandy beaches for barred surf perch and corbina, or around kelp beds for calico bass and shallow water rockfish. Working kelp beds holds great fascination for fly-fisherfolk because skill is required to put a fly right into one of the open pockets or precisely between kelp stringers. The reward can be a surface-busting bass assaulting your fly and wringing out your adrenaline glands.
A wise learning opportunity is a California hunter safety class for those who want to get into hunting, as a brush-up for those who haven’t hunted in some time, or to learn about safe gun-handling. My dad was a state hunter safety instructor. I have always been thankful for the skills he taught me. Thanks to his careful teachings, I have always felt safe and confident. Sign up your kids, grandkids, nephews/nieces or neighbor kids, and watch their interest and confidence grow in the shooting sports.
Another wise learning opportunity is the public boating and safety courses offered by the U.S. Power Squadrons and the Coast Guard Auxiliary. I took the Power Squadron course myself and subsequently became a member to advance my own studies and help teach others.
I’ll be blunt here and state that I wish these courses were required for licensed boat operation. I have shared the ocean with too many people who had no idea about rights-of-way on the water, lights, horns, dayshapes, buoys or any rules of the road. Rules of the road are laws and standards put into effect to keep us safe on the water. Intoxicated boaters are among the worst of my professional nightmares as a charter captain. The designated driver program should extend to boating.
Take a course if you are going to operate a boat. You will be very glad you did. So will I, come to think of it.
— Capt. David Bacon operates WaveWalker Charters and is president of SOFTIN Inc., a nonprofit organization providing seafaring opportunities for those in need. Visit softininc.blogspot.com to learn more about the organization and how you can help. Click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.