How To Thoroughly Clean a Saltwater Fly Line

Have you ever gone to cast your line only to find it’s covered in sand, salt, and who-knows-what-else? If you’re an avid saltwater fly fisherman, you know that maintaining your equipment is key to success on the water. Therefore, the question remains, how do you thoroughly clean a saltwater fly line?

The best way to thoroughly clean a saltwater fly line is to soak it in a solution of warm water and liquid soap for about 30 minutes. Once it has soaked well, use a cleaning pad or towel to remove any dirt or debris. Finally, rinse the line with fresh water and lubricate it before using it again.

If you don’t take care of your equipment, it won’t take care of you. That’s especially true for saltwater fly lines, which are subject to all sorts of abuse. Therefore, in this article, I’ll show you how to thoroughly clean your saltwater fly line so it’s ready for action when you need it.

1. Remove the Line From the Reel 

The first step is to strip the line from the reel. The line will become slack and you’ll need to hold the reel in place with one hand while pulling the line with the other. 

You can either pull out the line up to the length you normally fish with or remove the entire line from the reel if you’re planning to clean and store it for a while.

When you’re done cleaning the line, you can either tie an overhand knot in the line around the reel seat or just pull it through the reel. This will make the line easier to store when not in use. 

2. Soak the Fly Line in Warm Water and Dish Soap

Fly fishing requires a line that is tough enough to withstand the pressure of the water and remain smooth for easy casting. A dirty fly line can quickly become unusable, so it’s important to clean it regularly.

One way to clean a fly line is to soak it in warm water and liquid soap solution for about 20-30 minutes. This method will help loosen all the dirt and debris that might be clinging to the line.

Pro Tip: It is important to avoid twisting or coiling up the fly line when doing this, as this can cause damage.

3. Use a Soft Towel or Cleaning Pad To Remove Dirt and Debris

Simply dipping the line in the warm water and soap mixture will not clean it properly. You will need to scrub through the line using a soft towel or cleaning pad to remove all the dirt and debris clinging to the porous body of the line material.

Here are three easy steps to clean your fly line using a cleaning pad or a towel:

  1. Gently pick up the line and start cleaning it with a towel or cleaning pad from the tip to the end.
  2. Next, scrub it backward till you come to the tip. Repeat the process until you see a clean line on the pad or towel.
  3. Dip the line into a bucket of fresh water and swish it around to remove any residue.

I’d recommend using a cleaning pad from professional fly fishing gear companies like RIO, Orvis, and Scientific Anglers. 

The Rio Fly Line Cleaner (available on is a micro-abrasive cleaning pad that cleans the line quickly and easily with no harshness, leaving it looking and feeling smooth.

4. Rinse the Line With Clean Water

Once the line is thoroughly clean, rinse it with fresh water.

To rinse your fly line, dip the entire line in a bucket of clean water. Make sure there is no soap left on the line. You can also attach it to a hose and run the water over it for a few minutes. This procedure will rinse off the soap residue.

While cleaning your fly line in the water, check if there’s any ‘memory’ left in the line causing it to start coiling again. If this is the case, you’ll need to straighten it out in order to avoid future damage or breakage.

To have a better grasp of how to stretch out a fly line, watch this really short, less than a-minute YouTube video:

5. Use a Lubricant To Increase Smoothness and Longevity

Saltwater fly lines are exposed to salt and other chemicals in the water that can quickly cause corrosion. A cleaning solution applied as a lubricant can help to keep the line moving smoothly and make it last longer. 

I recommend you use the Scientific Anglers Fly Line Cleaner  which also comes with a cleaning pad that has a sponge side to smear the liquid on the fly line. The cleaner contains advanced lubricants that improve the floatability of the fly line for easier pickup and mending.

Just pour a dollop of the dressing cleaner on the pad and squeeze it through the entire line to lubricate it thoroughly. 

6. Allow the Fly Line To Dry Completely Before Storage

Finally, you will want to dry the line. This is extremely important because water left on the line will rust it out very quickly. I recommend that you clean your line with a soft, lint-free cloth (preferably a microfiber cloth) and allow it to dry completely before storing it. 

To dry your fly line, allow the line to air dry in a cool, well-ventilated area for about a day or two. Once the fly line is completely dry, you can store it in a tackle box or reel case. 

Be sure to keep it away from direct sunlight and heat sources, as this can damage the line. With proper care, your fly line should last for many fishing seasons.

Watch this 5-min YouTube video from Mad River Outfitters to grasp the process of cleaning your fly line:


Saltwater fly lines deteriorate over time due to salt and bacteria build-up. Cleaning your line regularly will help prevent coiling and loss of castability.

Cleaning helps to extend the life of the line. It keeps the line from getting damaged by salt and sand, and makes it float better. 

Maintaining a clean line is important not just for aesthetics, but also for keeping your cast smooth. So, be sure to give your saltwater fly line a good cleaning after each use.