Boy, you've just got to know how I love sitting
here, writing that title. For years I have enjoyed
cleaning and dressing my fly lines. First with silk
lines. Many times at stream-side during a lunch break,
it looked like a giant inebriated spider from Mars
had been at work. I would stick my fly into the bark
of a tree, walk around it twice snagging the leader
into the bark, then stretch the line to some distant
point, car, table, tree or big bush. Armed with a pad
of paper towel and a little dish of soapy (Lava) water,
stroll back and forth and wash them, rinse them, dress
them, burnish them and let them dry. Mucillin was the
only dressing to use. Red can at that, they had not
yet invented the green can.
With the introduction of the plastic fly lines came
the inevitable parade of ointments for me to clean,
dress, preserve, refurbish, recondition, renew.. and
oh yes, rub on to make them float really good too.
Mostly waxes in a solvent base, some were thick, some
were thin. Some seemed to work better than others,
some were horrid. All were intriguing and they sold
well, still do. Then silicones arrived with much the
same results. We all bought them and used them. At
times some voices were raised and a few noses were
bloodied during less than gentile discussions on the
various merits of local favorites.
It has been said that 'necessity is the mother of
invention,' but in my case there was no real need, it
was my goofy inquisitive nature, I can't leave
well-enough alone. 'If it ain't broke, mess with it.'
Castwell, who knows zip about chemicals and solvents
surely must know more about line dressings based on
the single principle that I am, of course, just plain
smarter than those guys in the white lab coats.
Always wanting to be the guy who knows some
secret, I gave into the temptation and tried odd-ball
ointments on my lines. You name it, I've tried it. Than
just to defend my actions, I, when plied adequately,
would give in and tell of the great secret line dressing
I had figured out. All manner of products, mostly of a
liquid, or semi-liquid consistency were tried, used and
properly defended. And them discarded for some newer
"My God man, don't use that stuff!" As if coming down
from a mountain top on tablets, the word rebounded among
our ranks like a well struck five cushion shot. "It will
leach out the plasticizers, make the line stiff and crack.
It will sink!" It seemed that everyone new to fly-fishing
discovered some new juice, WD-40, Rain-X, Armour-All,
and was soon warned of the dire results of such unwiseness.
That "it's use with abandon would surely result in ruination
of his gear." Old timers had the information and we tried
to warn the youngsters. But, alas, it seems the word got
out. Today, guys are using all manner of products, only
a very few actually designed for fly lines and defending
them to the death.
I have most recently been in contact with the designer
of fly lines for a well respected company. In a nut
shell he told me that, "for the most part, all those
products will help make the lines a bit more slick,
at least for a little while. Then they will wash off.
The good part though is, none of them will cause any
permanent damage." There are even some lines today
which claim that you need nothing at all to treat them,
clean them yes, but nothing is needed for a dressing
afterwards. He said, "these products on the market
today will not harm them at all." So, what does this
all mean to guys like you and me? This:
You and I and them too, are now free to blow more
bucks on those intriguing little containers of
gooy-goo which will certainly do something good
to and for our fly lines. The days of terror and
timidity when we had to sneak about to dress our
lines in private, lest we be seen by some well-meaning,
but uninformed Samaritan who would attempt to explain
to us the error of our ways, those days are a thing of
the past. Go ahead, gooy 'em up, have a ball, all is
well, you are free at last; and you are on your own!
Yes, on your own, and I mean that. So help me, if
even one of you guys tries to shake me down because
you used some stuff on your fly line because I said
it was alright, I will hunt you down and pummel your
shoulders stridently with a slow-action rod. So there.
From Jiffy Creamy to lower-unit grease, fear no
Will I revert to my former ways of cleaning and dressing
my lines? In a heart-beat I will. Heck, that is one of
the parts of fly fishing. The things I can do when I
can't get out on the water. Cleaning, dressing, oiling,
petting, and just plain fiddling with my fly gear.
Remember, all a worm fisherman can do is dig 'em,
buy 'em or feed the things; we get to play with
all the neat toys. ~ James Castwell