Tackle maintenance

I JUST love my fishing! And, for me, that means my game season spans the full 12 months. Winter sport can be superb, with fighting-fit fish just waiting to be caught.

But there are anglers who regard the period from New Year to March as a time to tie new flies and prepare for the coming season. We’re all individuals and I appreciate that a short break from fishing can help focus the mind.

If you want to take such a break, make good use of it. It’s the time to check and store away your fishing tackle so you have peace of mind that everything is in order for the new season.

Don’t be tempted just to store your kit away securely after your last outing - follow my advice and it will be in tiptop condition for your next outing.


ALTHOUGH I don’t religiously clean my rods, a quick wipe down with a damp cloth doesn’t hurt. Pay particular attention to the butt ring, tip ring, and intermediate rings. Be sure to clean these areas thoroughly to remove any dirt or residue that has built up during the season.

Not only will you get prolonged life from your expensive fly rod, keeping these rings clean can often add a yard to your cast.

And, where the river fisher is concerned, line mending is made all the easier with a clean line and clean rod guides. Over the years, I’ve found that an old toothbrush, combined with a little warm water is the ideal combination.


Don’t forget to check the reel fitting for grit or other foreign bodies. Give the reel fitting a quick scrub with the toothbrush and just smear a little Vaseline or reel lube on the threaded section. This will help everything fit together that little bit smoother and you’ll lose that annoying ‘squeaking’ noise next time you attach the reel.

Be sure to let the rod dry properly before packing it away. Excess moisture trapped in an airtight rod tube will almost certainly ruin your pride and joy as mould sets in.


REELS have a habit of accumulating an alarming amount of dirt, grit and algae around the cage and spool that can eventually find its way into mechanical components. Strip off the fly line and backing before soaking in warm water and giving it the once-over with that old toothbrush.

Then let the whole lot dry completely before loading on the backing again. It’s important to remove the backing, so that you can check any turns that might have bedded down too tightly and become trapped or twisted.

Once the reel is thoroughly dry, apply reel lube/oil to the centre spindle and other working parts. Be careful not to be too liberal with this as excess lubricant can attract an amazing amount of grit. And you certainly don’t want oil droplets to be thrown off the spool when you’re in the process of quickly stripping line from the reel to cover a fish.



FLY lines should be checked for wear or cracking and, where necessary, replaced immediately. It is false economy to continue using a worn line, as this could ultimately damage the rod rings, which in turn will then need replacing. If the fly line is still satisfactory, soak it in lukewarm water with a drop or two of washing-up liquid.

After 30 minutes or so, run the line a couple of times through a dry cloth to remove any dirt. Then replenish the line with a line dressing/plasticiser.

If you have room, store the line in loose, open coils in a dark corner. If not, load it on to the reel as loosely as the reel capacity will allow. Apparently, storing tackle in black bags reduces UV light penetration and prevents deterioration. For this reason, I store all my fly lines, leaders and tippet material in household bin liners.



Do not place a wet rod into its cloth bag or tube and then forget about it, you are just asking for trouble. Always try to give it a wipe down to remove any dirt or moisture before putting it away. Every now and then give it a more thorough clean, cleaning in and around the rod rings and the threads on reel seats. The up-locking rings on the reel seat can often benefit from an application of WD40, but again just a drop applied with a cloth. Clean the cork handle with a soft cloth and occasionally use a sheet of fine grade emery paper to smooth it down. If you have started to get any pitting on the cork where filling has fallen out you need to think about filling them. Use a mixture of cork filings or dust mixed with wood glue. Or you can buy a cork paste filler.


Check the rings for any grooving or wear which could damage the fly line. The most vulnerable ring is often the tip ring, especially on hayfork tips. Lined rings tend to fare a lot better. Replace any rings, where necessary. Reseal whippings around the rings with a coat of varnish.


Like rods, don’t store reels wet. When you get home take it out of the bag and let it dry out thoroughly before putting away again. Always remove the leader before winding the line onto the spool. You’re not going to use the leader again and if wound on top of the fly line it could cut into the line and ruin it.

Occasionally take your reel apart, separating the reel cage from the spool. Clean the cage and spool with a soft cloth or cotton wool bud dampened with warm water and washing-up liquid. This will remove any dirt or grime. A soft toothbrush can be used on more stubborn marks or difficult-to-reach areas.


Remove any excess moisture with a dry cloth and then set aside, preferably overnight, to dry completely. Spray a small amount of WD40 onto a clean cloth or cotton wool bud and apply to all surfaces of the reel. Do not spray directly on the cage or spool, especially if it has a disc-drag system as you could ruin it. Apply a drop of oil lubricant to the spindle and work it around with your fingers. Then fit the spool and cage back together.

Don’t start stripping disc-drags down, especially more expensive sealed units. For a start your warranty will go straight out the window, and you could damage any delicate parts within the drag.



To clean your line, remove it from the reel and place in a bowl of warm water with a few drops of washing-up liquid. Then run it through a clean cloth two or three times to dry and remove any residue. When it is totally dry, dress the line with a proprietary line dressing, but don’t overdo it. This will help the line shoot better and in the case of a floating line will help it sit higher in the water.

Sinking lines can be treated with a silicone de-greasant to remove any oily deposits or grease, which have built up on the line’s surface over the season. This de-greasant will ensure it sinks correctly the next time you use it.

Take your line off the reel and wind onto a line winder. This stores the line in larger loops so memory and coiling should not be as much of a problem come the new season. Secure with a couple of pipe cleaners to hold the line together.


Check backing for fraying or nicks that could weaken it. Or it could just be degrading – it doesn’t last forever! Also check the knot to the spool is secure and then, on the other end, check the connection to the fly line.

Backing to fly line connections:


1. Tucked half-blood or grinner to braided leader loop

2. Fly line pushed inside braided backing and whipped into place, especially good for high density sinking lines which are very thin.

Welded and braided loops

Check the connection between your fly line and leader. Make sure on a welded loop that the leader has not cut into the skin of the factory-made welded loop. If it’s a floating line the water could get in, turning your floater into a sinker!


With braided loops, inspect the join, whether it is a plastic collar or whipped on, to make sure it’s neat. Also check that the loop itself is still formed and there are no tiny spikes of nylon sticking out. An over-application of Superglue on this join can become very brittle, again causing the line to crack. If you are using Superglue, use a very small amount or, alternatively, use a flexible wader cement like Aquasure.

Landing net

If your net has any thread components – a screw-in handle or net head for example – then make sure they are well lubricated with a treatment like WD40, which not only cleans but also repels water. If any corrosion has built up on the metal use a soft wire brush to clean out the threads before applying some lubricant. Flip down joins and telescopic handles can also be given the same treatment.

Check the net mesh for wear and if it looks like it is deteriorating, fit a new one.

Fly box


Look through your fly boxes for signs of rust or damage on the hooks. A tell-tale sign is a rusty spot left in the white ethafoam when you remove the fly. If in doubt, throw it out.