5 Tips for Maintaining Your Fly Fishing Reel

Sand, salty seawater, seaweed, and water scum can all put a strain on your fly fishing reel. Maintaining the reel is the only effective way to ensure each of your angling experiences is a smashing success.

In this article, we shall go over the top five ways to maintain your fly fishing reel with a view to optimizing its functionality.

1. Handle the Reel Properly While Fishing

Proper handling is the most effective fly fishing reel maintenance tip. Perhaps the next question would be – what’s the right way to handle your reel while fishing?
First, always treat your fly fishing reel with kid gloves. Handle the tool gently, making sure not to drop it against rough surfaces. This helps to prevent scratches and scrapes that could damage the reel’s protective layer, exposing it to corrosion.

Remember that seawater is highly corrosive. If the conditions are right, and depending on the material your fly fishing reel is made from, the tool may rust sooner than you’d have expected.

Do not dunk your fly reel into sand, dirt, or dust either. Sandy and dusty particles can easily damage the spool, consequently ruining the drag system.

Last but not least, do not submerge your fly fishing reel. Fishing with the reel fully submerged may tighten your drag and prevent seawater and dirt from getting expelled from the drag system, possibly damaging it.

2. Rinse Your Fly Reel After Every Use

Rinsing is one of the easiest ways to maintain a fly reel, as it takes only a few minutes. Sadly, it’s the very aspect many anglers often skimp on.

The conventional wisdom is to rinse the reel after every fishing expedition. That’s regardless if you’re fishing in saline or freshwater.

The best way to rinse your fly reel is under warm faucet water. This helps to wash away dirt and grime from the reel’s exterior, preventing such substances from making their way into the tool’s interior components.

Do not use a pressure washer to clean your fly reel. While a pressure washer can rinse stubborn dirt and grime from the reel, it may also drive these problematic particles deeper into the tool’s interior.

If you’re planning an extended fishing expedition where you may need to camp by the seashore for a couple of days, it’s best to bring warm water with you. Do not wait for days to rinse your fly fishing reel, as the dirt that clings onto the tool may have already caused significant damage.

3. Deep Clean Your Fly Reel Once In A While

Rinsing a fly reel after every fishing trip helps to eliminate dirt before it travels into the reel’s internal parts. But for optimal results, you may want to deep clean the tool occasionally.

The frequency with which to deep clean your fly fishing reel depends on how regularly you go angling and the nature of the waters you fish in. One deep clean every fortnight would suffice for seasoned anglers who fish in saltwater.

  1. Follow the below procedure to deep clean your fly reel;
  2. Detach the spool from the frame.
  3. Soak the spool in warm, soapy water for 20 – 30 minutes.
  4. This helps to disperse dirt particles and dissolve salt deposits.
  5. Gently scrub the spool’s surface using an old toothbrush and a mild detergent, such as dish soap or car washing soap.
  6. Rinse the spool with warm water under a sink faucet.
  7. Dry the spool using a hand towel, then let it sit overnight to dry completely.

4. Store Your Fly Reel Bone Dry

One of the biggest injustices you can do to your fly fishing reel is to store it wet. That’s for the simple reason that damp conditions encourage rusting.
So, it’s imperative to dry your fly reel thoroughly after cleaning it, regardless of whether you’ve deep cleaned the tool or rinsed it under warm water.
A towel or soft fabric is the proper way to dry a fly fishing reel.

Use the towel to gently wipe the tool’s exterior surface of visible dampness. Then, place the fly reel in the sun to allow it to dry completely.

If you cleaned your fly reel late in the evening (often with many anglers), set the tool in a well-ventilated room to dry overnight.

5. Lubricate the Reel Once/Twice A Year

Storing your fly fishing reel bone dry isn’t enough. You must also lubricate the reel once or twice a year to prevent rusting and protect the moving parts.

The most common areas to lubricate include the center spindle as well as the screw and bolt threads. The springs and pawls would also require occasional oiling, although this only applies to reels with a click and pawl drag.

Remember to remove your fly reel’s line and backing if storing it for a long time. This is necessary before greasing the tool. It helps prevent tangles when stripping off the spool and minimizes rust caused by moisture becoming locked in the spaces between the wound lines.

Needless to say, only use the recommended lubricants and apply the grease generously, making sure not to overdo it.


Maintaining your fly fishing reel doesn’t just cushion it from damage. It also preserves the tool’s aesthetics by preventing scratchy blemishes. Remember to observe the tips mentioned above if you’re seeking to optimize your flywheel’s performance and durability.

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