Fly lines get dirty through regular use, they pick up gunk and algae in the surface film of the water, lines stripped into the bilge of a boat get filthy quickly and if you’ve been doing any casting practice out on the lawn your line definitely needs a clean. Dirty fly lines don’t float well, they don’t cast or shoot well and they will increase wear on rod guides. Cleaning a fly line is pretty simple. You’ll want some mild soap flakes, or soap (not detergent) a bucket or sink to wash the line in and a micro fibre towel for the final clean and dry.
Now notice I said soap flakes or soap and not detergent: old style LUX soap flakes are perfect. A squirt of liquid hand soap will do the trick too. Detergents are harsh cleansers and will strip out the plasticisers from your fly line.
Strip your fly line into a bucket of warm soapy water, just a small amount of soap or soap flakes will suffice, just enough to soften the water. Carefully strip the line into the water (at home I use the kitchen sink it's perfect). Carefully strip the line into the water being careful not to get tangled, let the line soak in warm water for 5 to 10 minutes. Give things a bit of a gentle swish around to help loosen the dirt and gunk. - don’t get the line tangled….
Ideally for the next step you're going to need an offsider. Get your helper to run the fly line through the dry microfibre cloth while you wind back up onto the reel, you'll be amazed at how much dirt comes off a seemingly clean fly line.
If it's a floating fly line you've just cleaned, now is the perfect time to apply line dressing if you've got some handy.
Even sealed drag “maintenance free” fly reels need maintenance. And if you're in the old school cork drag fraternity you definitely have some work to do. Maintenance on cork drag reels will be brand and model specific but now is the time to open things up and clean pawls and dogs and lubricate where required.
All reels should get a good clean with a toothbrush and warm soapy water, particularly if they have been used in the salt. Check shafts and bearing housings for corrosion and dirt and lubricate were required as per manufacturers recommendations.
Clean out dirt and grit from all guides using a Q-Tip and warm soapy water. Clean and dry ferrules.
The blank can be wiped down with warm soapy water and then finished with a little silicone based line cleaner or furniture cleaner.
Cork grips can be cleaned with warm soapy water or if you are careful, denatured alcohol or a little isopropyl alcohol on a soft cloth, if going for the alcohol option use it sparingly and be careful. If you like the patina and natural oils and gunk on your cork grip - just leave it as is, all that crap is doing a great job of sealing and waterproofing the cork.
A great use of time is to learn and practice a new knot to two. There are likely a couple of knots that you would like to learn all be more proficient at tying. If you can’t think of any I suggest giving the ‘guides Bimini’ a crack, and most definitely learn the Pitzen knot
The perennial favourite. You've likely got this down to a fine art and have your own trusted classification and organization system. While you’re mucking around with fly boxes drinking beer, keep an eye out for blunt and rusty hooks, broken or pinched seals on waterproof fly boxes, splits and cracks in lids etc. A good exercise and one that I try (and fail) every year is to rationalise. Try to reduce the amount of flies you carry, loose all that crap in your vest or bag that you’ve not used for a season or so. Generally I reckon carrying fewer flies makes you think more, become more proficient wit the good patterns you have - and just is importantly, getting rid of all the superfluous crap certainly helps lighten the load.
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Fly Fishing Emergers. A semi-sunk fly projects more visible stimulus than a high and dry pattern, so it makes a lot of sense to use a design that penetrates the surface film as a ‘searching pattern’, rather than the high-riding flies usually recommended for this job like the Royal Wulff, Humpy or Elk Hair Caddis. For me, the old dry hackle jobs have been moved well down the bench, even for fast broken water.
Which weighs more, a floating fly line or a sinking line? It may surprise you to know that they both weigh the same - at 30 feet anyway. Or at least they should.
For example, under the AFFTA system for rating fly lines a 5 weight fly line is a 5wt regardless of whether it is a floater, a sinking fly line or an intermediate.