04 - Fly fishing tackle tips: Keep, renew or replace?

Fly fishing tackle tips: Keep, renew or replace?

For trouble free, enjoyable fishing, it really does pay to care for your gear and freshen up where necessary.


Your essential fly fishing tackle can take quite a beating in the coarse of a season or three. But at what point should we replace items like fly lines, flies and waders? Depending on how often and how carefully we use our gear, that can vary. Here’s our own handy guide to getting your tackle in shape, along with guidance on maintaining and replacing those key items.

TIP: Rust is a real killer with flies, because it will quickly weaken hooks. Always dry your flies out after a wet trip. Dab sodden flies with tissue and leave out to dry, while leaving wet boxes open in a dry, warm location. Avoid leaving in garages and sheds where you may encounter mites and other nasties!

Inevitably, some of our fly patterns become firm favourites over the seasons, while others only make an occasional “sub” appearance. The trouble is that, over time, the favourites can lose their edge or, worse still, become rusty.

As a simple, sound rule, any flies that are rusty should be discarded. Those that have been used before but are otherwise in reasonable condition should be treated to a hook sharpener. What’s that, you don’t own one? Do yourself a favour; trout have bony mouths and hooks will lose their edge sooner than you think. If you never freshen up your points, the chances are you will be losing fish and missing chances- it’s as simple as that!

Should your collection be looking decidedly dog-eared, our seasonal fly selections are a good way of stocking up https://www.fliesonline.co.uk/fly-selections/seasonal-selection/

Fly Lines

Renewing your fly line needn’t break the bank; Cortland's Fairplay Series are among the very best budget fly lines, offering excellent performance under £20. That’s less than most day tickets!

While a rod can last for many seasons, or even perhaps a lifetime, fly lines take a fair bit of hammer over the years. But when and how often should you replace a fly line? Consumer studies show that a sizeable minority of anglers haven’t replaced any of theirs in a good five or more years!

By and large, and depending on how often you fish, a good fly line could last you several seasons. Some tell-tale signs will quickly show you if a line is dying, however. Any breaks or distinct cracks and it’s time to say goodbye. If it sticks in the rod rings, or has curls and deformities that won’t behave with a good stretch, that’s another telltale sign it probably needs changing.

TIP: Maintaining your fly line

Although many anglers simply throw their flylines back in the creel at the end of the day, you’ll get longer lie by caring for them. Try gently cleaning the last few yards with a soft cottom pad- and immersing the spool in warm water. The ends of floating lines can also be helped with a little mucilin, should they start to sink.

Leaders and leader materials

The all important leaders and leader materials. How much should you spend on these? That’s your call, but when you use a top quality rod, reel, line and fly, why skimp on the leader? You get what you pay for- and you can always use a tapered leader several times, while freshening up the final couple of feet of tippet!

Another item anglers tend to neglect are leaders. So, how many sessions should a fly leader be used for? That depends on wear and tear and also the strength of the leader material(s).

With tapered leaders, one excellent way to make these go further for your money is to use a tiny leader ring to connect the main length to your tippet. This way you needn’t keep shortening and retying!

In this way, it’s possible to use a leader for several sessions, just freshening up the final tippet length each session. Do check for damage or kinking on the leader though, because any major warps or weaknesses could mean trouble. As a general rule, lighter leaders need freshening up faster than thicker, meatier leaders.

TIP (above):Store your unusued leaders and spools of tipper material with care and they will last many seasons. Prolonged exposure to sunlight will weaken these materials, so keep them in a nice, dark place! A dark bag, or even an old stocking are ideal for this job- and will keep all your tippets in one safe place, where they won’t degrade.

Waders and other gear

As for the rest of your tackle, a little maintenance can save a lot of hassle, especially if you’ve had a bit of a break over winter. Rods are a case of common sense. The main risk is with damp for those who put them away in a hurry, as cork handles can get mold. One argument for getting a decent rod is that you’re likely to care for it better; it takes seconds to remove any damp or dirt with a cloth and store carefully away.

As for your other items, waders are the biggest headache for maintenance! Whether they are expensive or cheap waders, two full seasons of leak-free use is a good result. Part of the issue is the things we do with them, from straddling fences and undergrowth to stray hooks.

Storing them with care always helps; as does drying them inside and out after use rather than just slinging them away damp, which can spoil the joins and seams over time. 

Even with care though, the best waders will leak in time. Rather than keep buying cheap pairs, we would suggest getting in touch with an expert, though. Sure, you could try testing and fixing yourself, but you’ll never do as good a job as someone like Diver Dave.

This chap has his own testing tanks and will not only fix leaks but re-glue and retreat all the seams and weak spots on your waders! Even with postage it’s cheaper (and better for the environment) than buying new ones time and again. Look him up here: https://sites.google.com/site/wadersrepairs/