Keep your fly line working for you

A fly line is an investment. This simple fact is something a lot of anglers overlook. Often, this investment is among the last things anglers devote attention to. And that’s a mistake. 

We’ll rinse off our fly rods, reorganize our flies and make sure our waders and boots are good and clean— sometimes before and after a day on the water. 

But, too often, when we reel up after the last cast of the day, that’s the last time we think about our fly line. Can you think of anything else that you’ll spend upwards of $100 on and simply ignore? 

Tips on line maintenance

So, in order to protect your investment, you should spend a few minutes after every couple of days on the water performing some simple tasks that can keep your fly line working for you. Here are some ideas:

  • Keep your fly line clean. A simple rinse after a day on the water can go a long way. It’ll help remove dirt and grit, which can be abrasive, both to the line itself and to the guides of your favorite fly rod. Consider a more thorough line cleaning after every couple of outings. But, be careful what you clean your line with— some cleaning fluids have solvents that can be bad for a fly line’s coating. Instead, use a mild dish soap and water.



  • Let it dry. When not in use give the reel a couple of days for the line and backing to dry before putting it away.


  • Store your fly line out of the sun and at a consistent temperature. UV rays will wreak havoc on fly-line coating over time. And, of course, you’ll likely expose your fly line to plenty of sun over its lifespan. So, when you’re not fishing, store the line— even if you leave it on the reel—in a dark place where the sun can’t get to it. 


  • Watch your step. This is particularly important when you’re fishing from the casting deck of a flats skiff, when you’re locked in on a drift boat or if you’re wading with studded wading boots. Stepping on a line can cause small abrasions and cracks that, over time, can cause the line’s coating to eventually fail. If you’re a flats angler, consider flat-soled shoes or, if you’re comfortable, fish barefoot. When you’re wading with boots on or fishing from a drift boat, know where your feet are and try to keep your line clear. If you wade with studded boots, be especially mindful of your line. This is the main source of damaged and broken lines.


  • Don’t practice on the pavement. Casting a fly line on the lawn is OK. But don’t take your $1,000 fly rod and your $130 fly line out for a spin in the parking lot of the fly shop. Again, those little nicks and abrasions add up. Keep in mind, too, that the little pocks and scars add friction and can do damage to the stripping guides and snake guides on your fly rod. 


  • Be mindful. Too often, we’re laser-focused on our fishing, and once we clear the line on the retrieve, our fly is often splayed out several yards below us. Before you pick it up and start casting again, make sure it’s not wrapped around a willow twig, or rock or even the cooler or the net handle in the boat behind you. 


  • Rinse saltwater lines thoroughly. Salt is famous for eating away at fly-line coating, and, when it dries, it can be very abrasive and cause little nicks and cuts that can add over time. After every day on the water, take the time to rinse your saltwater fly lines with cool, freshwater. And it never hurts to rinse the rod and reel with freshwater, too. 


  • Don’t use fly floatant on a fly line. Floating fly line is less dense than water, and it floats naturally. Applying floatant often means it will attract dirt and other fine particles that will change the density of the line. Additionally, fly floatant includes solvents that, over time, can damage a fly line.


Final thoughts

Fly line maintenance is easy. Yes, it takes some time. But it also extends the average fly line’s life expectancy. There’s no reason to shirk this simple task. And, after you do it for a while, it’ll become habitual. As a bonus, you’ll also give your pricey fly rod and your expensive fly reel a good rising, too. 

Simply put, it’s just good practice. You’ll get more value from your investment. You’ll protect your other gear from the dirt and grit. And … you’ll probably cast better, too. 

That, by itself, should be all the motivation you need.