I stumbled across, and was able to purchase, a lot of three vintage fly reels in a Facebook sale. These were dirty and had obviously been sitting around in a garage for what was probably the better part of two decades or more.
The first reel I wanted to start cleaning and restoring was this old J.C. Higgins, model 312.31130. It has a beautifully simple design. Probably the simplest reel design I have ever seen, and the red and silver colors cleaned up into something attractive. I'll probably find an old rod to restore that matches.
I have learned that these reels were produced by Bronson for Sears, sometime during the late 1950’s or 1960’s.
Anyway, here is a good step-by-step of the cleaning and restoration process, and a video to explain everything as it went.
- Disassemble the Reel: This reel is incredibly simple to disassemble. Just remove the one screw that is holding the spool in place and you are done!
- Remove all the Old Line: Fly line and backing.
- Wipe Down and Clean as Best You Can: I used a combination of cotton swaps and paper towels to clean off as much gunk and grime as I could.
- Soak all Parts for 10 Min in a Vinegar and Water Bath: 1 Part Vinegar to 4 Parts Water. Only 10 minutes.
- Remove from the Bath and Clean Again: Using cotton swabs and paper towels, clean the reel as best you can again.
- Soak in a Dish Soap and Water Bath for 10 Minutes: Just a small drop of dish soap is more than enough!
- Remove from Bath and Clean Again: Using cotton swabs and paper towels, clean the reel as best you can again.
- Rinse is a Clean Water Bath: I soak in the bath 15-30 minutes.
- Wipe Down and Air Dry: After you wipe the reel down again, let the reel sit out overnight to completely dry.
- Add Oil and Grease: Put a SMALL about of grease on the gear teeth, and put a drop of oil on any parts that move against each other (spool, click and pawl, handle.)
- Reassemble: Put the spool back on, and put the screw back in. You are done!