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Timeless Tips: Caring for Fly Lines

Posted on July 10 2018

Stripping Fly Line Across Reel Post
Stripping line across reel post, don’t do it! Photo: Kyle Shea.

Contrary to popular belief, the fly line is arguably the most essential part of any fly rod setup. One can spend top dollar for the most elite rod and reel on the market, but their performance rests largely on the quality of the fly line it is paired with. We go to extreme lengths to protect our fancied rods and reels, but it often stops there. However, with just a little love you can keep your fly line performing like new, not to mention increasing the life span of a line you paid nearly triple digits for! A well kept fly line will shoot farther, float better, and tangle less for seasons to come. Here are a few tips to increase both the performance and lifespan of your fly line.

  • Cleaning and Conditioning Your Line. A fly line can pick up a surprising amount of dirt and grime and should be cleaned regularly. Modern fly lines are often slightly porous and are impregnated with a form of lubricant. It is through these pours that the lubricant is able to be released, allowing the line to remain ‘slick.’ However, dirt and grime can get stuck in these pours, greatly impeding the line’s ‘shoot-ability’ as well as its flotation. Therefore, it is important to clean your fly line periodically with warm water and a mild soap (most fly line companies recommend hand soap), and condition it with a proper fly line dressing. In fact, here’s a great post on cleaning your fly line from start to finish.
  • Don’t Strip Line Out Across the Post of Your Reel. When fishing from a boat, or any time where you strip a substantial amount of line off of the reel before fishing, take care at how you strip off line. Most of us tend to strip line straight down towards the ground when pulling it off of the reel. This causes the fly line to scrape against the post of the reel on each pull. Instead, pull your line off of your reel in the direction of your rod. According to a good friend of ours who has owned a fly shop for over 20 years, this simple change can nearly double the life of your fly line!
  • Avoid Prolonged Sun-Exposure. U.V. Rays can readily break down the polymers used in most modern day fly lines. Therefore, it is important to avoid prolonged exposure to the sun. We’re obviously not talking about during the fishing day here, but take care not to store a fly line on the dash or rigged up on a rod rack for extended amounts of time.
  • Avoid Sunscreen. This is not an excuse to forget the sunscreen. Sunscreen is important when out on the water, so put it on! However, take care after applying sunscreen not to get any on your fly line. Over time, sunscreen can cause your fly line to break down, greatly reducing its lifespan.
  • Avoid DEET. Most of us are well aware of the corrosive properties of inspect repellent that include deet. Just like it will take the paint off of a car, deet can potentially strip your fly line down to the core. Make sure your hands are clean of deet before handling your fly line.
  • Stretch Your Line. Before a day of fishing, stretching your fly line can greatly increase its performance. All lines have some degree of memory when stored on a reel for extended amounts of time. Stretching the line is the quickest way to remove this memory, leaving you with a much more manageable fly line. However, some fly line manufacturers recommend advise against stretching a fly line before storing. This is based on the idea that once wound tightly on a spool for storage, the line will contract over time, causing the line to become even tighter, potentially damaging the fly line.
  • Store in wide loops. If packing up the gear for the off-season (if there is such a thing!), it is important to make sure the fly line is stored in reasonably large coils to minimize memory in the line. It is not always necessary to remove it from the reel however, as on some large arbor reels, the spool of the reel is plenty large enough. Although if using a small reel, or a reel with a small to medium arbor, consider storing it in wider loops for the off-season to reduce memory.

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