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How Do I Clean A Fly Fishing Line?

Best way to clean fly fishing line.

Getting the most out of your fly fishing line, just comes down to some simple maintenance and care of your fly line.

In this article we will cover how to clean a fly fishing line easily. Also because your fly rod, line and reel work best together when maintained, we will also go over what is the best way to clean a fly fishing reel and fly rod.


What is the best way to clean fly fishing line?

Fly line cleaner. fly line Scientific Anglers

There are many advantages of having a clean fly line, so what is the best way to clean fly fishing line? Before we cover that, let’s look quickly why we should clean our fly line regularly.

Some of the disadvantages of a dirty fly line are:

  • A floating fly line will not ride as high in the water when it is dirty.
  • Harder to false cast and shoot out.
  • Because of the grime, it has more friction on the line and won’t shoot out as far.
  • A dirty fly line can also shorten the life span of the line.
  • If the line gets dirty it can be hard to see it for anglers who like knowing what the fly line is doing on the water. Such as drifting drag free, or dragging. Some anglers might also use the fly line tip for visual signal strike indicator.
  • Sometimes fish slime, mud and plant algae can get on the fly line and when it is stored on the reel and it can smell bad.


How do I clean fly fishing line?

Cleaning fly line

You can clean the line at the stream side on the bank, or clean it at home.

There are several products that can help you can clean your fly line.

Some of these products not only help clean the line, but can help restore and preserve the fly lines coating.

This then helps performance as the line is sleeker and means the line will shoot out easier through the rod guides and the line can travel further casting.

Assorted brands and products like: Umpqua Glide Fly Line Dressing, Scientific Anglers line cleaner, Loon Line Speed, Rio Fly Line Cleaning Towlette, or Rio Agent X Line Cleaner and Cloth are easy to use.

Most of these come in a gel or liquid solution were you pour some cleaner in a cloth or cleaning pad and run the line through it.


How I clean my fly line stream side.

Pouring Scientific Anglers line cleaner on fly line.

  1. I normally have a small bottle of cleaner in my fly vest and a cloth. I put some cleaning product drops on the cloth.
  2. The fly line is on the fly reel, I then strip the line out from the reel with one hand while holding the cloth firm on the fly line with the other hand. This helps clean the dirt off and apply a little bit of line cleaner on.

(I am careful that I am not stripping the excess fly line on a dirty patch of ground.)

  1. I then apply some more fly line cleaner to a fresh spot on the cloth.

Cleaning fly line.

4. I now wind the fly line up with the reel in one hand. While holding the fly line firmly in between the cleaning cloth. Winding up the line helps apply a second coat and extra clean to the line.

5. The fly line is ready to cast smoothly and fish with, as it is all on the reel.


How I clean my fly line at home.

If your fly line is real dirty you can use this method at home.

(If the line is not too dirty, I would just clean it with a cleaner and cloth as the above steps.)

Place some product like Scientific Anglers line cleaner drops in a bucket of luke warm water.

Strip the line into the bucket and let it soak for five minutes. (You can still have the line attached to your reel, or even your rod, but leave the fly reel out of the bucket)

If you have a floating line, place a plate or similar object to push the line down in the water. Be careful you don’t tangle up the line or pinch it.

After five minutes of the line soaking use a cloth to hold the fly line between your hand. Strip the line back out of the bucket and the cloth will help remove the caked on dirt on the line.

After you have stripped it out of the bucket, rinse the line in some clean water to remove any cleaner.


Other fly line cleaning options.

If you don’t have any dedicated fly line cleaner, another option is to use a mild soap like ivory soap to gently clean it with. Then rinse it off with clean water.

For saltwater fly fishing it is also a good idea to get rid of the caked on salt and maybe sand in the line by rinsing it in fresh water.


How do I clean a fly fishing reel?

How to clean a fly reel. Reel taken apart to clean.

Rinse with some freshwater. Remove the spool and rinse that separately.

If the reel is pretty dirty use some warm soapy water to get rid of excess dirt.

Use an old brush or Q-tip to remove bits of dirt and grime.

If the parts are dirty, take the reel apart and wipe the individual bits.

Dunk back in the water to remove any excess left over particles.

Dry the reel and the parts.

Grease the spindle and other parts if applicable.

Use reel oil or similar (like sewing machine oil) to put on the handle.

Cleaning fly fishing reel with Q-tip

Fly reel cleaning tips.

If you have a fly reel with complicated spindles, parts and screws, take a photo or video of it with your phone just in case you forget which part goes back where.

Place a large light colored cloth or paper so you can see the parts easier.

Remove the parts and place them in order from left to right. So when you have to assemble any removed parts you know which order they go.

Test the drag setting and gears depending on your reel design and make sure it works when back together.

Reduce the drag setting when not in use for storage.

Q-tips, old toothbrushes, cloths and small fine art brushes are good for getting into the finer parts of the reel for cleaning.

For salt water fly fishing your reel maintenance should be performed more regularly then freshwater fishing. As the salt can cake on and leave a stubborn film and it can also can corrode some metals.


What is the best way to clean a fly fishing rod?

Cleaning fly fishing rod. Wiping down rod.

How do I clean a fly fishing rod? If the rod isn’t too dirty give the rod a clean with a damp cloth and let it dry before putting it away.  Be careful you don’t bend the guides.

If the rod is dirty or been neglected for a while, you can use some warm soapy water and a cloth. Rub up and down.

If you are saltwater fly fishing, make sure you clean the rod (and fly reel and line) after each trip as the salt can cake on and leave a residue that is hard to remove after a while.

One of my fishing buddies actually takes his rod in the shower with him after fly fishing in salt water. Maybe a bit strange, but it works for him and saves time too.

When cleaning the fly rod, some people check the guides with a Q-tip to make sure the guides have no rough or sharp bits in the guide that can abrade the fly line. As well as damaging your line, it slows the casting down and limits the distances when shooting out the line.

Check the ferrules for buildup of gunk and give them a wipe. You can lubricate them with a small amount of ferrule wax. Or you can run the ferrule through your hair and use this as a lubricant. Some anglers unashamedly use nose grease for the lubricant.

A lot of fly rod manufactures don’t recommend you coat the ferrules with too much product as it can scratch and wear the fitting as they are designed to fit snug.

Some anglers use furniture polish to buff and shine the rod looking new. One issue I have with that is, if you are chasing timid trout. You really don’t won’t the rod glistening in the sunshine as you are false casting as you can spook the trout.

Use on old tooth brush to clean around the reel seat.

With the cork handle wash it with a sponge and warm water and say. Some rod manufacturers recommend avoiding using chemicals and even detergents and soaps as it can react with the adhesive under the cork ring handle.

Use a cloth or towel to dry the fly rod and handle before storing it away. Store with the rod taken apart in sections so the ferrules don’t get stuck in long term storage.



We hope you enjoyed learning how to easily clean your fly line, fly reel and rod. With some simple maintenance you fly fishing gear will last a long time and perform better.


For selecting a fly line visit – How to Choose a Fly Line.

For more information on tippet sizes and what poundage to use,  click on – What Is A Tippet In Fly Fishing?