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Volume 15, Issue 10 ~ March 8 - March 14, 2007

Mind Your Fly Line

Dress your line well to improve your casting

The most difficult aspect of fly fishing is the cast. If you’d like to make a noticeable improvement in your casting — adding distance as well as bettering your accuracy and enhancing your ease of line manipulation — it can be simply accomplished. Just clean and dress your fly lines before the season starts.

We have become incredibly blessed in the last generation with fly lines that our forbearers couldn’t begin to imagine. The lines we have today last longer, need little attention and technically dwarf the performance of lines made 50 years ago. However, you can’t ignore them.

Overlooking the care of your fly line often leads to degraded performance that can be imperceptible over the period in which it occurs. Because you’ve have been losing only inches in distance, and the ease of handling has lessened just a little each time you used the line during the previous seasons, you don’t realize just how much total performance you’ve lost. Believe me, it can add up.

Over time, line softeners and lubricants leach out of the line. Dirt and scum from streams and ponds slowly and almost invisibly accumulate on it until, under magnification, its surface looks like medium-grit sandpaper. Saltwater use adds hard salt crystals to the mix.

Eventually, your line has a much higher coefficient of friction, resulting in reduced casting distances. Friction can also wear a nasty groove in your line guides. At that point it becomes a problem with only expensive solutions.

Cleaning a line need not be a chore, but it does need to be thorough, and it should be done at least once a season. Simply dabbing or spraying on a bit of line dressing and cranking the line back on the reel might help through the morning, but it will not result in lasting improvement.

Here’s How

Fill a bathtub with a foot of lukewarm water. Remove your leader (it will reduce subsequent tangling), and strip the fly line into the tub.

Using a fly-line cleaning pad rubbed with a bit of bar soap, scrub the line from one end to the other. Let it sit in the tub for about 15 minutes; then scrub it again.

When you have finished scrubbing the second time, gently push the mass of line in the tub under the water several times to rinse off the soap and remaining grime. Then dry the line by running it through a soft towel as you wind it back on the reel. Thoroughly rinse the soap off the cleaning pad and drain the tub.

Next, move into a clean, carpeted area with plenty of room. Strip the line off again, strewing it across the carpet in a trailing pile to minimize tangling. Apply a generous amount of fly line dressing to the pad and draw the line through the pad, starting at the end attached to the reel.

Then do it again in the opposite direction, adding dressing to the pad as necessary. The line should now be strewn on the carpet with the end of the line going to the reel on top of the pile. Loosely wind the line back on the reel and let it rest overnight.

The next day, strip the line off the reel once more, running it through the folds of a soft towel as you scatter the line across the carpet as you did the day before. Then pull it through the towel again in the opposite direction, then again.

This repetition should thoroughly polish the dressing onto the line and remove any excess. Rewind the line onto the reel, and the job is done.

Cleaning and dressing your line will add softening agents and lubricants back into it and give it a slicker finish. It will also restore the floatation and hydrophobic qualities, making it easier to pick up off the water and making handling the line more pleasant.

Bend a new leader on your line, and you are ready for the season. You’ll be surprised how much your casting will improve.

Fish Are Biting

The yellow perch bite has started in earnest, and lots of anglers are venturing out. Small minnows or grass shrimp on a shad dart under a bobber are the most popular approaches. Pickerel continue to thrill, and they just seem to be getting bigger. In the main stem of the Chesapeake, the water remains too cold (35 degrees) for the start of any serious action.

Anglers’ Note Chain Pickerel season closes in tidal waters from March 15-April 30. There is no closed season in non-tidal waters.

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