To keep myself from getting to far down that path I’ve adopted a routine. I guess you’d call it down day maintenance. For the winter season it’s a wind blown Nor’easter day that finds me inside all cozy and warm with an urge to dwell on the fishing season to come. Mid-summer it’s a hot August afternoon with plenty of sunshine (too much) and my gear and I seeking refuge from the heat in our bug free gazebo at camp.
In both situations my maintenance regime is simple. I dump my kit bag out – totally empty it – and nothing goes back into that kit bag until I’ve inspected it. Close inspection of my gear normally results in hours spent cleaning, restocking and lubricating one piece of equipment or another.
Here are a few things I normally find and address. In my fly boxes I always find gaps. Some of those gaps I can fill from the small normally empty box I carry to put dripping wet flies in (I call it my drying box) or off the fly patch on my vest. Other flies – the ones I’ve lost to trees, fish and bottom – are put on a list so that I can replace them. When I’m replacing flies from my patch or from my “drying” box I inspect them. I do a quick check of the points and inspect for rust. Dull hooks are, of course, sharpened and rusty hooks are discarded.
Reels, lines, leaders and tippet are always good for an hour or more of inspection and cleaning. I oil and grease the reels. Then I strip 30 to 40′ of fly line off the reels and inspect the fly line for cracks.
Line cracks almost always show up in this area first. If I find severe cracks I add a new line to my list. Then I strip additional line off and use Zip Juice or some other approved line cleaner and polish up that line so it will float high and shoot like it was brand new.
When I crank the line back onto the reel I inspect the nail knot or leader loops for damage. Finding none I check my leaders. If I’m using a braided butt section I look for broken fibers and check the condition of the loops. If I have a regular tapered leader it gets checked for nicks, wind knots and general condition. And finally I wrap up the line and leader inspection with a quick check of my tippet spools. Near empty spools get put on my list for replacement. Having taken care of my flies, reels, lines and leaders I turn to my rods.
Fortunately fly rods require little maintenance. I never put my rods away wet. Well, actually, I may put them into the rod tube wet but when I get home they come out and get dried off. It only took one time to train me. That one time when I opened my rod tube a week later and smelled mold cured me of putting rods away wet. It’s amazing how much mildew can grow on a rod bag and on the rod’s cork grip in just a week’s time.
So while I don’t have to worry about mold any longer I do have to worry about worn guides and tip tops. A quick look at them tells me if there’s a problem and there seldom is so I move to the ferrules. Ferrules get washed with rubbing alcohol and then waxed. I use an Orvis “approved” wax they supply with new fly rods. (I have extra 1″ round tubs of it here in the shop – ask if you don’t have one – they’re free) If I’ve misplaced my tub of wax I just use the end of an ordinary candle.
Then it’s on to waders, boots and wading staff. Generally I don’t have to pay much attention to my waders. I already know if they’re leaking. However, I usually take a quick look at the seams, check for abrasion and make a judgment call on whether or not they need washing. My boot inspection is much the same – just a quick cursory check will normally tell me if bottoms are separating or shoe laces need replacing. Then it’s on to the wading staff.
I use a Folstaf. I’ve been using the same staff for over 20 years now and love it. I seldom wade without it. Frequently I hear negative comments about Folstafs that go something like this. “I don’t like Folstafs because the ferrules always stick.” Well, mine rarely stick and on the few occasions that sticking has occurred freeing them was easy. It usually is no more than simply flexing of the staff while gripping just above and below the offending ferrule. I’ve seen people beat Folstafs against tree trunks and rocks to free them and that’s something I’d never do with a hundred dollar plus piece of gear.
Nope instead of beating my Folstaf ferrules I wax them just like I wax my rod ferrules. The big difference is I use a very tacky, sticky dubbing wax on my Folstaf. Sticky wax is a no-no on rod ferrules because a small bit of dirt or sand might get picked up by the wax and damage a delicate rod ferrule – that’s not the case with a Folstaf. Those ferrules are pretty rugged and the sticky wax stays in place much better than the hard wax.
And with that done I’m pretty much done. Somewhere in that whole process I’ve usually emptied my vest and put everything back where it belongs and then I repack my kit bag as well and I’m ready to go. Or perhaps I should say I’m ready to go once I pick up the items I’ve put on my list. Now if I could just remember where I put that list.