Protecting Your Fly Fishing Reel

Let’s keep it reel. Now that my feeble attempt at humor is out of the way, I want to offer you a few tips for protecting your fly fishing reel. Typically, fly reels are not high maintenance. But there are a few steps you can take to protect them:

1. Read the instructions that came with the fly fishing reel

Yeah right, you’re thinking. But you might pick up a surprising insight.

For example, Lamson reels do not need lubricant. Most Ross reels don’t either, yet the Ross Colorado LT does. Its instruction manual calls for applying a small dab of waterproof grease in between the interface of the clicker and the spring. Similarly, the Orvis Vortex requires the application of Penn Reel Lube once or twice a year.

So read your instruction manual. If you can’t locate it, you should be able to find it online.

2. Be careful where you place it on the ground

I set my fly rod on the ground dozens (I suppose) of times a day. I do this when I eat lunch, cross a fence, take off or put on a jacket, tie on new tippet or fly, or take a photo. The key is to take a moment to check the ground. Try to avoid sand, fine gravel, and dirt. Also, give your reel a soft landing when you set it on a rock.

3. Take off the spool to check for grit

Do this at least a couple times a year.

Once every fishing trip is preferable — especially if you haven’t been thoughtful about where you have set your rod. Some fly fishers carry a toothbrush for this purpose. But I prefer to keep it simple and use my fingers and the tail of my shirt (despite the danger of grease stains!).

4. Let your reel air dry

There is nothing wrong with getting your reel wet. Mine has even slipped into the river occasionally.

Make sure, though, that you let your reel air dry before putting it away for the day. If your reel has been submerged, definitely take off the spool. You might even want to pull out some of the line (even to the backing) so that moisture isn’t trapped in the line coiled around your spool. But you don’t need to do anything heroic like blow-drying it. Simply set it on a counter or on top of your duffel bag.

5. Use the protective case

This should be obvious. But I get lazy sometimes and toss my reel into my duffel bag. Or I simply place it in the pile of stuff in the back of my SUV. So let the protective case do its job — which is, well, protection!

6. Back off the drag during the off-season

I’ll confess that I haven’t done this in the past. It makes perfect sense, but it didn’t occur to me until I read suggestions from both Sage and Orvis to set the drag to minimum when you store your reel for the off-season. Lessening the tension will add more life to the mechanism (spring) that creates tension.

7. Carry an extra spool

Last fall, I slipped and dropped my rod—reel first—on a rock on the Yellowstone River. I bent the spool on my Lamson reel and had to bend it with some needle-nosed pliers to make it work.

When I returned from the trip, I ordered another spool. It’s good to keep a spare spool in your duffel bag—especially if you’re fishing a stretch of river in a more remote place (that is, miles from a fly shop).