Story last updated at 12/30/2009 - 12:13 pm
December is a quiet and somber month for the Alaska sport fisher. Most of our Southeast watersheds are encased in ice, and it will be months before salmon fry dimple our estuaries. This is a time when most fly fishers begin to organize their gear and prepare it for storage. Rods get thoroughly inspected and dried and returned to their proper socks and rod tubes. Waders get patched if needed and stored in closets. Flies get cleaned, some get old tippets removed then they are neatly placed in their appropriate boxes. But one item that is often overlooked during this end of the year storage period are fly lines, in spite of the fact that fly lines are one of the most significant pieces of tackle we own and use. Here are two "end-of-the-season" fly line maintenance tips that will help ensure you multiple years of quality performance with your fly lines.
Tip 1: Clean your fly lines
Cleaning your fly lines before you store them away for the season --whether or not they will be left on fly reels until the spring or placed on the shelf in loose coils for storage--is probably the most important maintenance practice you can do to ensure multiple seasons of quality performance with your fly lines. The method you choose to clean your lines, however, will depend on the how your line has been constructed. Because line manufacturers coat and treat their lines differently as they construct them-some for example infuse the core with chemical compounds while others in contrast treat the line coating itself-it's important to know which process was used for your line before you attempt to clean your fly line. For those fly lines that have been infused, mildly abrasive cleaning pads tend to work well. However, abrasive pads may actually damage lines that were constructed with top coated polymers. If in doubt, clean your fly lines in a sponge bath using a mild dish soap, like Ivory, and warm water. This will keep your floating lines buoyant while also maintaining their slippery coating for enhanced casting.
Tip 2: Dress your fly lines (when applicable).
Most fly lines benefit from a slight silicone dressing, while other lines-once again, based on their construction-do not as they become clogged. Silicone treatments tend to gather dirt and grit on these lines and will make cleaning needs more frequent. As a general rule of thumb, most low-end lines should be treated with silicone, whereas high performance lines should just be cleaned (as described above). With all lines regardless of construction, any protectants such as Armor-All should be avoided. Such protectants tend to draw plasticizers out of the line that tends to make them prone to cracking.
By following the two basic maintenance tips outlined above, you can be confident that your fly lines will provide you with multiple years of trouble-free performance. Fly lines are delicate and highly specialized, yet they are the one piece of our tackle most commonly overlooked when it comes to general maintenance. Proper fly line maintenance and care will ensure you minimal downtime come spring runoff when dollys and cuttys will once again school in our estuaries, signaling the commencing of yet another angling season in Southeast Alaska.
Rich Culver can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.