Good quality reels should be relatively maintenance free, so long are they aren’t mistreated. Any defect will usually be obvious from a few quick turns of the handle. Provided it revolves freely and smoothly, it is probably just fine. Remove the spool and wipe with a clean, soft cloth inside the rim of the reel and around the edge of the spool, to remove any dirt or grit. Click and pawl style check mechanisms should then be sparingly lubricated with the appropriate grease or oil, along with a sparing drop on the spindle. (NB over-lubrication is as detrimental as applying too little).Cork drags will require seasonal cleaning as per the manufacturer’s recommendation. Modern sealed drag reels should require virtually no annual maintenance.
Backing is by far the most boring yet overlooked component of your fly-fishing setup. For most people it is wound on and promptly forgotten about for the duration of its stay on their reel. The fishing team have only ever exposed the backing in piscatorial combat on a handful of occasions, stories for the bar, but suffice to say that when this occurs the heart in the mouth feeling will be with you, especially when you are unsure if the backing to line knot is still firmly intact.
Therefore, it is good practice to strip all your backing from your reel as part of your seasonal maintenance. Firstly, check to see if it is rotten. Backing made from Dacron is susceptible to rotting or deteriorating under UV light, all the while maintaining the appearance of integrity.Secondly check the knot that attaches backing to your fly line. It would be a great shame for this to jam in your tip ring just as it was whizzing out on that once in a lifetime ‘hot fish’ - the ones that get away are the ones that haunt you and certainly place you on the Arundell Hall of shame board. A nice, neat nail knot with the ends trimmed is probably the best method for attachment.
Having stripped the whole lot off and checked it all, wind it back on the reel again smoothly and evenly. This will ensure that there are no nasty tangles or overruns that have mysteriously developed since the line was installed.
Leaders and Tippet:
Nylon and tippet material will deteriorate over time. Through UV exposure and contact with the air your tippet and leaders will gradually lose their rated breaking strength. As such they only have a few years shelf life from when they were manufactured, sad but true. It is simply not worth losing that fish, and by default leaving a hook in it, for the sake of using dad’s nylon from the bottom of the bag. We are not advocating purging your whole nylon stockpile every season, far from it, but that vintage spool of unknown provenance, purchased who knows when, really should be cut up and consigned to the recycling.