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20 Feb 2011

Maintenance: front loops


At the front end of the fly-line you need, of course, to attach a cast. The join between fly-line and cast is important: (a) old-fashioned figure-of-eight knot is bulky but reliable; (b) nail- or needle-knot a piece of 20lb nylon to the line - also OK, though if your 20lb nylon ends in a loop to which you attach the cast, loop-to-loop style, then periodicially you need to check the loop in the 20lb. nylon, because it wears during intensive fishing; (c) small loop whipped directly into the tip of the fly-line; (d) braid sleeve.

I can never make up my mind about braid sleeves. I've only ever had one pull (i.e. slip off the end of the fly-line) once, and that was when a pike streamer became fast in a log (eventually I went in naked and retrieved both the log and the streamer....a triumph of meanness over hypothermia). Yet I've known others who've had braid sleeves pull, almost invariably when a big fish was coming to the boat and the line was coming back through the tip ring at an acute angle. The tension on the line, plus the angle at which the line was coming back through the tip, caused the tip-ring literally to strip the braid sleeve off the fly-line.

That said, needle-knotted bits of nylon eventually wear, too - I had that problem in Ireland last summer, and was obliged to replace several 20lb butt-pieces - and figure-of-eight knots are clumsy. Therefore this season I'm going back (mostly) to braid sleeves, though I've made sure that any proud surfaces on any joins/sleeves are smoothed off by the application of Knot Sense (see below). Once the sleeve is in position I'll attach a foot-long piece of 20lb nylon to the end of the fly-line, and then attach the cast to that, which should ensure at least a relatively smooth transmission of energy from fly-line to cast.

Maintenance: fly-lines


Maintaining fly-lines... It's a chore, whichever way you look at it, or indeed do it. I carry and regularly use at least half a dozen fly-lines for sea-trout fishing, almost all #6-8 weights: they range from a 7-weight quickish sinker to WF8 full intermediates and DT7 and 8 floaters. My most used lines, for the record, are 8-weight intermediates and 7-weight floaters. I've recorded elsewhere that I quite like to use DT lines from the boat (they hang from the rod-tip less radically than front-loaded, WF lines), though DT intermediates are getting hard to find.

I've looked after my lines pretty thoroughly for years. Decades ago, fly-lines were stripped from reels and spent most of the winter wound round the back of a large armchair. These days, I hang them in large loops over pegs in the study. They are then cleaned - wet Pledge tissues are good - and treated with Permaplas, left for six hours, then cleaned again, stretched, and wound back onto the reel. Come the start of the season and they're given just a good stretch again before fishing.

I also renew line-to-backing knots, replacing the old join with an Albright knot (8-10 turns) which is then smeared with a very useful preparation called Knot Sense, which coats the knot. Knot Sense cures in sunlight, so my neighbours, were they to look at all, would periodically see a pair of arms waving outside the study window, offering what looks like a bit of string to the spring.

If all this sounds tarty and over-fussy, in my defence I will say that I'm still regularly using DT intermediates and floaters I bought 20 years ago, and there's barely a crack in them (a plum-coloured DT intermediate from Shakespeare, bought in 1993 or thereabouts, has been a much-used line, as has a Mill End floater from John Norris, c.1994: both brilliant lines and radically inexpensive). And if I'm strictly truthful, I quite like using old, cracked floaters - so long as they remain supple.

Of recent lines, I like Loop Opti stillwater lines and Hardy Marksman intermediates and 'Wet 2' sinkers. I don't like, and no longer use, wiry 'glass' intermediates. Suppleness, quietness and a delicate lay-down of the fly or flies are what I look for in sea-trout fly-lines, and I maintain the lines so that they stay supple, clean and functional - always.

Maintenance: Dubbin


It's that time of year again - general maintenance of rods, lines, tackle and clothing. One thing I'm often tempted to overlook, but rarely if ever do overlook, is....leather. Some of my fishing bags have leather lendings; all of my watch-straps, too, are leather. Now leather cracks and generally goes to buggery if it's not maintained, and while most of us are, I dare say, quite good at shining our shoes, and even proofing our wading-boots, we might not be quite so good at (if I may put it this way) maintaining our old bags, nor indeed those watch-straps that spend at least part of the year being assaulted by saltwater and the sea-trout tides.

I have two bags: a venerable Barbour, now 24 years old, which I bought with my first-ever proper royalty cheque and of which I am suspiciously fond; and a new Bowland tackle bag (from Fawcett's of Lancaster: www.fawcettsonline.com) which doubles as a splendid shoulder-bag for travelling. Both have, yes, leather lendings, and I make sure that the exposed leather gets treated twice yearly, once in the autumn and then again in the spring. Old-fashioned dubbin is as good as anything. I suppose the fact that the Barbour game bag is still going strong after two hard-fished and well-travelled decades is a tribute not only to the durability of the original design but also to my strange assiduity in turning into a leather-lover twice a year.