Fly Line Care & Maintenance

1st Stage:

agentx-care-photoA fly line gets dirty like anything else and should be gently cleaned after being used for any length of time. Simply take a bowl of warm water with some mild soap in Wet a soft cloth in the soapy solution and wipe the fly line down. This action is particularly recommended after saltwater fly fishing or when fishing from the edge of a lake or a river. The ground the line is lying on will have plenty of dirt and mud that will be picked up by the wet fly line. Fishing out of a drift boat also creates many problems as the fly line will pick up dirt from the bottom of the boat, as well as invariably being stood on.

Believe it or not a fly line can get dirty from water as well. Dirt, algae and dust that are dissolved in water will adhere to the outer skin of a fly line. This is why we make most of our fly lines hydrophobic – they repel water. After wiping the line dean, apply a light coating of a fly line dressing, this will help to re-lubricate the line and gives the fly line a Slick and clean finish.

RIO’s AgentX Fly Line Dressing has been specially formulated for this and is highly recommended for all modern fly lines. Follow the directions on the back of the bottle for best application.

2nd Stage:

If a fly line gets really dirty and the microscopic pores start to fill with dirt, simply wiping the line down with a wet cloth will not do the job. In situations like this use a very fine abrasive fly line cleaning pad. The super fine abrasives in specialty pads like this will strip out the deep-lying dirt without roughing the fly line.

A great product from RIO is the Wonder Cloth. These easy to use pads have the necessary micro-abrasive surface. Just fold the pad around the fly line and pull the line through a couple of times. Sometimes it can help to moisten the pad. Each time the line is pulled through the pad a layer of pore-deep dirt will be stripped off. Continue to do this until the cloth remains clean after stripping the line through.

One advantage of RIO’s Wonder Cloth is that it can be thrown in the washer with your whites and washed completely clean and reused again and again. After using the Wonder Cloth apply a light coating of AgentX Line Dressing to keep your fly line in tip top condition.


Modern fly lines are made with a PVC (polyvinylchloride) plastic coating. Within the balance of the coating are a number of chemicals that essentially act as moisturizers. These chemicals keep the plastic coating supple and strong and prevent it from drying out, or de-plasticizing. The course of time and ultra-violet rays has an aging process that will eventually make the fly lines dry out and crack.

This process can happen much faster if the fly line comes into contact with a variety of every day chemicals. Sun screen, deet (in insect repellents) and aerosols are notoriously bad for fly lines and will rapidly accelerate the deplasticizing process. Avoid contact with these at all times on your fly line.

Finally, avoid leaving a fly line on the dash or in the trunk of a car as the heat will again accelerate the de-plasticizing process.

Why do I get coils and memory in my fly line?

flylines-care-photo01All fly lines are coiled at final manufacture to fit onto the packaging spool. This process does not add twist to the fly line, however, the line should be removed from the spool in the reverse direction. If the spool is taken apart, and the Tine is removed sideways a coil at a time, this will add a lot of twist instantly. An attempt to take out this twist by stretching the line, can only result in a temporarily straightened line. The ‘energy’ is still there, and is stored in the line. It will ‘remember’ this, and eventually try to coil back up. A salt water fly line with a braided monofilament core and harder plastisol will compound this more than a softer fresh water fly line with a nylon multifilament core.

There are several other things that will acid to twist and coiling. First and foremost is fighting fish. Fish do somersaults underwater while trying to get away. Of course large saltwater species will put more twist into a fly line than a trout. Recently, we had a customer, who complained about a Deep Sea line. When he first got the line, it performed perfectly, but after several dozen big mean saltwater fish, the line acted like a slinky. We asked for the fly line back and upon examination on the factory floor, the line had about a thousand and one twists arid coils. We gently moved the coils out to the tip and voilà! the line lay straight. This angler had never taken the coils out of the fly line.

Over-ambition and targeting moving fish will both tend to twist a line much quicker than the ideal practice of shooting all the line you have out each cast.

Removing Twist

Even when we put on a new fly line on to a reel, it’s good practice to unroll, (Never pull the line off coil by coil!) and stretch the line out the full length on grass or carpet. Then, with gentle pressure from the thumb and forefinger, starting at the end of the running line or backing, move all the winds to the tip or leader end and out forever. For best results, we might do this two or three times. Leave the tip end of the line free when winding it onto the reel. It’s worth repeating this process a couple of times during the season or any time you see those twists appearing in the line.

For more aggressive line tapers (with a big difference between body diameter and running line), or for lines with very obviously twisted running line, it can be more effective to detach the line from the backing. Begin moving out the twist from the back of the rear taper. First in the direction of the leader and then one or more times from that same point in the direction of the backing. Repeat this direction until your running line lays straight then re-connect and you’re good to go.

You could take advantage of fast flowing water lo help remove twists or a boat angler can trail the line out behind at slow speed, in either case, first cut your fly off the leader, or take off the leader. Run all the fly line out to the water for a few minutes then as you wind in on the reel. Use that gentle thumb and forefinger pressure to help remove coils.