Old Man Winter is knocking on our doors, and those “bluebird days” are getting rarer. Soon only the few hardiest of fly-fishers will be out on the water. Most of us are saying good-bye to ice in the guides, ice clogged reels, frigid winds, and chilled fingers. For many of us there could be a final trip to the river where it remains accessible or to one of the diminishing number of still waters remaining ice free. True, memories from the good times of the season past will sustain us until faded by events coming in the next season. We, of course, our lucky because Idaho Department of Fish and Game grants us the Catch and Release season on many streams and many still waters remain open even though for ice fishing. The only problem will be travel to many of these places will not be possible, so our where-to-go choice will be limited. But for those bidding adieu to the season, there remains some actions born out of prudence to prepare for either the upcoming Catch and Release or when the next general season begins. All this revolves around, cleaning, repairing, and even updating that equipment we all treasure.
Perhaps nothing in the fly-fishing equipment world suffers wear and tear like a fly line. It is always under some kind of stress when in motion. Any loop whether formed during casting or drifting applies a differential stress on a line. The best action here is to unload the line and inspect it for surface breaks that eventually will expose the core or for areas of exposed core. Either one signals it is time to buy a new line. After inspection it is time to clean the line. Immersion in a warm water-detergent mixture to loosen grime deposits works, then a wipe dry with a soft fabric towel under gentle pressure from index finger and thumb works. After drying I like to lubricate with a product such as Mucilin before storage.
Fly line backing also suffers wet-dry cycles, so it is a good idea to inspect it for damage. If you are lucky enough to tackle a number fish that get into your backing, a cleaning with that detergent-warm water mixture then drying before storage is a good idea.
For cleaning that reel an old tooth brush to apply the detergent-warm water mixture followed up with lubrication works. Nothing, however, works as well as an ultrasonic cleaning. Jewelers use these as a standard for cleaning all kind of jewelry. Ask your jeweler friend to immerse your reel and separated spool in the cleaner tank and turn the cleaner on. If the jeweler allows you to watch it in action, you will be amazed to see the dirt literally flying off these into the tank’s water. After a minute or so the immersed equipment will be totally cleaned of a seasonal accumulation of grease and grime. By the way, ultra sonic cleaning also works great for cleaning lines.
Leaders and tippets should be replaced at the end of the season. They suffer the same differential stress as the line and “wind knots” are a death knell to any leader or tippet.
No one wants leaking waders regardless of the season. Inspection after any use is always a good practice for nipping emerging damage at the bud. But if significant repairs are needed, now is the best time to send them to the manufacturer for doing such.
At the end of a season the contents of that fly box can be mixed up. So complete drying of each then reorganizing or placing in storage is the next step. But while doing either of these, have that nearby tea kettle going in a steaming mode. Using tweezers, place any fly with disorganized hackle in the out-coming steam jet. Hackles will jump back into position. Allow the steamed flies to dry thoroughly, then move to storage.
Sad as it is, these actions signal a general season coming to an end. But they also are prudent for beginning the next begin season with minimum equipment failures.