Your rod’s cork grip tends to be the most involved part of the process, due to the fact that it takes a beating from the elements, fish slime, sweat, dirt, etc. While there are dozens of cleansers on the market today, but the best way to really get the grit and grime out of it is with a light sanding. If you do decide to take some sandpaper to your grip, be careful not to sand the handle to the point of changing the shape of the grip. Use a fine sandpaper to remove any debris and grime that’s imbedded itself in the handle. Then use a commercial cleaner to really get your handle looking its best by removing any dark spots in the cork and get it back to its original color. A quick rinse with warm water will get any excessive cleaner off of the handle and letting it dry for a few hours will help reveal any spots you might have missed. Finally, after sanding you’ll need to reapply a waterproofing seal to the cork.
When it comes to cleaning the rod’s blank, look for dirt spots, grime, dried-on algae or water spots. Clean these areas with a light solution of soapy water or commercial cleaner, then dry the blank well to see if you missed anything. After, you can decide whether or not you want to use a polish. Rod polishes provide a nice clean look to the blank while also helping to prevent future buildup. After the rod blank, you can turn your attention to the ferrule section. A rod’s ferrules need to be kept clean and well-lubricated so they’ll fit together and come apart easily. With a clean cloth, wipe off the male ferrule, and then use a dry Q-Tip to clean the inside of the female ferrule.
Your rod’s reel seat will most likely be filled with sand and mud, which will slowly wear away the shiny finish of the metal parts. A good rinse with warm water and a little scrubbing should dislodge any dirt from seat spacers or hardware, while a small amount of polish will do a good job of keeping the shine intact.
The fly rod tends to be the most expensive item in a fly angler’s outfit. Keeping it clean and in good working order should be a top priority, as doing so will keep it performing for years. All it takes is a few hours a year, along with some regular spot cleaning, to keep your rod looking brand new year-round.