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).

S2:E13 Fly Fishing Gear We Use

fly fishing guides

Fly fishing gear is like candy. Or better than candy. There’s no joy like the permission one gives himself or herself to buy a new fly rod or reel, or purchase a new pair of waders. Click now to listen to “Fly Fishing Gear We Use.” In this episode, we discuss our fly rods, waders, vests, and nets.

Listen to our episode “Fly Fishing Gear We Use” now

At the end of each episode, we often include a feature called “Great Stuff from Our Listeners.” We read a few of the comments from this blog or from our Facebook page. We enjoying hearing from our readers and listeners, and appreciate your advice, wisdom, and fly fishing experience.

What fly fishing gear do you recommend? What have you found works best for the rivers you fish?

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Before You Buy Your First Fly Rod

If you’re new to fly fishing, purchasing your first fly rod can be as bewildering as buying a car. There are so many variables to consider.

Besides, if you ask five friends for advice, you may get eight different opinions. It’s easy to get frustrated. Or even to feel stupid. Don’t. Selecting a fly rod should not resemble choosing a health care plan.

This should be fun!

Making some key decisions before you start shopping, though, will help you make an informed, confident purchase. It will also keep the fun in the process. So here are the decisions you need to make.

Price Range

How much do you want to spend?

If you’ve never fly fished before, a starter rod in the $100-150 range will serve you well. Less is more.

If you’ve fly fished enough to know that you really want to pursue this, then I’d suggest spending a bit more — perhaps in the $300-600 range. Buy a fly rod you will still enjoy using in two or three decades.

I purchased a Winston rod (see below) a few years ago, intending to use it for life. I paid good money for it (although the price I paid then looks quite reasonable now). I don’t regret the decision. At some point, you’ll want to buy your “fly rod for life” (unless, of course, there is a significant breakthrough in technology). If you’re ready to do so, then get a higher-end rod which fits your budget. But if you’re still experimenting, spend less.

Note: The mid- to high-end rods typically have a 25-year or lifetime guarantee. This means you can get your rod repaired for about 10% of its cost if you step on it in the dark and snap it in two (which I’ve done).

Brand Preference

I apologize in advance for leaving out some fine manufacturers. But here are some options:

On the lower end of the price range, some good options include Redington, Temple Fork Outfitters (TFO), St. Croix, and Cabela’s. For mid-range to high-end rods (in quality and price), I’m a big fan of Orvis. Sage makes a fine rod, too, and I was all set to purchase one until I picked up a Winston Boron IIx which was made in Montana. Loomis is another fine choice, as is Scott.

Don’t fret over the difference between a high-end Orvis or Sage or Winston. Choose the one that feels right.

Rod Size

If you’re fly fishing for trout in the big western rivers like the Yellowstone or Bighorn, a nine-foot, six-weight will be a good all-around rod. It’s big enough to handle streamers and make long casts in windy conditions. Some swear by a nine-foot, five-weight. That’s fine.

To me, it’s like the difference between using a 30.06 or a .280 Remington for deer. Either will do the job. If you’re fly fishing the spring creeks of Wisconsin or Pennsylvania, an eight and a half foot, four weight will be more appropriate. It’s a bit lighter and more delicate for those smaller streams which require more gentle casts.

Some fly fishers swear by an eight-foot rod for smaller stream fishing. One question to ask is, “Where will I be fishing most often?” If “smaller spring creeks” is the answer, then go with a smaller rod size.

Type of Action

A mid-flex or a medium action is the place to start.

This designation means that the rod flexes or bends in the middle when you cast your line. This makes it versatile (good in most conditions) and forgiving (not too temperamental). A tip-flex or fast action rod bends closer to the tip. The stiffness of this action gives you more power — especially on windy days. It is better for longer casts, but beginners sometimes struggle to get a feel for it. A full flex, or slow action rod, is easy to cast. But it’s better for short distances. You’ll have to work harder to get the line out on long casts. It’s like pedaling in gear 3 on a ten-speed bike as opposed to gear 9.

The pedaling is easier, but it takes a lot more effort.

If you can make (or at least think about) these decisions ahead of time, you’ll be in a better position to make a choice when you enter your local fly shop.

Yes, unless you’re an expert, buy your rod at a local shop.

You can often try casting different rods to see which one works best — and you’ll get a little bit of help with your casting, too. The guys and gals at your local fly shop will also help you choose the right reel and the right line to go with your rod (yes, more decisions).

Whatever you do, make sure you enjoy the purchase. I guarantee that buying your first fly rod will be more fun than buying a garbage disposal or a pair of dress shoes.

Episode 22: Choosing the Right Fly Rod

A River Runs Through It

Choosing the right fly rod is important whether you are new to the sport or a veteran. In this podcast episode, Steve and Dave help aspiring fly fishers select their next trout rod.

Dave is adamant that new fly fishers should not buy the most expensive rods, unless they have an indiscriminate amount of money. Veteran fly fishers may want to purchase more specialized rods. Listen to Choosing the Right Fly Rod here.

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