Cleaning fly lines is a must if you want to ensure your fly line lasts as long as possible. You should consider it as a maintenance task instead of just a rinse down, and by doing it often enough, you’ll not only prevent your line from having brittle cracks in the coating, you’ll also maintain its performance and protect your rod’s guides too.
You can also check out our full breakdown of the Best Fly Line if you’re wondering what’s the best fly line in the market today.
Why clean a fly line?
Quality fly lines can be very expensive, up to $200, and since fly fishing is expensive enough already, it’s prudent to ensure they last as long as possible.
When you use your fly line it gets dirty. Each cast has it picking up a bit of dirt, oil film, grime, and salt. This not only increases the friction on the fly line impeding your casting distance but also reduces the ability of a floating line to float, as the dirt and grime are weighing it down.
This dirty coating also causes the coating to crack a degrade, can cause your line to coil, and it becomes a grinding paste that will slowly wear away the guides on your rod.
If you clean your line and add some fly line dressing to it regularly, you’re going to notice a world of difference in its long-lasting performance, increase its life span, save some cash, and protect your guides too.
How often should you be cleaning a fly line?
Some people only clean their fly line once a season and this is pretty much the bare minimum and not often enough to care for it properly. How often you should clean a fly line depends on the water you fish in, but there is never a need to do it every trip, so don’t worry it won’t take up too much of your time.
If you have been fishing on a green algae-covered lake for bass, the algae film will stick to your fly line and build up quickly and needs to be cleaned off every 3-4 trips. If you’re in a cold freshwater river targeting trout you should be cleaning your fly line every 7-10 trips.
When fishing in saltwater, it’s best to do it once a week, regardless of how many days you have been out as the sun and salt will bake in.
Do you need to lubricate a fly line to care for it?
Modern fly lines are lubricated internally. You might notice terms like added slickness when you shop for a fly line, and this refers to the internal lubrication that seeps out of the fly line slowly as you use it, meaning there is no need to add any more to it.
Is fly line dressing necessary?
Yes, especially with floating lines as the dressing adds extra slickness and repels water so the line will float better. The dressing should be made from 100% silicone without any nasty chemicals that will affect your line and a great one to use is the Scientific Anglers dressing.
- Contains advanced...
- Easy to apply streamside
- Use line immediately...
- Improves floatability for...
- Contains advanced...
How do you know when a fly line is in need of a good clean?
There are some obvious signs that will show if a fly line is being cared for or not. If it has any of the issues below, the fly line needs some love.
- You can feel any micro-grit when your strip the line in
- There is cracking or a stiff feel to the fly line
- The line coils with a lot of memory
- The line doesn’t float well anymore
What can I use to clean my fly line?
The gear you need to clean your fly line is simple and you won’t need to search hard for it, as you’ll probably have it lying around the house. Here is a list of what you need to search for before starting the cleaning process. The key is to avoid any nasty chemicals that can damage a fly line and be gentle with it.
- A bucket, two is best
- Mild-dish soap or hand soap
- A cloth
- A cleaning pad
- Fly line dressing
How to clean and dress your fly line
Follow the directions in the process below for proper care and maintenance of and clean your line.
Step 1 -Soaking
- Fill a bucket with warm water (not hot) and add a little bit of mild dish soap to it. Just enough to create some bubbles will get the job done. Tip: Too much soap will leave residue on the fly line and cause it to sink.
- Now slowly strip the length of the fly line off your reel and into the bucket of warm water, letting it coil naturally and loosely so it doesn’t get tangled.
- Let the fly line soak in the water for 20 minutes or so the dirty layer falls off it.
Step 2 – Cleaning
- Now the line has had a good soak, it’s time to make sure the dirty layer has come off.
- Take a damp soft cloth and slowly strip the line through the cloth as you go. Put some pressure on with cloth so the line almost squeaks to ensure you remove all the dirt.
- While doing this, a handy tip is to pull the line tight between each hand to remove any memory left in it.
- Once the line has been through the soft cloth, all the dirt will be gone, and it’s time to drop it into a bucket of tap water so it can be rinsed of any soap residue left on it.
- After 5 minutes, run the line through a dry cloth and let it neatly sit on a clean floor to dry for 5-10 minutes.
Step 3 – Dressing
- Check the instructions published on the line dressing and follow them to know how much dressing to use.
- Next, tie the end of your line back on to your reel
- Take a fresh cloth or the cleaning pad provided with the dressing, and apply the dressing to it
- Now, slowly wind your line on to the reel ensuring the lines run through the cloth/pad
- Once all the line is back on the reel, the job is done.
How do you store fly lines?
If you’re not intending to use your fly lines for a while, it’s best to store them off the reel which might be news to a lot of anglers. This involves loosely wrapping them around the spool that came in their box or coiling them loosely around a bottle or manually. Once stored neatly, keep them in a dry cupboard away from light.
How often should anglers replace their fly lines?
Fly lines are designed to last around 250 fishing days on average. If you’re a fishing guide or are retired and all you do is hit the river every day, then the line you’re using will last about a season or two. If you go fly fishing 10 days a year, your lines could last you up to a decade, with proper maintenance.
This is a good pattern to follow but it only comes into play as long the lines aren’t damaged and are looked after properly.
When it comes to saltwater fly fishing, lines are exposed to the sun, hit abrasive objects like coral, and salt is no fishing gear’s friend either. This means that lines in saltwater are not going to last the prescribed 250 days mentioned above, no matter how durable they are.
I’d highly recommend changing your line every season or before if it’s damaged, when fishing in saltwater.
Throwing away your fly lines responsibly
Fly lines do not degrade naturally which is unfortunate and with all the trash in our oceans and rivers, it’s best to use as few fly lines as possible by looking after them properly. But, inevitably you will have to throw some away and instead of dropping them in a bin, you should send them here, to Fly Vines.
This company recycles fly lines and makes them into clever products like lanyards, bracelets, coasters, and more.
Is it worth cleaning your fly lines?
As with all fly fishing equipment, looking after it is key, and when it comes to fly lines, even more so. Once you own a good rod and reel, they are likely to be with you for the rest of your life. Equipment like fly lines, flies, and leaders are the moving parts of the fly fishing gear world and they’re what connect you to the fish you’re catching.
Looking after them is of the utmost importance. A clean fly line protects your rod, helps you cast further and more accurately, ensures your lines float, and ensures they last as long as possible before they hit the bin.
Thanks for reading my article, I hope you enjoyed it and are now busy cleaning your fly line. It does make the world of difference and it takes just a few minutes too.