I had a request to research and do a post about fly line care - another great topic for discussion! Good quality fly line has now climbed over $75 per spool, so you better make sure you are taking care of the stuff! If you keep your fly line clean and conditioned it will last for many years, but if you mistreat it you'll be dipping into the wallet again faster than you hoped.
Different brands....same steps
I combed the internet for fly line cleaning tips and found that the steps used to condition fly line were pretty much the same regardless of the manufacturer. The concept is pretty simple, wash the line in warm soapy water (many recommend old fashioned Ivory dish soap), give it a wipe down, use a fly line cleaning cloth for a deep cleaning, condition with a fly line conditioner then burnish again with the micro-abrasive cleaning cloth.
Rio Products has two videos that clearly shows the process and products needed to successfully rejuvenate your tired and dirty fly line. I like Rio's Wonder Cloth (and AgentX dressing) because the cloth is machine washable/reusable.
Stage 1 - Remove dirt and grime (after every few outings)
Stage 2 - Micro-abrasive cleaning cloth (after 5-6 outings)
Stage 3 - Applying a new finish (after 8-10 outings)
De-plasticizing....say no to crack
Our fly vests often times hold chemicals that can really damage the coating on our fly lines. These chemicals de-plasticize fly line causing premature cracking. Here are a list of things to avoid when handling fly line.
- Sun Screen
- Insect Repellent with DEET
- Heat (leave it out of the truck or on the dashboard)
- No more automotive cleaners!
Streeeetch! No way!
For years I have read articles about the benefits of stretching fly line to get rid of coils (line memory). There seems to be two crowds out there when it comes to stretching fly line. One group swears by the stretch, won't leave the house until the line has been tugged and yanked into submission. Others deal with the coil on the water by laying out line hoping the line lays flat EVENTUALLY.
Well.....I am in the stretch-free crowd, especially after doing this post. Many of the manufacturers urge people not to stretch fly line because it actually can reduce the lifespan! How can this happen you ask? Once fly line is stretched and reeled back up on the spool the coating on the line wants to return to it's normal state. The line will constrict, forming an extra tight coil on the reel. Next time you go out the coil could actually be worse. All of this stretching stresses the fly line coating!
Here is what Airflo has to say about stretching fly line:
"There are a lot of people who think that stretching the line at home will help - this is a popular misconception and this will actually make the line worse as it will contract whilst on the reel and create even worse memory!!"
Instead of stretching, clean and condition your lines. Often times a good cleaning will keep your line supple and free of coils.
Don't forget the backing!
I'm not sure about you, but I rarely think about the backing on my reels. The truth is the stuff rots pretty easily especially if it is packed away when it is wet. Here is a story I found online that shows how important it is to check your backing every once in a while....
"As I was stripping in the ol' bobber for another grandiose lob cast (and thus making small popper-esque splashes) I saw a v-wake form behind my trailing flies and a fish made a great splashing lunge at the surface. Being rather dumbfounded I did the right thing-- nothing. The fish grabbed turned and then hooked itself firmly in the jaw as it made a blistering run that ran me all the way to my backing. Then as I watched my whirring reel change colors from fly-line green to backing orange the rod bucked and I heard a strange tearing/popping sound.
The entire fly line, brand new fluorocarbon leader, and two fresh flies-- gone. I'm truly embarrassed to even be telling this story. Shocked, I watched for a few seconds as the fish jumped several times, fighting the resistance of the 100ft of line trailing behind it. I felt sick. Not sick that I had lost a few dollars in equipment, but sick that I had just left a tangled pile of brightly colored, non-biodegradable, plastic crap at the bottom of the river with a fish attached. I searched in vain hoping to find the line, hoping to free the fish, hoping to correct the mistake I just made--"Bummer huh? I have never had this happen to me personally, but you'd be surprised how often it happens (look online and you'll find many horror stories). Keep an eye on the condition of your backing and the knot used to join your fly line. You'll be glad you did!
I hope these steps keep your fly line investment floating high and coil free. Use products and materials made for specifically for fly line and follow the steps outlined in the RIO videos and you'll be in great shape.
Next we will be looking into fly rod and reel care...winter is long, so we might as well get our gear ready for spring!