Just some thoughts on equipment care…
With spring approaching – the season will soon be here before we know it, writing a bit about equipment maintenance was perhaps appropriate. I normally go through equipment care in the days of winter when snow hits the window of my studio and it’s a good time for such pursuits as tying flies and sorting out equipment. Those Chinook days are too important on the water when the midges hatch.
While on the water last summer I sat and watched a fellow fly fisher hook a nice brown. He played the fish to about a rod’s length of the shore. The brown (a nice fish) turned and parted his leader like spiders web. The disappointment on the man’s face was more than evident. He walked up the bank and sat beside me. We chatted a while and I asked to see his leader. I took it in my hands and asked what weight it was. He showed me the 3X spool. I took the leader in my hands and I popped it apart many times without effort. He told me it was about 5 years old and I found out it was exposed to the sun on the back window of his car. A lesson learned. Leaders need changing; they do age, watch for of fuzzy bits and kinks. Run it through your fingers, it should not feel rough. If you want to be sure run it through some cotton ball material. The cotton will stick to rough patches. Cut or discard. UV light is deadly on leader material. When not in use stor in a dark container for longer life.
Check out those vests, empty them of the precious cargo that we all carry but seldom need. Look for holes and frays that may loose you that thermometer etc. Perhaps it’s time to consign it to the wash if it has become too “seasoned”. An old timer who I fished with swore against the yearly wash not wanting to rinse out the luck. Mind you he could have used a yearly good luck wash himself. Do you need everything in there? Is it time for a new vest or is a fishing bag or is a waist pack in your future.
Inspect those waders; look at the seams for any tell tail signs of trouble. I give these a good rinse after every adventure on the water to rid them of grease and mud and extend their life. A once a year wash with soap and water or baking soda removes smells. A wader bag is a good Idea for traveling protection.
Wading boots can also use some care. Scrub the bottoms to restore the felt, or sole, it may be a good time to add some cleats or screws for added traction. How are the laces, do they need replacing? Another good thing is to give your boots and laces good hit of mink oil or other such preservative on the seams and leather (heavy on the seams). Sure adds to the life of a wading boot.
Reels need regular lubrication. It makes a big difference in performance. Be sure to use a good quality reel grease and oil. Follow your manufacturers advice on lubrication. Some companies, like ROSS have reels that are self lubed and adding oil can void a warranty. Clean the old grease and oil from your reel and reapply on a regular bi yearly basis. Grit and sand into moving parts can reduce the life of your reel. Also watch your reel line guard for wear which may damage line. A cheap reel may have sharp edges or projections that will damage line or have space between the reel body or arbor that will catch and pinch line. Don’t store your fly reel on the dash of a vehicle in the hot sun. Most insect repellents are MURDER on fly lines, they are equally destructive to rod finishes. Use the back of the hands to spread repellent to the neck and face. I rebuilt a rod for a client that had a couple of polymer guides melt from repellent.
Inspect your fly line. They’re not cheap. Care of your lines will extend their life. I normally clean about every couple of months, daily when I fish oily waters. Your line tends to pick up any surface oils on the water. Grit will then stick to the line and can damage the fly line and your guides. Fill a sink with warm water and a bit of mild dishwasher liquid. A double kitchen sink is great for this. Fill the second sink with warm water. Peel off about ten feet of line at a time and wash it in your hands with a soft cloth then run it through the rinse. Don’t do all the line at once, as it’s a recipe for tangles. Treating and cleaning a floating line will not only extend it’s life but also make it run through the guides faster for longer casts with more control. Regular cleaning gives line a new life. A cleaning and super light coat of Mucilin or some sort of floatent will give it a bit of protection. Another great product is Albolene, a cosmetic cream for dry skin. It has long been used as a fly floatant and line greaser. You should be able to find it at pharmacies. It does an excellent job of floating the line. I use it for fly floatant. Line dressings are not as popular as they where at one time. Great for floating a leader also.
I have several fly lines that are over 20 years old that still look and cast great I have also had several brands disintegrate after a couple of seasons. What to look for is cracking or fracturing on the line. Look also for wear or discoloration. The appearance of small radial cracks in the finish coating will offer the first visual clue that a fly line is reaching the end of its useful life. Water will then leach into the line and break it down severely. It depends what type of fishing you do. If you lake fish or tend to go to soft bank situations your line will last longer. Fishing rocky streams like the Bow River subjects your line to a lot of bangs and scrapes. Try to avoid stepping on your line.
The tip section of a dirty tapered line will begin sinking first – an indication that it should be cleaned. Keep your floating fly line clean, In normal use, even on clean water, dirt slime, grease will stick to the surface of line, adding weight that kill the natural buoyancy built into the line. Fishing some rivers I will clean line after every outing (Along with my rod and waders). The tip section of a tapered line will begin sinking first because it contains a thinner coating of the buoyant finishing material than does the larger diameter body.
Turning to your rod, check your guides for wear, are any loose? A good washing of the entire rod with soap and water and an application of furniture wax will make it look great and protect it. If your cork handle is starting to get grimy and slippery wish it with cleanser and a cloth or a pad for washing pots brings it back quick. Although sandpaper will give it a new cork finish, it will reduce the diameter of the handle. Check rod guides for wear (keep them clean also) and smooth sharp areas that will scuff or cut the surface of a fly line. If there is wear have the guides replaced or replace the rod. I have a 30 year old rod that I have replaced the guides on 3 times. Turning to those important flies. Perhaps it’s time to thin some down the flock and add other patterns. Remove all the flies from your boxes, it’s a great opportunity to reorganize. Clean those fly boxes with soap and water. Sharpen those hooks. An old trick to revitalize flies that have become matted and squashed is steaming. First you need a source of steam. A tea kettle will do. Hold the fly by the hook curve with long tweezers or needle nose pliers. Remember steam cooks things like skin so be careful. It’s amazing to see the fly suddenly return to its original shape under a bit of steam. It may take a bit of time but it’s worth the effort.
I remember a client that I had tied a number of nice looking salmon flies for when I lived in BC. He put them in a baggie and they had rested at the bottom of his luggage. When he brought them back from the fishing trip, they where badly squashed and looked nothing like their former glory. He sent them to me to fix and a quick steaming brought them back to about 95% quality. He was positive I had retied the lot, I could never convince him otherwise.
With the cost of equipment these days it’s worth the upkeep. Ah well, I’ve rattled on here but perhaps someone will find these tips of value.
See you on the water.
Cleaning your fly line
A good quality line can last many years if you take care of it. It is a good idea to clean fly line every 3 to 5 times you use it, especially if you have fished mossy, muddy or dirty water. Much of the dirt is picked up in the form of grease and oils floating on the water surface. You can tell if you fly line needs cleaning, if it feels gritty, starts loosing coil memory and when your floating line starts sinking as a whole or just the tip.
A dirty line that picks up grit can act like a saw and wear not only your guides but also reel parts and the line itself resulting in chipping and cracking.
Cleaning a line is easy; use some mild dish soap and some warm water in your sink. Strip you line in and allow it to soak for a few minutes. Strip it out of the sink through a clean soft cloth; I normally strip it into a cardboard box. If your line is really dirty you may have to do this several times. Once clean and dry you can add some line conditioner or and floatant (check you line manufacturer for the proper type). I use red tin muslin.