Now that we’ve reached August, many of us are right in the thick of our fishing seasons. For fly anglers, it’s grasshopper time, which affords some of the best dry fly action of the year. While many bass and pike have hunkered down in deeper waters to ride out the dog days of summer, they’re still very catchable if you work the dropoffs and submerged structures, especially in the mornings and evenings.
I like to use early August as a benchmark—I make this the time to do some mid-season gear checking and cleaning. My checklist is a pretty simple 1-2-3 for reels, lines and rods.
1. My top priority is cleaning my reels. After a few months of fishing, it’s pretty common to have some grit and grime worked into the spools and cranks. I take my reels apart and rinse them with clean water, then use a rag or sponge to remove excess dirt. I typically don’t take my reels all the way apart to reveal bearings and so forth unless I know there’s a problem. A simple cleaning is usually good enough.
2. Many anglers don’t take the time to check and clean their lines. For fly anglers, this can be critical, because dirty fly lines don’t float, and they don’t shoot well through the guides of a fly rod. Again, I start with a rag or sponge and clean water, and give the line a good once-over. Then I usually treat the tip section with some specialized fly line cleaner. Be careful not to use many household cleaners, as they will often harm the coating on a fly line. For regular fluorocarbon or monofilament lines, run your fingers along them as you wipe them off, feeling for any nicks or abrasions that might cause them to break (on a fish), and cut the worn sections off (or replace the line entirely).
3. Finally, I make a point to check my rods, focusing my attention on the tip tops and guides to make sure they aren’t loose or bent. If a tip top is broken, they’re easy to fix with some simple tools and pieces. If a guide is unseated, you’ll want to fasten it down (most fishing shops can help you if you aren’t used to doing this yourself). Also give the rod and its cork handle a good freshwater cleaning.
Do all this in the middle of the season, and your gear will not only be cleaner, it will be more trustworthy.
Kirk Deeter is an editor-at-large for Field & Stream, and the editor of TROUT magazine. He is also the co-author of The Little Red Book of Fly Fishing.