Spring cleaning

Easy hacks to get your gear in top working order—before it’s too late

6Scott Gardner

Spring is nature’s way of saying “Let’s party!”—at least according to the late Robin Williams, who was, by the way, a fly fisherman. But if you want to make the most of early-season opportunities, you need to do a little party planning. Now’s the time to pull out your gear and do some simple maintenance, especially if you haven’t touched your equipment since tossing it into a closet last fall. Spending an hour or two on preparation pays off big time when you actually get on the water.


Fly lines

If you don’t do any other pre-season maintenance, at least clean your fly lines. Even if you only fish the most pristine creeks, your line still picks up gunk such as pollen and suspended particles. Washing a line only takes 20 minutes, and you’ll be astonished at the difference it makes. Not only does a clean line float better, it also runs through the guides more smoothly, making long casts easier.

The best cleaning method I’ve ever found is the so-called two-bucket method, demonstrated by fly angler and filmmaker Tim Flagler in a popular online video (also see links below). All you need is a little warm water, dish soap, a towel and, naturally, two buckets. Avoid automotive- or vinyl-cleaning products—those were okay in the 1980s, but they actually harm the coatings on modern fly lines.

For an extra edge, treat your line after washing with whatever conditioning product the manufacturer recommends. Just don’t do what one hapless angler I know did and put flotant on a sinking line.


Rods and reels

Inspect the ferrules on your rods for grit or cracks, wipe them with a damp cloth and rub on a little wax so they fit together and, just as importantly, come apart smoothly. Also use a cotton swab to check the line guides and tip top for grooves or nicks, which can damage your line.

Similarly, fly reels only require a little simple maintenance. Take the spool out of your reel and wipe off any dust, pet hair and other grime that seems to materialize over the winter. Also check the reel seat to ensure the screws are still tight. Then lubricate the shaft, drag mechanism (if it’s unsealed), spool cavity and handle with just a drop of light oil.


Fly boxes

Inspect your fly boxes to make sure you have all the patterns and sizes you’ll need for opening day. If you need to restock your favourite patterns, now’s the time to visit the fly shop or get busy tying—not the night before your fishing trip. And make sure your flies are, if not exactly organized, at least arranged by some kind of scheme so you can quickly find what you need when you’re fishing.


Vest or pack

It’s wise to audit the stuff that accumulates in your fishing vest or pack. In particular, check your supply of consumable items, such as leaders, tippet material and flotant. Perhaps more importantly, take out all the stuff you don’t need. The last time I did this, the list included pepperoni-stick wrappers, tangled leaders, a box of bass poppers, a map of a river more than 1,000 kilometres away, a spare battery for a camera I no longer own, assorted twigs, leaves and burrs, and other ridiculous clutter.

5Curtis Wright Outitters

Your arm

A fly-casting instructor once told me that only casting a fly rod when you’re fishing is akin to not running until you get to the starting line of a race. Even proficient casters can find their timing and stroke get a little rusty after a winter off. That makes spending time on the lawn tuning up your arm just as important as getting your gear ready. After all, a high-floating line and smooth-running reel aren’t much use if you can’t put your fly in front of the fish.

Finally, if you want to get ready for the fly-fishing season with the minimum of blood, toil, tears and sweat, make a mental note—or even better, an actual note—to do all of this stuff in the fall before you put away your gear for the winter. That way, your preparations for the following season opener will be even smoother.


Scott Gardner is Outdoor Canada’s associate editor and fly-fishing columnist.


Learn how to clean your fly lines at www.outdoorcanada.ca/flylines.