Today in many places you can fish all year so doing a spring tune-up before you hit the water may not be necessary. However, if you have not picked up a fly rod since last fall a spring tune-up is in order before you take to the water for another season. In addition, a spring tune-up might be a good time to practice some of the casting skills that will really make a difference in your fly fishing experience.
First, you should start by checking over all your rods and reels. Check your rods for cracks, nicks or chips in the finish. Cracks or nicks in the upper section of the rod may result in a failure when you are casting or fighting a fish. These should be repaired or the rod replaced before you begin using them. I usually wipe down my rods after each use but if you have neglected that you might consider doing it before you start the season. You may also want to clean the cork grip, if it is dirty, and this can be done with soap and water. Before you put the rod back in the case make certain that it is completely dry.
Secondly, get out your reels and inspect your fly lines. If you did not clean them before you put them away after the last time you used them now would be a good time to accomplish that task. When you are cleaning them you can inspect them for cracks in the finish that may require you to replace them. A few small cracks will probably not affect the line but if the line exhibits lots of cracking it would be a good idea to replace it before the season begins.
After you have inspected and cleaned your lines remove the spool from the reel and inspect and clean the inside parts. I like to use a rag and some Q Tips and wipe everything clean. Be especially careful to remove any bits of grit that you find and when you have finished cleaning everything apply a thin coating of lubricant to the spindle and any gears. Don't overdo this part since too much lubricant tends to attract dirt and grit. Just apply enough lubricant to cut down on friction and provide a smooth film of lubricant to eliminate wear. Reassemble your reel and it should be ready for another season.
Now let's turn our attention to fly casting.
I started demonstrating fly casting techniques in the late 60's when JC and I were doing fly casting demonstrations for Scientific Anglers. We taught basic fly fishing casting techniques that were intended to give the angler that wanted to use a fly rod to catch fish the skills necessary to accomplish that task. Our emphasis was on casting a fly accurately to a specific target, and over the intervening years I still believe that this is the most important skill that an angler can acquire. In conversations with guides and other fly fishing professionals the one common complaint that they have about their clients is their inability to cast accurately. Putting the fly where the fish are, whether casting to a fish rising to a dry fly, dropping a nymph in the proper place to allow the fly to be shown to the fish at the proper depth or throwing an imitation crab to a bonefish on a saltwater flat, is priority number one in successful fly fishing. It's the ability to cast the fly accurately that separates the consistently successful fly angler from the casual angler.
I have long been an advocate of using targets when practicing fly casting. I have found that small paper plates make good targets; they are easy to obtain and they are inexpensive. A lifetime supply can be purchased for less than a couple dollars. You can scatter them around at various distances and a small rock will usually hold them in place. Then randomly cast to the various targets trying to drop your fly in the middle of each plate. Once you can consistently place your fly in the center of each plate at various distances you will be surprised how much that will enhance your ability to do the same thing when you are casting to actual fish. It will certainly put a smile on the face of your guide the next time they take you fishing.
If you get real good at consistently placing your fly in the center of your plates you might add another challenge; trying to place your fly on your targets using a slack line cast, a puddle cast, or a reach mend. Accuracy is important but presentation, how the fly appears to the fish, is what will result in actual hook-ups.
Having fun is priority number one in any recreational activity. If you are not having fun you should quite doing it and find something else that is fun. Fly fishing can move from something this is fun to something that is very frustrating when the fish are working and you can't seem to consistently place your fly where the fish are or you can present your fly to avoid drag. A few hours of practice with some paper plates on a grassy field can turn a frustrating experience into a fun filled outing. Give it a try, I'm certain that you will not be disappointed with the results.