When the oil in your automobile or boat motor degrades, you change it. You should do the same with your reels to keep them in good working order and lengthen their life span. Several times in the past I’ve learned a hard lesson. I’ve had reels seize from lack of cleaning. Don’t let this happen to you.
How do you know when to replace the lubricants? Take a look at them once in a while. You’ll most likely have to open the reel to look at the parts. If the oil is not clear or has obvious debris in it, it’s time for a change. It usually will be some shade of gray instead of the translucent golden color of fresh oil. The gray color is very fine metal particles and any grit that got in there. Greased parts can go longer without cleaning, but it‘s convenient to do it while the reel is apart.
The list of things you’ll need is pretty small. Some screwdrivers and a pair of pliers is about all you’ll need for tools. Paper towel, swabs, and a toothbrush dipped in denatured alcohol will remove old lubricants. Some new oil and grease to replace the old stuff. I bought some reel oil and grease a long time ago. It will last my lifetime. You could also use the same stuff you use for your car.
When you take apart the reel, lay the parts out in the order that you took them off. This way you will know the order they need to back together. Try to clean up all the old lubricants. The paper towel is good for wiping any surfaces, the swabs are good for tight spots, and the toothbrush works well for cleaning the teeth on gears. Pay attention to the type of lubricants you are removing and where they go, so you know where to put the new stuff.
When the reel is back together you will be pleased with how smoothly it operates. Especially if it was quite dirty. You’ll also have the peace of mind that your reel will not seize when your on the water.
The first thing to know is that it’s normal for fly lines and leaders to have memory. When pulled off the reel they will coil up in the form that they had been stored on the reel. Not all are created equal. Some have more memory then others. Some are so bad that you may never get them straight. This is especially true of old leaders.
The leader can be somewhat unruly so I usually straighten it before the fly line. You can buy a leader straightener which is usually two pieces of rubber sandwiched between leather. You squeeze the leader between the rubber and pull the leader through it. The friction causes the leader to heat up and reform to a new shape, preferably straight. I tried a piece of rubber bike inner tube a few times and succeeded in leaving black rubber on the leader. When using rubber pads it is hard to tell how hot the leader is getting. Heating a leader weakens it so the less the better. The easiest way to keep the amount of heat in check is to use your fingers.
To straighten the leader with your fingers, both the leader and your fingers should be dry. Otherwise it will be hard to create the little bit of heat that is needed. Hold the end of the leader in one hand and with the other hand squeeze the leader between your fingers. While squeezing run your fingers down the length of the leader or as far as you can go. When you near the end of your reach hold the leader tight in both hands and keep stretching it as it cools. You don’t need to do the whole leader at once. You can straighten the leader in segments to achieve the same result. The leader does not always straighten the first time so repeat this process as many times as needed to get the coils out. If the coils still won’t come out, the leader is probably old and used up. Time for a new one.
Straightening a fly line is easy. All you have to do is stretch it. Just pull on it with your hands to get the coils out. You can also hook the fly line under your foot and pull up on it with both hands just enough to get the coils out. You can stretch a lot of line fast this way.
If your line still does not straighten it could have twists in it from casting. The easiest way to get these out is to take off your fly and let the line hang down stream. The current will take out the twists. On still water let it trail behind you as you paddle or motor around.
The next time you have to deal with line and leader memory. Set them straight using your hands and fingers. They are free and always with you, hopefully.
The local fly and tackle shop takes in rod repairs for me and the majority of them are for the replacement of damaged guides. I often wonder if the rod owners day of fishing ended unnecessarily when the guide was damaged.
Sometimes you can bend the guide back near original shape if it is not bent to badly. Other times the guide maybe smashed beyond straightening or the wire frame actually broke. Maybe the insert on your casting or spinning guide cracked or fell out. Now what? No back up rod. Is fishing over for the day? No way. All you need is a pocket knife, a replacement guide, and some electrical tape.
If your lucky the guide may have just came loose from the wrap that holds it on the rod. All you need to do is wrap the guide with some electrical tape to hold it in place. Electrical tape is made to stretch, so stretch it to get a tight wrap or your guide will come loose.
If the guide needs to be replaced. Take a pocket knife and shave the thread and finish off that hold the guide on the rod. The best way to do this is to start your cut on top of and near the end of the guide foot. Draw the knife toward the ring of the guide to shave off the thread and epoxy. It should go without saying, but take care not to cut yourself. Shave off a little at a time until you figure out how much you can take off safely. If you have a lighter you can heat the wrap a little and it will come off much easier. Also take care not to nick the rod with the knife. This is why you make the cut on top of the guide foot. It will protect the rod when your cutting. There will be several wraps beyond the guide foot that you need to take care on. You want to cut through the wraps without nicking the rod. If you can expose a thread and get hold of it a lot of the time you can unwrap the thread. The finish may flake off as your go. Sometimes you can peal it off with your fingernail.
Once you have the old guide and wraps off all you need to do is tape the new guide on tightly. A lot of the time the size and type of guide you use is not critical. Most anything will work. Having a few guides on hand in your tackle, boat, or vehicle should suffice. For double foot guides wrap both feet with tape. For single foot guides you will need to wrap tape on the foot and in front of the guide to lock it in place.
So don’t let a damaged guide slow you down. A few simple items and a little know how will get you fishing again until you can have that rod repaired.