Spring Time Fly Fishing Gear Tune-Up – Part 4 – Reels & Rods

Your rod and reel are the most important parts of your fly fishing gear. There are a few simple things you can do to make sure they give you years of great service.


There’s really not much to say about maintaining reels, other than … lubricate them as per the manufacturers’ instructions! As with anything that has moving parts, friction develops. The heat caused by excessive friction will cause wear and tear that did not have to happen if the part was properly lubricated. The best lubricant to use is lithium grease – don’t be trying to squirt 10W-30 inside your reel!

For the most part, today’s reels require very little maintenance and you shouldn’t have to do to much to keep them in good shape. One thing that is very important, especially if you spend any time at all on saltwater is to rinse your reels completely and thoroughly in fresh water. It’s a good idea to give your reels a quick rinse after each fishing trip anyhow, to remove any dirt and grime.

Check for bits of dirt between the spool and the reel. Today’s reels usually are constructed with very close tolerances, and a bit of grit can cause the reel to not perform well.

You might also want to consider cleaning the cork drag system. Wipe it clean with a paper towel, being sure to remove any dirt or grit on the surface.

Fly Rods

Most anglers spend more money on their fly rods than any other piece of tackle. They also expect it to perform optimally all the time, yet many anglers forget that a fly rod is in fact a tool that is made from several different parts. If one of those parts is defective or worn, it could dramatically decrease the performance of the rod. Be sure to take a look at the following parts of your fly rod, and if you find anything that seems amiss, take it in to the closest competent repair shop, or contact the manufacturer to determine whether the problem is covered by warranty:

Guides, or ‘eyes’ as they are sometimes referred to, ensure that your line is properly carried along the rod and is acted upon during the force of casting. There are different types of guides that are now used on fly rods, however traditionally, and probably still the most common, are what are known as ‘snake’ guides. Most snake guides are made from hard chrome. One of the most important guides to take a good look at is the one at the very tip of your rod, known as the ‘tip top’. This guide bears the most pressure of all, and consequently, is the one most prone to wear and tear.

If you are at all dubious about the amount of friction that a fly rod guide puts up with, try this experiment: Have someone hold a piece of fly line against some part of your body. Ask them to pull it back and forth over your skin with some force and speed. I guarantee that in a few moments, you will be asking them to stop as the heat builds up and your skin begins to wear off!

With this experiment in mind, check that tip top for signs of grooving. As the tip top grooves, this causes even more friction against your lines as it travels through the guide. As well, small microscopic burrs can develop which in time will damage your fly lines and decrease their life. If your tip top has any signs of wear, have it replaced, or try replacing it yourself. If you have a professional repair done, you shouldn’t expect to pay anymore than $ 5.00 to $ 10.00 for a simple chrome tip top.

The rest of your guides are actually held onto the rod with thread that has been wrapped around the guide feet. Modern rods have an epoxy coating over the thread wraps. Sometimes, the epoxy can develop cracks with the constant flexing of the rod. The cracks themselves are not unexpected nor will they cause any decrease in the performance of the rod. However, over time, the epoxy can weaken and the guides may loosen away from the blank. So, check the guides and ensure that there is no wiggling from them underneath their wraps. There is no need to use a great deal of pressure – just a very light tug to ensure they are still secure. Again, if you find one that needs attention, a good rod builder should be able to rewrap the guide for you. Better this than have the guide come loose all together and impede your casting performance!

Ring type guides are becoming more popular on fly rods, rather than snake guides. The inner ring that contacts the fly line is usually made of Silicon Carbide (SiC), a very hard and smooth material that provides great heat disipation and less friction than chrome. These rings will not groove like chrome will, but you should still give them a quick check. For one thing, on guides that are not of the best quality, the inner ring can come loose from the guide frame. If this happens, you will want to ensure the complete guide is replaced.

The next thing to check is the reel seat. There is the possibility that the bond between the reel seat and the rod blank has weakened and the reel seat is not solidly attached. This is more true with older rods but it is always a good idea to check anyhow. If you do find a reel seat that is need of repair, this is best done either by the manufacturer, who will probably replace the whole butt section, or by a competent rod builder, which could be a bit more costly. Some rods simply wouldn’t be worth it.

Finally, why not give that cork handle a nice clean-up? You probably have forgotten how much brighter it looked when it was first new! Over time, cork can become very dirty, but this is easily removed with a good scrubbing using a damp, fine soap pad such as Scotch-BriteTM or an S.O.S.® pad. When you’re done scrubbing, give the handle a final rinse with water. You will be amazed at how good that cork handle will look.

Now, that you’ve got your fly fishing equipment all tuned up, you’re ready for the season! Go catch some fish.

Ian Scott is a free lance writer who spends much of his time when not working and writing about a variety of topics, with a fly rod in hand. He is a frequent contributor to About Fly Fishing.

Spring Time Fly Fishing Gear Tune-Up – Part 3 – Staying Hooked

If you have ever experienced a day where the fish were hitting the fly but you had problems setting the hook, then it is likely that the hook you were using needed a few good strokes across a sharpening stone. It can be quite frustrating to know that you have tied the right fly pattern to the end of your line, but every hit comes with only fleeting joy because that hook simply won’t set.

Do yourself a favor and invest in a hook sharpener. You can purchase a sharpener that will fit neatly inside your vest or shirt pocket for just a few dollars. Believe me, those few dollars will pay off handsomely in solid hook sets.

It’s pretty easy to take the edge off the point of a hook. If you have ever had the hook strike against a tree branch on a back cast, or smack against a rock, you’ve probably dulled your hook. Either tie on a new fly soon, or simply hone that point with a few strokes from the sharpener.

To sharpen the hook, hold it point facing toward you, and simply angle the sharpener, making 3 or 4 strokes. Turn the hook about 90 degrees and again, 3 or 4 strokes should be fine. Repeat this step two more times, and you should have a hook that will set nicely.

There are a couple of other things worth thinking about when you inspect your hooks this spring. Let me relate a frustrating experience I once had:

Last year, while fishing for some very nice smallmouth bass, I tied on a Muddler Minnow. Sure as I expected, it caught the interest of a nice fish. I felt that tell tale tug and then heard the splash of a bass beginning its fight as the hook set. Well, the fight was on, but only for a few seconds. My first thought was that it was just one of those times when I hadn’t set the hook well. I didn’t even bother to check the fly – I was too excited about the prospect of enticing another bass to hit the muddler.

The next cast, the same thing happened, only this time, I could feel the fly come loose in a weird kind of way. I decided to change flies, and when I went to remove the fly on my line, I discovered that the whole point of the fly was missing. Because I was fishing some very fast water flowing over a lot of rocks, I initially figured I had been fishing with a defective hook that broke when it struck a rock.

I tied on a second Muddler. As it drifted down through the rapids, I again had that excitement of ‘fish on!’ as another nice smallie took the fly. The excitement was short-lived for a second time as once again I discovered that the point had broken off.

I went through about 5 of these muddler minnows, all with the same experience. It was only a bit later that I realized that what had probably happened was that whoever had tied up those flies had used way too much pressure on the hook in the vice, and it had weakened it at the bend enough that the point simply broke off every time a fish hit the fly.

The moral of the story is make sure you don’t over tighten that vice when you’re tying up fly patterns for the coming season!

There is another way you can cause your hook to weaken and possibly break off at inopportune times, and that is by improper removal of the barb. Often, I have seen anglers remove the barb by placing a pair of needlenose pliers across the point, and squeezing down over the barb. A better way to do this is to have the point of the hook between the pliers, with the pliers extending beyond the barb before squeezing down and removing the barb. You’ll spread the pressure over the length of the point rather than risking weakening a smaller area of the hook.

Ian Scott is a free lance writer who spends much of his time when not working and writing about a variety of topics, with a fly rod in hand. He is a frequent contributor to About Fly Fishing.

Teach For Success – Why We Learn Poetry Part 2

Poetry is the soul’s music, and without it we might forget how to move to the rhythm of the universe. It is also the distillation of our perceptions of what we experience in our separate realities, and its expression is our creative, written attempt to share that reality with each other. You know, poetry is a very human thing to do, and we could say that poetry is where Man’s hand meets God’s creation on the written page.

As you move through any day in your life you have to acknowledge the utterly complete, and even incomprehensible, organization of the material plane in which we exist and live. The organization allows for our minds to achieve, and maintain, a sense of “reality.” Within those existential boundaries, regardless of who they were created by, we are able to construct our experiences via our awareness and memory. This organization, this set of rules that we all agree to by default (since we have no say in the matter), allows us to know love, hate, peace, war, chaos, calm, life and… death. These are the “stuff” that poems are about: life.

The authors, the poets, the creators of the poems, songs and musical stories we read and love use numerous rules, conventions and inventions that allow us, the readers, to share in their reality; their life experiences and understandings. So, in our study of poetry it is sometimes worthwhile studying these very same rules, conventions and inventions so that we may better understand the poet’s intent. In the final analysis, the study of these may even allow us to try our hand, no pun intended, with secretly creating a poem or two of our own. Wink, wink!

Just for starters there are rhyme, meter, rhythm, alliteration and word choice. And that’s just for starters. We can continue with figurative language, hyperbole, similies, metaphors and analogies. Still there are more, and oh yes, it is at this point that I can hear the students beginning to groan. You know – I have to agree with them. Poetry is NOT the methodology used to write the poem, and studying these takes away some of the magic.

Poetry is NOT meter. Poetry is NOT alliteration. Poetry is NOT rhyme. Poetry is NOT any one convention.

Poetry is an idea that the author wants to share with the reader. So, if students are groaning because we are simply going down the list of “poetic vocabulary” then we are doing them a great injustice. The authors certainly did not intend for that. Frankly, the authors couldn’t care less whether the students know how to define rhyme. They only care that they can hear it and enjoy it.

Instead, the focus should revert back to the author’s intent, and it is here that the lesson of poetry should begin and end. A search for understanding and truth in the author’s words. Now, during this process it may be worthwhile examining one or two of those aforementioned rules, conventions and inventions.

When teaching these conventions, it behooves the teacher to pick a poem that perfectly illustrates the rule or convention. For example, while studying Shakespeare I would probably go ahead and let them know it is a Sonnet; however, I would not allow this to detract from the meaning of the poem. I simply label the type of poem so that they may recognize it in the future. Sonnets use meter and rhyme to place emphasis on specific words or ideas within the poem. The construction of the Sonnet is a tool that Shakespeare used to help him single out words and phrases to help the reader understand the idea he was trying to communicate.

As teachers, one thing to keep in mind is that if a student is fairly proficient in reading they can, and will, “get” poetry. They don’t need to know what the rules or conventions are that they are reading. Rhyme happens when the poem is read whether the students know what rhyme is or not. So, while we teach poetry the last thing we want to do is add fuel to the fire for those students who do not like poetry. We don’t want to cause the “I hate poetry because it is too complex” syndrome. My experience has been that students who don’t like poetry are not very good readers. So, invariably, reading poetry is difficult for them.

Therefore, another consideration with poetry is the reading level of the student. Poems must be on par with the student’s reading level. This is especially true with poetry since in many cases the poem’s author relies on the reader to supply some of their own understanding, words or interpretation during the course of the reading.

To summarize, when you are sharing a poem with your students the key focus will be for the student to understand what the author is trying to communicate. What idea or experience are they trying to give life to in the reader’s mind? What is the poet’s intent? Of secondary focus, and not required with every poem, is the exposure to the various elements used by poets to construct and convey their message. Finally, use poems that are relevant to the student’s experiences and on par with their reading level. The more contemporary the language and ideas, the more understood the poem will be. Make sense?

Teach for success, and empower your students to think on their own.

R. Chris Wilkins

Spring Time Fly Fishing Gear Tune-Up – Part 2 – Clean Those Fly Lines

There are an almost endless array of fly lines available, some which cost extraordinary amounts. If you have invested money in a quality line, you will want to ensure that it lasts for as long as possible.

The single most important thing you can do is keep it clean. After each trip, take a little time and rinse your line with soap and water. Stay away from detergents and use a mild handsoap. Detergents tend to dry out the line and could result in your line developing cracks in the outer layer. This of course will hasten damage to the inner core of the line.

For some years, there has been a debate about the use of Armorall® and other similar products. Fly anglers who have used it discovered that it seemed to make their lines slicker. Others I have talked to have suggested that this is just a short term advantage and over time the chemicals in Armorall® will damage lines with regular use. I am not a chemist, and neither have I conducted any personal studies on the matter so I can’t advise you one way or the other. Bob Kloskowski of the International Fly Fishing Association interviewed Bruce Richards of Scientific Anglers and asked him specifically about using Armorall®. Here is what Richards had to say on the matter:

“Armorall and 333 contain some plasticizers and lubricants and will lubricate the lines surface, temporarily. They also contain a small amount of detergent that theoretically would reduce line life, but the affect would be minimal. These products can be used without noticeable negative affect, but the positive affect of lubrication is very short term as the product washes off quickly.” – 1997 Interview on NBC

Before you do head out for the first time this season, you might want to inspect your line for signs of cracking or even cuts. I remember some years ago, while casting on a windy day and getting into one of those cursed tangles where my leader caught my line and discovering that the leader had actually cut through the outer layer of the line. I was still able to fish the line that day, but replaced it before the next trip out.

Regardless of what sort of dressing you use on your line, the main thing is to keep it clean! Your fly line(s) is a very important part of your fly fishing equipment.

Ian Scott is a free lance writer who spends much of his time when not working and writing about a variety of topics, with a fly rod in hand. He is a frequent contributor to About Fly Fishing.

Spring Time Fly Fishing Gear Tune-Up – Part 1

Maintaining your fly fishing gear is one of those things that many people forget about yet can be the single most important thing to ensuring that your gear lasts for years to come. It will only take a few moments and won’t cost you very much, either!

For those who have just recently converted to fly fishing from other angling methods, it will likely be no surprise that hooks should be inspected and sharpened as needed, but it might seem strange to think about cleaning lines. Fly lines are simply too expensive to replace every year as is recommended for monofilament. Not only are they too expensive to do so, there is no need to replace a fly line every year, but you should keep it clean and inspect it for damage from time to time. In the section on fly lines, we’ll also examine the “Armorall®” debate.

Your reel also deserves a little bit of TLC too. If you want to keep it working well for years to come, be sure to follow the manufacturer recommended directions for lubrication and cleaning.

Many people take their rods for granted. They take it out on fishing trips, run line through the guides, and expect it to deliver wonderful casts time after time. But did you know that there are some things you can do to ensure that your rod delivers optimum service to you? You can also clean up the cork handle and get it looking like new again!

You’ve spent some good money on your gear, why not take the few minutes it takes to clean, lubricate and give some care to so that your fly fishing equipment can give you many more years of service? We’ll discuss the various items that make up your gear and what you can do to keep it all working and looking good. The Spring season is the best time to do it, and will get you back into the fishing mode and ready to go on Opening Day. Perhaps you’ll even find yourself landing more fish too!

Ian Scott is a free lance writer who spends much of his time when not working and writing about a variety of topics, with a fly rod in hand. He is a frequent contributor to About Fly Fishing.