A lot of us are starting to pack up some of our fishing gear for the winter (just don’t stow all of it; there’s still good fishing to be had). One of the most important things you can do is clean your reels and lines.
The key to longevity for any reel—baitcasters, spinning reels, even fly reels—is to make sure the lines on them are completely dry before you store them, or store them with no line at all. It doesn’t matter if it’s braid line, monofilament, fluorocarbon, or fly line with nylon backing. Those lines inevitably pick up grit and corrosive elements when they get wet (saltwater, freshwater… even tap water). If you don’t clean and dry those lines, you risk damaging your reel.
So take some time and unspool the line from your reel. Leave that line in a warm place for a day or so, to ensure that it is completely dried out. To keep it from tangling, you can wrap it loosely around a coat hanger (indent the corners of the hanger so the line catches), or keep loose coils in a bucket or box. You don’t want to leave the line in direct sunlight.
This is also a great time to check the integrity of the line. If you notice too many abrasions, now is the time to get a new line spooled up, so you are ready to hit the water in the spring.
With the line off the reel, you want to give that reel a gentle cleaning. Rinse it in mild soapy water, and use a soft toothbrush or chamois cloth to wipe away any visible grit and grime. Then make sure the reel itself is completely dry before you put the line back on.
Why do we do this in the fall? Because the sooner we get the “gunk” off the reel and line (that we picked up fishing all summer), the better. And it’s always good to keep any fishing gear stored in optimal, ready-to-fish condition. You want to do the maintenance when you aren’t itching to get on the water, so when the opportunity does present itself—even if that’s not until next spring—you’re good to go.
Kirk Deeter is an editor-at-large with Field & Stream magazine, and the editor-in-chief of Angling Trade. He is the co-author of four books, most recently the Little Red Book of Fly Fishing.