How Do I Make My Fly Line Last Longer?

An angler wearing fingerless gloves inspects the line on their fly rod.

Fly fishing line is one of the most overlooked pieces of equipment we use. Once we decide on double taper or weight forward, most of us just load our line up on a reel and forget about it. Of course, this isn’t the best thing to do.

Fly lines, like all gear, wear out, and how a line it lasts depends on how often you use it, the water conditions you fish in, and how often you maintain and clean your fly line.

Because your fly line is one of the most important pieces of fly fishing equipment, taking care of it should be a part of every fly angler’s maintenance regimen. If you don’t want to buy a new line every season, be sure to take these steps to maintain optimal working condition.

When to Replace Your Fly Line

  • If there are any cracks in it at all, especially in the first 40 feet.
  • If the floating-tip section no longer floats. While some lines can be treated so they’ll float again, once any floating line starts to sink, its days are numbered.
  • If there are any cuts or abrasions along its length. These equal weak spots. Next time you get snagged or hook a big fish, a weak spot is where the line could break.

Making It Last

The more you maintain your line, the better it will perform and the longer it will last. For most fishing situations, you should clean your line every five fishing trips. If you fish sandy beaches, salt water or muddy/silty water, every three trips is a good idea.

Whenever you do clean your line, here are the steps to take:

  1. In your kitchen, pull the line off the spool in large, looping coils.
  2. Fill the sink with warm water and add a couple drops of dish soap.
  3. Drop the coiled line into the water and soak it for 10 minutes.
  4. Take a soft, clean, dry cloth in one hand and pull the line through it. This cleans off dirt and grime (which often make floating lines sink).
  5. Once the line is clean and dry, soak another cloth with fly line dressing and pull the entire line through the dressing. Fly line dressing protects the line’s coating, adds another layer of floatability, and slickens the line so it shoots easier. Don’t be afraid to use a good bit of it and reapply as you go.
  6. Store the fly line on the reel and put the reel in a case out of the sun. UV rays deteriorate fly lines. Note: If you have any spare lines, store them in a dark place or in their packaging box. The less sun they see, the longer they’ll last.

Making It Last Even Longer

If you maintain your fly line, avoid destructive fishing habits, and store the line thoughtfully, you can use a fly line for many seasons. On top of regular cleanings, here are some more things you can do to extend the life of your fly line:

  • Don’t step on it.
  • If fishing saltwater, use a stripping basket and keep the line off the sand as much as possible.
  • Try not to strip your line through vegetation or woody debris.
  • Avoid wind knots and tight coils. They create weak spots.
  • Don’t let your line contact bug sprays, sunblock, or other materials harmful to plastics.
  • Don’t spool up your line on a small diameter reel for long periods of time. This creates coiling memory. To remove this memory so your line will lay flat on the water, you’ll have to stretch and straighten. This hastens wear.

Fly lines can cost a lot of money and ones that break on the water often end your day of fishing. If you take time to keep your line clean and slick, you’ll be surprised how long it will last.

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