Many of you are getting ready for the fishing season ahead (and some of you have already jumped in with both feet). Of course, it’s important to check your gear when you prep for the season. Though some things like rods, reels, and waders are natural objects of attention, one of the most important gear elements is often overlooked, and that’s your line. Whether you are fly fishing or using conventional tackle, the line you use can help you cast better. A fancy rod and high-tech reel won’t do you much good if you’re using a ratty old line. And if you happen to tie into a great fish with a weak line… well, we all know the sad ending to that story.
Here are a couple simple tips for checking your line.
For conventional lines made of fluorocarbon, monofilament or braid, you want to perform a “look, feel, and stretch” test. Visually inspect your line for any abrasions or week spots. After you’ve given it a good look, use your fingers to feel for smaller tears and rough surfaces. If your line is chewed up, it’s worth investing in a new one to start the season right. Then give it a good tug to straighten it out (or in the case of braid, to test its strength). If you find your line breaking, it’s time for a replacement. If you notice that it is discolored, or doesn’t wind on the spool evenly, it’s also probably time to replace it.
Fly lines: Do the same look and feel tests. If they seem fine, you still want to treat your line by rubbing some fly line coating on it with a rag or small sponge. You want that floating line slick and riding high in the water. Lastly, and perhaps most importantly for fly lines, stretch your line, before you make that first cast. Trying to cast a kinked, worn line through a fly rod is like trying to push a corkscrew through a straw. Find a fixed object and tie your line to it (or have a friend play the role of fish and hold the end of your line). Pull on the line until it straightens and you don’t see the twists and bends anymore.
One last hint: I never trust last year’s knots. Even if they feel strong and look good, I make a habit of retying leaders, and swivel connections and so forth. Best to fish with fresh knots on lines you trust than to realize their imperfections out on the water.
-Kirk Deeter is an editor-at-large with Field & Stream, and the editor of TROUT magazine.