By Mike Alwin

Candor moves me to admit that I don’t always follow the advice offered in these brief paragraphs. Most years I follow my own advice but some times I forget. And after reading these suggestions you might decide that it isn’t necessary to pay attention to these rather obscure details. However, if you follow the advice I offer you will be rewarded; your expensive equipment will last longer and perform better.

Some years ago Dick Schwartz offered this advice to a young person new to the sport of fly fishing. Dick said, “Spend your money on the rod and the line because they’re the things that do the work.” True that, and that’s why we want to take good care of them.

It doesn’t matter whether it’s a $70 Cortland rod or a $700 Sage rod, we put them through unimaginable stresses. We bang them against brush and trees and rocks. Sometimes we step on them, We reef on them whether on a big fish or a hook up in the weeds. We bang bead head nymphs and heavy shot against them. And we strip dirty lines through their guides while casting. Now that the season is over, go to your quiet spot, assemble your rod, put the tip on the floor and flex the rod with a gentle but firm downward grip on the cork. Don’t bend it between your hands, Dummy! If you hear or feel a soft click it’s likely that you didn’t fully seat the ferrule. Or, perhaps the ferrule is cracked. Check it out. 

Next, take the rod apart and with a damp soft cloth wipe down each section. Dry it with a dry soft cloth and then if you feel like it spray a little Pledge on a paper towel or put a couple of drops of lemon oil on the paper towel and polish your rod. Don’t do this this with a vengeance, just make it look nice. Now use a magnifying glass or a hand lens to examine your guides. (They’re lines guides, not eyelets. Jeez.) You’re looking for cracks and flat places on the guides.   Find a nylon sock or a piece of acrylic yarn and run it through the guides. If it gets hung up or leaves a little fuzz on the guides that’s an indication of a crack or sharp edge. The flat spot and consequent sharp edge is caused by a dirty line sliding through the guides, effectively sanding the inside of the guide. If you find a cracked ferrule or a guide that is cracked or has the sharp edge, pack up the rod and send it back to the manufacturer for repair because these are warranty issues. There will be a charge for shipping and handling. If your rod is in good shape, put it in its bag and slip it back into its tube. Next season you’ll want to wax the male end of the ferrule with a little candle wax or paraffin.

Moving on to the line, let’s assume that you fish quite a bit. If so, your line is dirty. Strip the business end of your line (30 or 40 feet) off the reel and put it in the kitchen sink. Examine the line for cracks. You can use the magnifying glass or the hand lens but cracks are usually pretty obvious. Think about the past season. Was your line sinking? That could be caused by a dirty line or a cracked line that’s allowing water to soak the core. Now dampen a paper towel and put two drops of dish washing liquid on it. Squeeze it around the line and pull the line through it. When you open the paper towel you’ll see two dark lines (that’s the dirt) and a pale color that matches your line. Give the paper towel a quarter turn and repeat the process. Rinse the line in the sink, dry it and put it back on your reel. If your line is cracked you’ll need to replace it before the next season. Even a cheap line is better than a line that’s damaged and sinking.

Now we get to your reel, your line storage device. Pop the spool off the frame and look at the inside of the frame and the back side of the spool. How much dried mud and sand do you see? Rinse the frame in a stream of water under the tap. Use a tooth brush on the back side of the spool. Dry the frame. Do not spray it with WD-40! A modern reel doesn’t really need lubrication, but if there’s a moving part you think needs a little help (like the release mechanism on the spool) here’s a safe method of doing it. Put one drop of reel oil or “3 in 1 Oil” on a piece of wax paper. Dip one end of a toothpick in the oil and apply it to the piece. Don’t overdo it. Pack your beauty away in a safe place and put your feet up.

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