Taking Care of Your Equipment
Paul Prentiss

I have a predilection to keep my fishing tackle in tip-top shape. I'm a bit extreme when it comes to this - it's the first thing I do when returning from a trip or at the conclusion of a day's fishing. For me it means wiping down the rods and reels, cleaning the lines, and putting everything back in its proper place. Why bother? In my case I have three reasons. First, I love the equipment that I have acquired and want it to look good. Second, I want to start my next trip with everything in proper order and I don't want to waste fishing time dealing with equipment problems. Last, all your tackle will last far longer with a little TLC.

I'm always amazed at how some fisherman give no thought whatsoever to their gear. Some years back I remember seeing a group of fishermen in a pickup truck headed for the 3-mile takeout on the Bighorn. Their rods were sticking out the window as they zoomed along the highway. Later that same day I recognized one of them on the bank watching his friends fish. As I floated by I asked why he wasn't fishing. He yelled back "my rod broke. I can't understand it, I just bought it a few weeks ago."


  1. If you always keep your rod in its aluminum tube and cloth sack when you're not fishing, you will eliminate 95 percent of rod breakage problems. When you're transporting it from point A to point B in a vehicle, break it down or place it in a rod rack or position it securely inside the car. When I'm in a boat, the rods I'm not using stay in a case.
  2. When you carefully clean a rod after fishing you'll notice any wear on the guides, and small fractures caused by split shot, weighted flies, etc. These are potential break points - get a new tip because failure is just a matter of time.
  3. A rod that is left set up at the end of the day rather than taken apart and put away may not only be a prime target for an accident but may also be very difficult to take apart when you do want to put it away.
  4. Never put a fly rod away when it's still wet. Lay the rod, cloth sack, and tube (with the cap left off) somewhere warm and dry. Moisture can and will mildew the grip and oxidize the metal components. Fly rods should be stored in a cool, dry place, standing upright in a corner.
  5. You can check your guides for rough edges by running a piece of nylon stocking through each one. If it catches, it's time to replace that guide. You can do the job yourself, or send the rod off for repair. Front Range Anglers will be happy to assist.
  6. Make sure that your screw-lock reel seats are clean; a single grain of sand can bind the threads.
  7. Any winding that starts to unwind should be sent away for repair or cut off with a razor blade and replaced. Small cracks may diminish the appearance but are not serious problems. Sometimes they can be fixed with a little dab of spar varnish.
  8. Ferrules on all high-quality rods are hand-fitted to each other at the factory. This is why if you break a tip section on your rod, the manufacturer asks you to send both the butt and the tip back. Ferrules should be cleaned and lubricated. Polish the surface of the male ferrule with a soft cloth. Check the fit. If tight, they'll need lubrication, but never use grease or oil. Greasy substances cause suction in the ferrule and also attract dirt particles. Fiberglass, boron/graphite, and graphite self-ferrules should be lubricated with paraffin, metal ferrules with dry soap.


  1. I completely clean and lubricate every fly reel used in fresh water once a year at the beginning of the season (March in my case). I periodically check the reel and reapply lubrication once a month. Clean your reels in dishwashing detergent and warm water, never with any kind of solvent.
  2. Relubricate reels by applying a light grease to all moving parts, especially the arbor that holds the spool. Heavy grease will gum up the works and may cause your spool to seize up.
  3. Reels that are used in saltwater should be washed with soap and warm water and then rinsed several times with fresh water. Take all the line and backing off your reel and rinse them as well. Then apply a light coat of oil to all parts of the reel, including the inside of the spool, except the cork or Teflon pads on disk-drag models. Relubricate all moving metal parts with light-weight grease.
  4. I'll generally replace the backing every 2 to 4 years.


  1. Nothing will destroy the guides on a fly rod faster than dirty lines. I've heard it said that someone who fishes hard and whose fly line is dirty will go through a set of guides in three years. I keep my line clean and I've never gone through a set of guides.
  2. You don't need to take your line off a reel when not in use but just make sure they are not exposed to direct sunlight.
  3. The biggest enemy of fly lines is fly sprays and the chemicals in insect repellents which break down the plastic finish. Keep this stuff away from your lines. At close to $60 per line it's worth the effort.
  4. Get yourself one of the many line cleaning products and get in the habit of using it when you have been fishing hard. Alternatively, you can use soap and warm water. Most of the time after a day's fishing I'll run my line through a warm wet cloth - it only takes a minute or two. Keep in mind that a dirty floating line will not float properly; a dirty line of any type will not shoot as smoothly. All lines can be washed in a sink with soap and warm water, then run through a towel.
  5. Never cast a line on asphalt or cement. It will be ruined in short order.
  6. No matter how much care you give a line you'll eventually notice cracks in the finish, meaning it's time for a new one. How long will it last? If you fish frequently and use the line heavily you'll be doing well getting one season out of it. I'd guess that on average I get 4 years out of lines used occasionally, 2 years out of lines used sparingly, and one season out of those used on a regularl basis. If I didn't take care of these lines I'm pretty sure their useful life would be cut in half.