Your rod and reel are the most important parts of your fly fishing gear. There are a few simple things you can do to make sure they give you years of great service.
There’s really not much to say about maintaining reels, other than … lubricate them as per the manufacturers’ instructions! As with anything that has moving parts, friction develops. The heat caused by excessive friction will cause wear and tear that did not have to happen if the part was properly lubricated. The best lubricant to use is lithium grease – don’t be trying to squirt 10W-30 inside your reel!
For the most part, today’s reels require very little maintenance and you shouldn’t have to do to much to keep them in good shape. One thing that is very important, especially if you spend any time at all on saltwater is to rinse your reels completely and thoroughly in fresh water. It’s a good idea to give your reels a quick rinse after each fishing trip anyhow, to remove any dirt and grime.
Check for bits of dirt between the spool and the reel. Today’s reels usually are constructed with very close tolerances, and a bit of grit can cause the reel to not perform well.
You might also want to consider cleaning the cork drag system. Wipe it clean with a paper towel, being sure to remove any dirt or grit on the surface.
Most anglers spend more money on their fly rods than any other piece of tackle. They also expect it to perform optimally all the time, yet many anglers forget that a fly rod is in fact a tool that is made from several different parts. If one of those parts is defective or worn, it could dramatically decrease the performance of the rod. Be sure to take a look at the following parts of your fly rod, and if you find anything that seems amiss, take it in to the closest competent repair shop, or contact the manufacturer to determine whether the problem is covered by warranty:
Guides, or ‘eyes’ as they are sometimes referred to, ensure that your line is properly carried along the rod and is acted upon during the force of casting. There are different types of guides that are now used on fly rods, however traditionally, and probably still the most common, are what are known as ‘snake’ guides. Most snake guides are made from hard chrome. One of the most important guides to take a good look at is the one at the very tip of your rod, known as the ‘tip top’. This guide bears the most pressure of all, and consequently, is the one most prone to wear and tear.
If you are at all dubious about the amount of friction that a fly rod guide puts up with, try this experiment: Have someone hold a piece of fly line against some part of your body. Ask them to pull it back and forth over your skin with some force and speed. I guarantee that in a few moments, you will be asking them to stop as the heat builds up and your skin begins to wear off!
With this experiment in mind, check that tip top for signs of grooving. As the tip top grooves, this causes even more friction against your lines as it travels through the guide. As well, small microscopic burrs can develop which in time will damage your fly lines and decrease their life. If your tip top has any signs of wear, have it replaced, or try replacing it yourself. If you have a professional repair done, you shouldn’t expect to pay anymore than $5.00 to $10.00 for a simple chrome tip top.
The rest of your guides are actually held onto the rod with thread that has been wrapped around the guide feet. Modern rods have an epoxy coating over the thread wraps. Sometimes, the epoxy can develop cracks with the constant flexing of the rod. The cracks themselves are not unexpected nor will they cause any decrease in the performance of the rod. However, over time, the epoxy can weaken and the guides may loosen away from the blank. So, check the guides and ensure that there is no wiggling from them underneath their wraps. There is no need to use a great deal of pressure – just a very light tug to ensure they are still secure. Again, if you find one that needs attention, a good rod builder should be able to rewrap the guide for you. Better this than have the guide come loose all together and impede your casting performance!
Ring type guides are becoming more popular on fly rods, rather than snake guides. The inner ring that contacts the fly line is usually made of Silicon Carbide (SiC), a very hard and smooth material that provides great heat disipation and less friction than chrome. These rings will not groove like chrome will, but you should still give them a quick check. For one thing, on guides that are not of the best quality, the inner ring can come loose from the guide frame. If this happens, you will want to ensure the complete guide is replaced. You can do the job yourself if you order the parts from a custom rod component shop.
The next thing to check is the reel seat. There is the possibility that the bond between the reel seat and the rod blank has weakened and the reel seat is not solidly attached. This is more true with older rods but it is always a good idea to check anyhow. If you do find a reel seat that is need of repair, this is best done either by the manufacturer, who will probably replace the whole butt section, or by a competent rod builder, which could be a bit more costly. Some rods simply wouldn’t be worth it.
Finally, why not give that cork handle a nice clean-up? You probably have forgotten how much brighter it looked when it was first new! Over time, cork can become very dirty, but this is easily removed with a good scrubbing using a damp, fine soap pad such as Scotch-BriteTM or an S.O.S.® pad. When you’re done scrubbing, give the handle a final rinse with water. You will be amazed at how good that cork handle will look.
Now, that you’ve got your fly fishing gear all tuned up, you’re ready for the season! Go catch some fish.