There’s nothing like casting a brand new fly line fresh out of the box. But with every cast and every fish caught, that silky smooth fly line slowly loses its sparkle until it doesn’t shoot, doesn’t float, and must ultimately be retired.
But here’s the good news: by taking some proactive measures, you can easily double or even triple the lifespan of your fly line. And it all starts by keeping it impeccably clean.
5 Maintenance Tips
Clean and Dress the Fly Line on a Regular Basis
Modern fly lines have porous outer coatings made of PVC, impregnated with lubricants and other materials to alter its performance. The pores in the coating allow the lubricants to release which keeps the line nice and slick.
But as you fish, your line encounters grime and grit which inevitably works its way into the pores. After a while, the pores become clogged, blocking the release of the lubricants. The result is a line that sticks to your rod guides, robbing your casting distance.
To remedy a dirty, pore-clogged line, a quick wash with soap and water is all that’s needed.
- If you fish in clear water, washing your line every two or three outings should be enough to keep its optimal performance.
- If you fish muddy or silty water, it’s a good practice to wash your line after every trip.
- Fill your sink with 1 to 2 gallons of warm (not hot) water and add a few drops of unscented dish soap — Dawn works great.
- Remove the leader from your fly line and carefully strip the line into the soapy water, ensuring that the coils stack neatly and don’t get tangled. Soak for 10 to 15 minutes.
- Take a clean, dry cloth and pinch the line with the fabric. Carefully strip the line through the cloth and on the floor or in a bucket.
You’ll be amazed at how much dirt comes off the line! With the clean and dry line on the floor, you’re ready to wind it back on your reel.
To get the most performance out of your line, it’s a good idea to apply a high-quality fly line dressing such as RIO AgentX. Line dressings should only be used to clean lines and can be done as an optional last step of the cleaning procedure:
Apply a small amount of the dressing to a clean part of the cloth you used to dry your fly line. As you wind the line on the reel, run the line through the cloth to apply the dressing evenly.
With a clean, freshly dressed line, the next time you hit the water, it’ll cast as far and float as good as it did when it was new.
Keep Sunscreen and Insect Repellent Away from Your Fly Line
We all know that sunscreen should be worn whenever we’re spending time under the sun. And if mosquitoes and gnats are out in full force, insect repellent is a must if you want to enjoy yourself while fishing.
However, the chemicals in these products can wreak havoc on plastics and have devastating effects on fly lines.
After you apply sunscreen or bug spray, do your best to wash your hands thoroughly to remove any residue from your palms. But if you happen to get some on your fly line, take time at the end of the day to wash and dress it as outlined above.
Store Your Line in Large Loops for the Off Season
It’s easy to put your reel away and forget about it for months after the fishing season is over. But if you leave your line on the reel — particularly small arbor trout reels — the line sets in that position, causing a terrible case of the line memory.
If you anticipate your fly line sitting dormant for more than a month or so, remove it from the spool and coil it in large, loose loops. Then store it on a hook or flat on a shelf. When you spool it up next season, it’s going to be straight and ready to go.
Stretch Your Line for Better Performance
If you end up with a fly line riddled with coils from sitting on a spool, all is not lost. Before you start fishing for the day, strip your entire line off the reel and give each length you remove a solid pull to stretch it out.
This quick action can be done each time before you fish, regardless if the line has been sitting dormant.
This tip doesn’t directly increase the line’s lifespan but it improves its performance and may save you from erroneously throwing the line away because it has too much memory.
Be Careful When Stripping Fly Line off the Reel
Most fly reels have a post on the underside of the spool which serves as a brace between the two faces of the reel. Dragging the line over this post while stripping is something many anglers are guilty of but don’t realize they’re doing anything wrong.
Not only does stripping line over the post wear away the line’s slick exterior, but it can also do structural damage throughout the entire cross section of the line. Not good.
This is frequently done while stripping out long lengths of the line before the first cast of the day. The rod is typically held vertically as the line gets pulled off the reel straight down, scraping the line across the reel post.
To avoid making this error, strip the line off the reel in the same way you would while fishing and mending line — keep the rod horizontal, tip down, and pull line off the reel down and to the side. With the rod in this position, the line avoids the reel post.
Treat Your Fly Line Well and it Will Return the Favor
It’s true that a fly line don’t last forever. And it’s also true that with all the improvements to fly line technology, they’re only getting more expensive. So why not stretch out its lifespan as much as you can?
Use the fly line maintenance tips we shared today to keep your line in top shape. Your line will return the favor with better floating and better shooting to help you catch more fish.