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Usually when we discuss line management in fly fishing terms, we refer to line control on the water and handling line while wading or in a boat. Today, we are going to look at line management in a different way. In short, what do we have to do to preserve the life of our fly line and achieve optimum performance?  

During use, fly lines pick up material that is in the water. This happens anywhere we fly fish- in trout streams, bass ponds, saltwater flats, and more. There is a build-up of residue that adheres to the line, creating friction that slows the line as it passes through the rod guides. This same residue can also increase the density of line, making it float lower in the water and become harder to pick up. Bottom line- the performance of the line is compromised. 

The fly line is arguably, the most important part of our entire outfit. The line weight determines the type of fishing we can do and the outfit is assembled around that line weight. You can have the finest fly rod made with a proper weight line, but if the line is dirty or sub-standard in some way, casting becomes difficult at best or possibly even impossible.  

A good line will make any rod perform to its maximum potential. Having the line balanced to the rod with a proper taper design are keys to this. A modern, premium fly line is a precision tool and just like most tools and equipment, needs periodic maintenance. We are fortunate that this is a quick and simple process.

Scientific Anglers fly lines are made of a proprietary formulation of PVC coating that is adhered to one of several type cores, depending on what the line’s primary purpose is. We feel that PVC is the best all-around coating for fly lines at present. The addition of microscopic glass bubbles make the line float, while tungsten powder makes it sink.  

Various additives help to increase the slickness of the line and increase durability. Scientific Anglers AST and AST Plus are impregnated through the entire line, from the core to the outer surface. They are not just a coating which wears off over time causing the line to “drag” through the rod guides and decrease casting efficiency and distance.

AST and AST Plus last the entire life of the fly line and are designed to move to the surface of the line, passing through microscopic pores, to maintain the slickness and UV protection of the line. Over time and depending the type of water where the line is used, these pores can become clogged and the performance of the line is affected. This is most prevalent in places with a lot of vegetation, algae, or suspended matter in the water.  

To clean the line and open these pores, the best item to use is Scientific Anglers Fly Line Cleaning Pads. These have a micro-abrasive side to them, very similar to a polishing pad. They can be used on all fly lines from any manufacturer. Wet the pad, pinch it over the line, and run it up and down the line. Do this until a bit of the line color shows on the pad. At this point the line is clean and ready to fish. This will also restore slickness and floatation to any line containing AST or AST Plus. You can rinse of the pad and store it for future use.

In this short video, Scientific Anglers R&D Manager, Josh Jenkins gives us a look at using the Line Cleaning Pads. https://www.scientificanglers.com/product/2-pack-cleaning-pads/

If the line is really dirty, say lots of caked-on scum or after extended saltwater use, an extra pretreatment may be necessary. In this case, Scientific Anglers Fly Line Cleaner is the perfect thing to use. This is a biodegradable soap specially designed for fly line cleaning and will quickly and easily restore line performance.  

A few drops of the cleaner are added to a gallon of lukewarm water and mixed. Strip off the amount of line you want to clean and put it into the soap solution. Let it set for several minutes, then take a Line Cleaning Pad and wet it in the solution. Pull the line through the pinched cleaning pad to remove all of the dirt and grim on the line. Rinse the line in clean water and you are good to go with a line that will float and shoot again.  

Here, Josh Jenkins of Scientific Anglers shows us the proper procedure for cleaning a dirty fly line. https://www.scientificanglers.com/products/fly-line-cleaner/ 

If you are using a fly line that does not contain the AST or AST Plus additive, you will likely have to apply a coating to the line to enhance both floatation and shootability. Scientific Anglers Fly Line Dressing comes with a cleaning pad as part of the package. This is a hydrophobic (water repelling) solution that will noticeably increase the performance of the fly line.  

A bit of the dressing is squeezed onto the foam or sponge side of the cleaning pad. Pinch the pad over and pull the fly line through the dressing. Apply more dressing if you feel the line begin to “drag”, but try not to use too much. The dressing can be used for a number of additional line treatments. 

Josh Jenkins shows the correct way to apply line dressing here: 


It is important to note that both intermediate and sinking lines also benefit from periodic cleaning. Although we are not concerned with floatation, using Scientific Anglers Line Cleaning Pads and Fly Line Cleaner will help these lines shoot better and increase longevity. Here a build-up of dirt may actually impede the line from sinking properly. Using these products will keep sub-surface lines performing at their best.  

Final Thoughts

Scientific Anglers Fly Line treatment products are designed to keep your fly line functioning properly. A clean line will shoot easier and float higher, allowing you to present the fly more effectively. These products are simple to use and can quickly improve the function of ANY fly line. If you have a line with AST or AST Plus, no dressing is necessary. A proper cleaning will restore the line to maximum performance. A clean line matched to rod makes both casting and fishing an enjoyable experience, allowing us to focus on our primary purpose of catching fish.