Fly fishing line is expensive. The fact that you have decided to protect your investment and take care of your fly line is a great first step. This will ensure that you do not have to replace your fly line over and over racking up the cost. Now, here are the basic steps to cleaning a fly line:

  1. Get together some liquid hand soap, two buckets of warm water, and two soft cloths.
  2. Add a few pumps of the liquid hand soap to one of the buckets and agitate it to create bubbles.
  3. Pull your fly line off of your reel and place it in the bucket with the soapy water.
  4. Run one of the cloths along the line from one end to the other.
  5. Transfer the line to the bucket of water without soap to rinse.
  6. Use the second cloth to dry off the line as you remove it from the water.
  7. Respool the line back onto the reel.

In addition to cleaning your fly line, there are maintenance and care steps that you can take to ensure that the line will last as long as possible. This will keep your cost down and keep you fishing for years. You just need to get a little knowledge as to the steps to take and products to use.

Why Clean Your Fly Line?

There are several reasons why you want to take the time to clean your fly line. The line will last longer, it will have more buoyancy, and it will cast further when clean. When you use your fly rig on a regular basis, the line will gather dirt and algae that will weigh down your line. This makes it difficult to get a good presentation on a fly designed to float on the surface.
The fact of the matter is that materials used for fly line are porous. Over time they will collect debris from their environment, which make the line denser and heavier. Some of this debris can also wear on the surface of the line over time. With just a few simple steps, you can remove all of this debris to keep your line working properly.

Supplies Needed to Clean Your Fly Line

When you are cleaning your fly line, it is important that you use the right supplies. The soap that you use should be liquid hand soap only. Bar soap can leave behind a film on the line that can affect the performance. Dish soap can be abrasive and can shorten the life of the line. Make sure you have the right soap.
Water should be warm, but not hot. You want the two buckets that you use to be large enough that you can work with the entire length of line while it is still submerged. Do not use a sponge or a rough textured cloth for cleaning or drying. A soft cotton cloth or a shammy cloth are ideal.

Removing Your Fly Line from the Reel

Removing your fly line for cleaning can be a very simple process. Have a knife, scissors, or nail-clippers handy to make the final cut. Start drawing the line out from the reel and place the end in the bucket of soapy water. As you draw out the line it will coil up in the bottom of the bucket of soapy water. When you reach the end of the line, simply cut it off and remove any excess line from the reel. You can even clean the line while it is still attached to the reel if you find it easier.

clean fly fishing line
clean fly fishing line

Fly Line Cleaning Process

Once you have removed the fly line from the reel and have it in the soapy water, you may want to let it soak. Soaking the line in warm, soapy water can remove months or even years of the algae film that can build up on your line and attach to the porous surface. A good soak for 20 to 30 minutes should be done periodically before you clean the line with your cloth. Once you clean the line, be sure to rinse it thoroughly to ensure there is no residue left over that could spook fish.

How often you clean your fly line really should depend on the type of fishing you like to do with your rig. If you do a bunch of bass fishing in ponds and lakes with lots of algae, you really should be cleaning your line often. Every two to three outings is about right. In clean cold water, you can go about five to six outings before cleaning. Because salt can build up on the line, you may need to clean your line several times during a single salt water fishing trip.

Drying Your Fly Line After Cleaning

When drying your fly line after rinsing, it is important that you do a thorough job. Moisture left over once you spool the line can affect the performance if there is any soapy residue. Be gentle with your cloth as you remove any moisture. This will ensure no damage is done.

Respooling a Fly Reel with Clean Fly Line

When respooling your line, you will want to attach it to the reel the same way it was attached when you removed it. I personally like to use a clove hitch knot as it is self-tightening but also easy to remove. There are several different knots that you can use so it is really up to you. Just be sure it is tied securely so a monster trout doesn’t have a chance to get away. Then just spool up the line by reeling it in.

How to Dress Your Fly Line

Treating or dressing your fly line is typically done only to floating fly lines. No matter what type of product you use, the primary ingredient is going to be silicone. The absolute best move that you can make is to use the treatment that is suggested by the company that makes your line.

For a couple years I’ve been using a RIO Product called RIO AGENTX Fly Line Dressing (Amazon link great price and reviews)

treat fly line
treat fly line

Once you have purchased a fly line treatment, cleaned the line, and dried the line, it is time to apply the product. Many fly line dressings will come with a cloth specifically designed for application. Sometimes this cloth already has the product on it, and sometimes you must apply the product to a separate cloth. When applying the product to a cloth, just use a little. You do not want any excess treatment on the line. Apply the product in both directions as you pull the line off of the reel and again when you spool it up again.

When it comes to any piece of fly fishing equipment, it is vital that proper maintenance is done. Fly fishing can cost a great deal of money, and maintenance can keep your fly line in great condition for an extended period of time. If you clean your line properly and you take the time to treat floating lines with the right products, you can be sure the line will last longer. In addition, the line will perform better. Your casts will be more accurate, and your flies will float properly.

Other Fly Line Articles

If you’d like to get what I think is the best fly line for trout read this article. Best Fly Line for Trout

Thinking about trying to NYMPH FLY FISH? Read this article – Best Fly Rod, Reel and Line for Nymph Fishing.