Anglers have a lot of stuff. Ask your wife, she’ll tell you. Well, all that stuff (we like to call it “gear”) requires care. Our gear must perform at peak levels if we are to be successful in our aquatic pursuits.
Waders can’t leak, hooks must be sharp, our ferrules must be properly waxed, and polarized sunglasses must be streak free. To be most effective on the water, we must spend time tending to our gear.
“Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.” -Abraham Lincoln
Fly line can last a long time with proper care as discussed by Dallas Hudgens in “How Long Does Fly Line Last?”. Dallas discusses how to select the proper fly line, how to clean your fly line, and when to replace your fly line. In this article, we will delve a little deeper into line care and discuss one of Dallas’ points; fly line dressing.
There are several different products on the market that can be used to effectively dress your fly line. There are also as many opinions about how you should do it, when you should do it, and what products should and should not be used.
Best Fly Line Dressing
What’s At Stake?
There are numerous fly lines on the market for the many environments we find ourselves in as anglers.
A fly line designed for salt water, bombing lead eye patterns is engineered differently than a fly line intended to float a #22 parachute Adams on a perfectly still beaver pond full of jittery brook trout.
Devoting the proper time and attention to whatever fly line we use will ensure the line is working how the engineers intended it to, making our day on the water more enjoyable.
Dressing fly line is important for all types of fly line, especially as it relates to casting. It is even more important if you cast floating line like Rio’s Gold or Mastery Trout from Scientific Anglers.
Trust The Manufacturer
Almost all fly line manufacturers offer a product used for fly line dressing. We can assume with a fair amount of certainty that the fly line dressing offered by the fly line manufacturer will do an adequate job of dressing their line.
You might be hard pressed to find a significant difference in the ingredients used in these. Rio’s AgentX is extremely popular and trusted by many anglers across the country. Scientific Anglers has a similar product that works and is applied the same.
Other manufacturers of fly line dressing
Some of our favorite gear brands make fly line cleaners and dressing.
Loon Outdoors, who makes my favorite floatant, offers Line Speed for anglers looking for a do-it-all solution. Line Speed cleans, lubricates, and protects from sun damage with a UV blocker. That’s good since almost all fly line is made with PVC and UV light is PVC’s kryptonite.
Umpqua Glide is another product worth exploring if your line needs dressing. Umpqua makes a slew of fly fishing products and they are certainly known as an industry leader. Whether it’s flies, feathers, leader or tippet, fly casters around the globe have at least one Umpqua product in their pack.
Glide protects your fly line so it will last longer and dries with a slick finish helping your line shoot out of the guides faster. This little package comes with a handy dressing box that makes applying Glide super simple.
In your search for the perfect line dressing, you may run across a forum discussion or two with comments about miscellaneous products that people swear by for dressing their fly line. I strongly recommend taking these opinions with a grain of salt.
Products like Rain-X and Armor All may be great at creating slick surfaces and repelling water on several materials, but you must keep in mind that fly line was engineered for a very specific task.
Think of it like this: all types of knives may be able to cut but you wouldn’t want your doctor performing open heart surgery on you or a loved one using a bread knife. That task requires a scalpel.
Stay away from Mucilin as well. It may have been good for line made from silk or horse hair back in the old days, but today’s fly lines are coated with PVC as well as various blends of additives. Mucilin can break down those additives causing your fly line to harden and crack.
A natural approach
Many a fly fisher is hyper-aware of the unnatural hazards we present to fish and their habitat because of our obsession. With this in mind, I will offer up an eco-friendly alternative to line dressing: deer tallow and CDC oil from waterfowl.
Tallow is the rendered fat from ungulates (hooved mammals), typically goat, deer, elk, or cattle. In its purified form, tallow shares many of the same properties as silicone and will act as a natural preservative and protectant for your fly line.
Tallow should be applied to the first 50-60 feet of your fly line. This section is referred to as the “running line”.
After rendering the tallow and allowing it to reach room temperature, coat a piece of paper towel with the tallow. Run your fly line through the coated paper towel, gently applying pressure with your fingers as the line passes through.
Cul de canard (CDC), or “duck butt” as the French would say, are the small feathers located around the uropygial gland (preen gland) of ducks. If you have ever used high-quality CDC feathers to tie emerger patterns, you are familiar with the oily feel of the feathers.
This oil is produced by the preen gland, located just above a duck’s tail. It is extremely effective at repelling water which aids in a duck’s ability to float by preventing feathers from becoming waterlogged.
Harvesting the preen gland from waterfowl is relatively simple once located. Gently squeeze the collected gland onto small pieces of felt for use in dressing your fly line.
The floating section, typically the first 10-20 feet closest to the leader junction, should be treated with preen oil. Simply run the floating section of your fly line through the treated felt, gently applying pressure as the line passes through.
A little bit of this stuff goes a long way and will help your line remain clean and buoyant in any fishing condition.
Like other tools in a fly casters cache of supplies, fly line requires care to perform at peak levels.
Pay close attention to what your gear is made from and familiarize yourself with some of the manufacturing processes. This will allow you to properly care for your gear, extending its life and your satisfaction with the product.
Fly line dressing isn’t rocket science, but there is plenty of science involved.