Fly Lines- Cleaning and Maintenance

by Tim Flagler via Rio

” Hmm, feels nice, is it a new line ? “
” sort of, its about three years old… “

a direct quote from a course i gave last week and one that seems to repeat itself very regularly.

constantly amazed at how few fly anglers actually clean and treat they’re lines, hopefully a little encouragement followed by two detailed and well explained how-to videos will help reverse this habit and here’s why you should.

let’s start with the bad:
– casting with dirty lines just simply sucks. they make scratchy sounds as they go through rod guides. those scratchy sounds we hear are friction.
friction hinders sliding through the guides and increases friction when the line slides against the blank in-between the guides. this friction makes for jerky over-powered casting instead of the silky smooth casting which should always be our goal.
all this friction gets compounded when hauling and if the lines are sticky enough, it makes the return on a haul next to impossible and this means we introduced slack in the system when we where trying to get rid of it.
as you’ll have also guessed, all this friction greatly hinders line shooting and all this grit and gunk wears down rod guides and of course the lines themselves at remarkable rates.
see ? i told you it sucks. big time.

– dirty floating lines don’t float well, sit lower on the water surface or can actually sink, specially towards the thinner tip. this really sucks too.
the gunk that accumulated on the line prevents the surface tension thing from happening and it slowly goes under.
in the case of nymphing where we watch the line tip we don’t see it anymore and when fishing a floating fly, when we get a strike the extra ‘stick’ caused by the line tip and leader butt being underwater really helps in missed hookups because of instead of the line being instantly pulled up in a straight line from fly to rod tip, the rod end of the fly line goes upwards towards the rod and there’s a level, more or less horizontal portion (the stick) and then another downward angle between line stick and the turning fish.

multiple suck ! not only we had a harder time presenting the fly properly but also put the odds against us when its time to hook up, all ending in the inevitable dork/angst expression typically seen on anglers when this situation occurs !

ok, now for the good:
clean and treated fly lines cast wonderfully. in fact they cast better than straight-out-of-the-box lines because they aren’t treated at the factory…
take all of the negatives written above and reverse them. it’s as simple as that.
a line that’s in good shape, clean and treated flatters your casting and allows the angler to focus on the main goal: having fun, not being frustrated, fly presentation and good clean hook ups.

Tim’s videos are as always great. note all the detailed explanations and you can’t go wrong.
tip- if you have a double kitchen sink, then its even better and easier than buckets !
there’ll be a few more tips at the bottom of the post but for now here’s the vids. enjoy !

– house-hold use micro-fibre cloths work better than those little pads regardless who makes them. i always have this one on my chest pack and among a bunch of it’s other possible uses, when i’m finished fishing i retrieve all the line that’s been used through the cloth and this removes any gunk before it has time to dry on the line. it takes like five extra seconds to do this and delays trips to the sink/buckets maybe tenfold.
line rag– the hardest part is finding the right recipient but when you do, a little pad soaked in line dressing stuffed away in the chest-pack gets a gunky or slowly-sinking line tip and leader butt back in shape in a minute when on the water.
cast out, pinch the line with the pad and just reel in the line. done.
line treatment swab– and lastly, Scientific Angler’s line treatment gel is the best i’ve found and used so far regardless of fly line brand its applied to. it stays on longer and doesn’t need to be dried or wiped down again before using the line again. i’m sure Rio will forgive me…

15 thoughts on “Fly Lines- Cleaning and Maintenance

  1. Hm, i found it to be the opposite about SA line treatment Marc, but it was some 7-8 seasons ago , so it may be improved now

  2. It is amazing the difference between a clean and lubed line and a dry dirty one. Agent X is pretty good shizz. I like it.  

    • that’s interesting Grunde. i’ve only tried it one time (a friend lent me his) and didn’t really feel any difference but it has to be at least twice as good as all the others since it costs three times their price ! 😆

  3. To be honest Marc, I like it because it works. It must be something to do with the vaccum it creates around the line as it cuts through the air and helps delay turnover until the fish is ready to feed again placing your fly in the kill zone 110% of the time. other than that it makes the line really slick.

  4. Mark,

    The people who made the first video are in error when recommending the use of dish detergent. Detergents actually have a detrimental affect on the line in that they tend to leach out the plasticizers of the PVC lines, thus shortening their life span. The proper cleaner is any soap product. Soap is chemically different than detergent and does not affect the plasticizers. Source: Bruce Richards. I mentioned this to a shop owner in No Calif Rio dealer who confirmed this with one of the Rio Engineers and corrected their online instructions.

    • completely agree Guy, detergents are too harsh. a good non-scientific way to figure this out is if the product dries out the hands it’ll probably do the same to the line (and it does) 😉
      he does also mention hand soap and tbh, i thought his use of ‘detergent’ came more from colloquialism over exactitude of word choice and also because guys don’t tend to know too much about the technicalities of washing dishes and other house cleaning issues 😆

      another great alternative cleaning product is clothing hand-wash soap either in gel or flakes. i’ve been using this for a looooong time and my lines look, feel, perform great and last very long in time, even practice lines that are used exclusively on grass.
      thanks for stopping by,

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