Rods and reels are tools. I get that. But, they are also some of my most prized possessions and each one can command a lofty price. Why wouldn't you want to treat them carefully so that they not only look great, but also retain a higher resale value when it's time to upgrade? Some anglers just don't care about how their tackle looks as long as it at least functions decently. Now, that I just don't get!
Everyone knows that periodic cleaning and lubing of reels is important to keep them smooth and functioning properly, but being thoughtful about how you handle your reels and rods can keep them looking great for many years. I've always been rather obsessive about the cosmetics of my gear to the point where fishing buddies made fun of me for it. It might seem like scuffs, scratches, and chipped handles are inevitable, and in some cases that might be true to some extent, but all of that damage can be minimized or even avoided with just a little extra care and awareness.
Here's 11 things I like doing to keep my fly rods and reels looking GREAT....
Fly Storage- During transport, I've seen many folks hook the fly onto the ring of a stripping guide, but the point or barb can scuff the guide insert which can lead to damaged line later on. Also, sticking the hook into the handle of the rod is another common way to transport, but that's also a common method of prematurely weakening or chipping the cork grip, too! Instead of these and other options, I always use the (obvious) hook keeper on the rod or I'll hook the fly onto the feet of a stripping guide rather than the ring.
Keep the Seat Clean- After every saltwater outing, I like to remove the reel from the rod. Doing so lets me thoroughly rinse the reel foot, reel seat, inside the reel seat hood, and between the dual up-locking rings if the rod is so equipped.
Use U40- I've been a fan of U40 cork sealant for years now. I like treating brand new cork handles with the stuff immediately. That way, the handles are sealed before they've been fished and exposed to things like water, slime, and palm sweat. The sealant seems to make my handles stronger and a bit easier to clean. You can read my past article on this here.
Clean Ferrules- Ever put ferrules together only to feel a gritty, grinding sensation from leftover junk finding its way inside there? In the past, I've scratched and scuffed several expensive rod ferrules from not keeping them clean. To avoid this, when cleaning my rods I take all the rod pieces apart and spray everything down completely, including shooting water up inside the hollow ferrule end to flush it out. I've tried other methods including using Q-Tips and a thinly-twisted paper towel piece, but giving it a good water flush is the only thing that works 100% for me. To dry, I then keep all the rod pieces separated and keep the hollow pieces angled downward for water drainage.
Saltwater- Thoroughly rinse your setups immediately after saltwater use. I like to use a light to moderate spray on my reels so it flushes out salt without forcing it into other parts or possibly even stripping lubricants. On the rod blank, guide, and reel seat, I prefer a more direct, forceful stream.
Vertical Rod Racks- Most saltwater boats will have vertical rod racks and some of these are made/modified to accommodate fly rods. When using these racks, I prefer to keep at least one open rod holder between my rod and the next one. The spacing between these holders is often pretty tight which increases contact between the rods and reels, but skipping a slot or two (if possible) can minimize or eliminate contact while the boat is moving.
Use Protection- It only takes a few seconds to put on a reel pouch.....use one! Though not quite as quick, there's also rod cases or rod/reel cases available that will accept a fully-rigged setup. Our recent review of one such product from Solyce Fly Fishing is a great example!
Bundling- Not talking about insurance here! Grabbing a wad of unprotected rods/reels together and carelessly moving around with them is a surefire way to scuff them. If holding a bunch of, say, rod/reel setups together in one hand while walking from my truck to a waiting skiff, I find that just moving slowly and smoothly lessens the chances of them clanking together.
Rough Surfaces- A rocky, concrete, or gravel surface is a killer to the finish of your rod or reel. Watch how you set your gear down and be mindful about leaning your setups against the side of your boat or vehicle when on these surfaces—any movement or puff of wind can send them toppling over onto harsh ground.
Temperature- Here in Florida, we have to deal with extreme heat and humidity for at least half the year. This weather is harsh on materials and breeds nasty things like mold and mildew. To avoid any possible breakdown of my tackle, I keep everything indoors where it's protected from the sun and under air conditioning.
Snags- Using the tip of your rod to help poke a fly off of a snag can be very effective (I do it), but also very dangerous. Be too harsh and you can bust a tip or loosen a tip-top guide in no time flat. Also, the body or beadchain eyes of the fly can get wedged in the guide while still snagged which causes a whole other set of issues. Be real cautious about doing this and do so at your own risk!