fly line

Yes, Sick.  I can throw that out there now because I’ve had quite the embarrassing week…… and to be honest, Sick just sounds about right.

I just returned from a Casting Instructor Class with the Federation of Fly Fishers and had an eye opening experience. Not because of the challenge, although becoming a casting instructor is a major challenge, but because I was reminded of the huge need for cleaning your fly line on a regular basis.

As I come off of a week where I gave a presentation that was also very difficult, and a little embarrassing….. I had to release a little energy on the page now.

I hadn’t been using my 6 weight rod on a regular basis because I had been doing a lot more spey casting. I didn’t think much about it, and grabbed my Temple Fork Outfitters 6 weight rod, Orvis reel and line, then headed out.

After going through the course work for 6 hours, and being a little humbled, I came to the double haul casting session. My chance to see if I could hit the mark on an 80 foot cast and beyond?  Dayle, our instructor, made a few casts with my rod as I was having a little trouble shooting the line.

I was thinking it was just my rustiness with the 6 weight. Then Dayle blew the whistle to round us up.

On a side note, if you ever have a chance to get a casting instructor, check with Dayle.  You can reach him here.  He made mention of the John Wooden style of teaching and the influence was obvious as he yelled more than a few times for people to stay on task.  Listen to what John Wooden has to say about the difference between winning and succeeding here.

Dayle and John Wooden’s style of teaching is the type of determined and structured instruction you need to pass the Casting Instructor Course.

So, back to Dayle’s whistle. Dayle rounded up the group then yelled, “hey dave, bring your rod, and come down here in front of the group to display your double haul”.   At this point, I already knew what the problem was.

Dayle said, do a double haul with your rod for the group. I struggled to shoot out 65 feet. He then said, grab my rod and give it a shot.

Dayle had a beautiful little glass TFO rod. As soon as I made the first haul, and felt the smooth acceleration of the line shoot out 85 feet, I was hooked on the need to clean gear.  It was my dirty line and to be completely honest – I hadn’t ever cleaned this line a single time.  It was just in one of the fishing tubs with the other who knows how many lines.

The difference between my old dirty line and his new clean line was night and day. It was like the difference between sitting in a new car with that smell vs sitting in your grandmas car.  You know what I mean, right?

I will take you through the steps needed to understand when to clean your fly line and how to clean your fly line. These steps will not only make you a better fly fisherman but will save you money over time from increasing the life of the line.

2 Sick Reasons to Clean Your Fly Line

  1. Make a longer and more accurate cast
  2. Save a little cash
  3. Do you have a third??


When to Clean Your Fly line

I’ve got this old steelhead scandi line that is cracked as bad as can be. But, and let me say but….. I love the way its fishes.

I love it the way it is because it actually sinks a little. Don’t follow my lead on this one as cracking is a good sign that your line needs to be cleaned or replaced.

What are some of the other signs.   Does the line feel gritty? If it’s a floating fly line, does it sink on you? If either of these are a yes, then it’s time to clean your fly line. Also, if your line holds memory, this is another sure sign that you need to clean it. Holding memory means that the coils don’t straighten out completely when its out of your reel.

If you are a numbers person – Make sure to clean your line every 3 to 5 trips. You may want to clean more frequently if you find yourself standing in dirt or if your line gets trashed otherwise.

How to Clean Your Line


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The easy method is to get some warm water and mix in some mild dishwater lighid. Strip off your line into the solution and let it soak for 5-30 minutes. If it’s really dirty, leave it in the wash tub for 30 minutes.  After this time, strip your line through a towel and into another bucket of warm water only. Then you can strip in back through another towel to dry it off.


When you reel your line back onto your reel, you should notice a huge difference in how clean it is as it moves through your hands.

That’s it. I know there’e not much to it. I guess we can talk a little about conditioning your line as well, so let cover that briefly.

Conditioning Your Line

Now that you’ve finished cleaning your line, is there anything else to do? If you have a floating line, you can use a specially formulated conditioning treatment like RIO’s agent X to make sure you get a clean and sealed finish.

Don’t use RIO’s product or others for sinking lines. Do not use armor all or other chemicals as these can damage your fly line.

You can use a cloth to apply the conditioner. Again, RIO does a great job in this video at describing how to apply the conditioner.

How Long Will My Line Last

Questioning the 400 hour rule? I think this might be RIO that displayed this length of time as well, but I think it really depends. If you’re like me, you will get quite a bit more than 400 hours out of your line. If you fish 10 hours a week (40 hours/mo), you would be done in 10 months. That sure seems pretty fast for me.

Maybe there is someone who has some knowledge and wants to chime in on this. Leave a comment at the bottom if you feel that the 400 rule is valid.


Think back to how many trips its been since you’ve cleaned your fly line. If it’s been more than 4 or 5, go ahead and take a quick feel. Strip the line through your fingers to see if its’ gritty or cracked. If it is, you need to follow the steps above to clean your line. Click on the button below to get new tips and articles delivered directly to your inbox.




  1. Reason #3 is that clients notice dirty gear. And they can struggle to cast so they need all the help we can give them.
    Being a fly casting instructor is certainly challenging but also very rewarding when you see total newbies pick it up quickly because you taught them well and they don’t have any ‘bad habits’ to un-learn! Teaching those who go fly fishing a few times a year for many years is the toughest for they are set in their ways. Those are the tough days. There is no worse sound than that loud bang of a intruder fly smacking the rod all day. Ugly. When do you stop working with someone who isn’t going to try the proper techniques you are working so hard for them to try?

    • Great #3 for the list. Yeah, there is no better reason than making someththing difficult a little bit easier for everyone. One of the reasons I hope this post connects and makes it a little bit better for some. If I can keep one less intruder from hitting a rod, my job is done here.

  2. What do you mean exactly by “sick?” I wasn’t sure at the start and still am not.
    Since I know you pretty well. Im not surprised that you had a dirty line. Haha!

    • Sometimes I choose words that don’t quite fit. This is a good example of a situation where I was going for something funny, but just disuaded from my point. I will do better next time oh omnipotent one.