Once the holiday madness is over, it’s time to do the major clean-up of the fishing gear for next season. I say “major” because the gear always…always get the “minor” clean-up after every…every trip. Minor clean-up includes a gentle, fresh-water rinse of rods, reels, lures, pliers, and anything else that’s been in…or near…or sprayed by salt water; gentle, because the equipment manufacturers tell us that a strong spray can drive salt into reels where, out of sight, it will work its damaging ways.
Major clean-up begins with taking each reel off each rod.
Rods: Start with a fresh-water rinse using warm water; dry it thoroughly and then spray all but the cork with silicone spray. Inspect for bent guides and other obvious defects…especially check the tip-top guide for cracks and nicks. Wipe down the rod and store safely. I have rod racks on a barn wall that hold the rods vertically where they can’t be stepped on or develop a warp from leaning in a corner.
The fly rods are a different story, however. These expensive rascals—after inspection to ensure they are thoroughly dried—go back in their cloth sleeves and into the hard cases they were in when I laid out those many dollars for them. Fly rods, snuggled in their cases, then get stored flat on a high shelf where they're completely out of harm's way.
Reels: I keep a record for each reel as to what line is on it and what date the line was installed. If it’s time to replace, the old stuff comes off. Remove the spool and do the fresh-water rinse using warm water; a thorough drying, and then spray with the silicone spray. Don’t spray reels with WD-40; this product is a cleaner, not a protectant; it will remove grease and oils from the reels. I check the reel’s operation looking for any obvious problems with bearings and spool lips, and then do some light oiling. An excellent guide to routine spinning reel maintenance can be found at Shimano.
After thorough drying, each reel goes in the drawer in the workbench where it will remain dry and dust-free until spring.
Fly reels, as with fly rods, are different critters. Each line should be removed from the reel and, if it’s not going to be replaced, rinsed in warm fresh-water [no detergent as that can damage the line’s finish]. Then each line is looped into loose coils and tagged with info on size and type [such as WF-10-F]. Leaving the line unused on the reel for winter's duration will result in the line taking on the shape of the reel, making it too kinky to cast easily. Forgetting to tag each line will leave you scratching your head next spring to remember which line goes on which rod.
Gear: One day when the wife is out of the house, all the fishing clothing gets sneaked into the house for a trip through the washer and dryer [be sure to check the inside of each appliance afterwards to ensure no incriminating evidence has been left behind…flies, hooks, bottle caps, sand…that sort of thing].
Gadgets: Pliers, Bogas, knives, nets…there’s no end of the stuff. It all gets the warm-water rinse and thorough drying…followed by the silicone spray and wipe-down. Then it’s into the same drawer with the reels.
That’s about it. This simple process has kept my equipment in excellent condition for decades. In fact, this year I sold on the Internet several reels that I’ve had since the 1950s. They all were working beautifully.