Here’s a tip I learned not long ago that will give you a couple things to practice when the rivers are frozen over, and keep your casting game sharp for when the mayflies start hatching in the spring.

Before you sit on the couch to watch the bowl games in the next few weeks, dig an old spool of 2X tippet or 10-pound Maxima out of your fishing vest. Now start tying blood knots (five wraps one way, five wraps the other, poke both ends through the middle gap and pull tight… for detailed instructions check out this link.

You want to space your blood knots about three inches apart, and DO NOT trim the tag ends of the knots as you tie them; they should be a couple inches long. You ultimately want to build a leader with several blood knots in it, tag ends included.

Benefit number one of this little exercise is that as you watch the tube you develop your ability to tie one of the most useful leader-to-tippet or tippet-to-tippet connections a fly angler uses. Familiarity leads to speed. Speed on water equals fish. See if you can eventually tie the knot by feel, while your eyes stay fixed on the television.

But the real beauty of this trick is that you can take that blood knot leader you made, attach it to the stumpy butt section of leader you left on your fly reel at the end of the season, and now you have a great “yard practice” setup. Those tag ends you left hanging from the blood knots will grab the dry grass in your yard, or even snow, and more accurately replicate the line resistance you feel when you’re actually casting on the water. This is an especially useful tool to help you practice roll casting, or even Spey casting. Check it out this winter, and you’ll see what I mean.