Rod – The modern fly rod doesn’t need a lot of conditioning to keep it in great shape. The first thing I do is wipe it down with a mild soap and water. I use paraffin wax on my ferrules throughout the season and this step removes the excess build up along with the grime. At the start of the season I’ll re-apply fresh wax to ensure a snug fit. Be sure to dry the rod thoroughly before putting it away. Sage recommends applying furniture polish to shine and protect the finish periodically. Not sure it matters, but I use Pledge Multi Surface. I spray it on a non-abrasive cloth and wipe the rod completely after washing. For the handle Mr. Clean’s Magic Eraser brings the cork back to new (also recommended if you plan to sell any rods). An alternative to the Magic Eraser is very, very fine sandpaper and apply wet. To get the more intricate components like the real seat threads and guides, I use an old toothbrush.
Leader/Tippet – Unless they are fluorocarbon, cut and throw away! Both could last a couple of seasons if stored out of light when not in use, but mono breaks down over time and 2nd season 7x tippet is a “fish that got away story” waiting to be told. Mono is relatively inexpensive so make the small investment to replace it each season. Fluorocarbon leaders will last forever so no need to replace, but give them the same cleaning treatment as the line.
Inventory – As a general rule I take note of everything I need for next year. Inventory is code for Christmas list so feel free leave this lying around for a not so subtle hint for friends and family. Include everything from streamside tools, packs, clothing, terminal tackle and tying supplies.
Waders/Boots – At the end of the season I wash my waders in the bathtub with a mild detergent. Once clean I’ll hang up to dry and turn them inside out to store. If you suspect your waders are leaking there are easy ways to identify and fix. First, turn the waders inside out and spray rubbing alcohol onto the area you suspect is leaking. Unless it is a puncture, seams are a good place to start. When alcohol is applied the leak will show as a dark spot. Mark the area with a permanent marker for repair. There are several products you can use to patch a leak, but I recommend Aquaseal. Not a bad idea to keep a tube in your vehicle during the season for an on the spot repair. If you suspect the product is prematurely failing, check the company's warranty policy. Simms offer product repair if the fault lies with craftsmanship. Boots need less attention, I check the laces, hose them off and let dry.
Fly fishing equipment, for the most, is made of extremely durable materials requiring minimal maintenance. If you take none of the steps listed above your gear will still help you put a fly in front of a fish next season, but if you take care of your tools they will serve you well for many seasons to come. Don Mclean is playing in the background as I write this and at 2:00 minutes into the track he asks “can you find my pain, can you heal it?” Sadly I offer no advice on cleaning tears off a 4wt as I put it away for the coming months…