How to Clean and Respool Fly Lines

How to Clean and Respool Fly Lines

I’ve had my fly lines for a couple of seasons and would like to clean and respool them. How can I get them back on the spool so they are straight and do not get caught up?
Richard Tordoff

Robbie Winram replies: If you have left the backing on the spool and the fly line is still attached to the backing, then getting the line back on the reel shouldn’t be too much of a problem. Just wind the line back on, making sure it is applied in an even layer across the width of the spool.

If you are removing the fly line and all the backing (so you can clean the inside of the spool or check the condition of the backing), then attach your line to a specially designed line winder, an empty hose pipe reel or something similar, and wind the line off onto it. The line will come off the reel absolutely straight without the line or the backing twisting. This is also a good time to thoroughly check the backing and line for any imperfections or nicks – just run them through your fingers so you can feel where they are.

If you have quite a few lines to clean then it might be worth investing in a purpose-built line winder like the Smart Spooler. This large circular drum will house two fly lines, which can be wound on by hand or by attaching the Spooler to a power drill. The whole drum can then be dunked into a cleaning solution to wash the lines. The Spooler also comes with a rubber winder equipped with nine sets of numbered holes of different diameters and spacings. Fit the winder to the face of the reel, making sure the handle and counterweight poke through the relevant openings in the winder. Then fit the rubber winder to a power drill to make light work of loading up backing and fly line. What used to take an age now takes just seconds!

Top Tip: Cleaning fly lines

Add just a drop of washing-up liquid to a bowl of warm water. Pull the line from the reel, drop straight into the bowl and leave to soak for five or 10 minutes. Then run the line through a clean towel to take off any dirt or grease. Once the line is dry you can apply a line conditioner (Cortland, Scientific Anglers, Rio and Airflo all do them). This will not only condition the line but in the case of floaters will also increase buoyancy.

When cleaning sinking lines I wouldn’t normally use a line dressing, but instead would apply a silicone solvent (produced by Snowbee). This will get rid of any excess grease and allow intermediate and sinking lines to cut through the water’s surface straight away.

Reprinted with permission of Trout Fisherman magazine.