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Expert Tackle Tricks and Tips

Expert Tackle Tricks and Tips
Illustration by Joe Mahler

1. Hooks and Loops


Velcro straps are reusable, inexpensive, weatherproof, and strong. They are useful for a variety of things including holding rod sections together when traveling through bush; holding together rod tubes to make them easier to transport; and securing line around a spare spool. You can also wrap them around your shirt cuffs to keep out mosquitoes and other nasty bugs, or wrap them tightly on your pant cuffs before slipping on waders to prevent your pants from riding up.

William Wong 
Guelph, Ontario

2. DIY Welded Loops


Weld your own loops in any fly line with some heat shrink tubing and a heat gun. First cut the end of the line at an angle, slip an appropriately sized diameter of clear heat shrink over the end, and overlap the ends approximately 1 to 1½ inches. Evenly heat the tubing and line with your heat gun (approximately 400 degrees), taking caution not to burn your fingers. After the two lines fuse together, roll them with your palm on a flat surface to smooth them out, and then clip the tubing. See for a video on this tip.

Zack Dalton
Rio Products, Idaho

3. Fly Keel


It’s important to pay attention to how your fly swims in the water. Often, even well-designed streamers can roll or wobble in an undesirable way if they are retrieved quickly or fished in faster water. To solve this problem, I carry several spools of wire in my tackle bag and wrap four to six turns around the hook bend (I usually use .030" diameter). These lead wraps also can provide extra weight, which helps you cast large, wind-resistant flies easier and sink your flies deeper.

Blane Chocklett
Troutville, Virginia

4. Taming the Tubes


I hate the noise rod tubes make when transporting, stacking, or just handling them. This simple koozie keeps them quiet and scratch-free. Using a section of closed-cell pipe insulation (the 1" pipe size gives you a 6" koozie), wrap the foam around the rod tube to measure it—the average length will be 8 to 81/2 inches. Cut the foam and remove the cellophane and self-seal adhesive along the slit. Wrap the foam lengthwise around the tube and tape the edges together with brightly colored duct tape. If you have rods in similar tubes, label them with a Sharpie. The koozie is easy to remove and reuse. For extra protection, add two koozies, one at the top and one at the bottom.

Joe Mahler
Ft. Myers, Florida

5. Double Bubble



While working on a new book about Colorado guides, I learned this neat tip from guide John Perizzolo. On larger, stained rivers, streams with high gradient, or in the wind, Perizzolo uses a double Thingamabobber rig for better strike detection and to help his clients track their drifts. Perizzolo says, "I attatch a small Thingamabobber four to six inches beyong that. Draw a line through the two indicators to pinpoint the location of your flies. This aids in getting a good drift, especially when you are nymphing out of a drift boat. Sometimes you'll see a small change in the drift speed between the two. If the larger indicator slows down first, that is a sure sign of a suble hit."

Pat Dorsey 
Parker, Colorado

6. Double Duty


A dirty or salt-crusted line quickly becomes tacky, and doesn’t cast or shoot well. Keep your lines clean (and your skin safe from the sun) by wearing sun gloves and saturating the index and middle finger of your casting hand with a line treatment such as Blakemore’s Real Magic. By stripping through the cleaner/lubricant, the line stays clean and shoots better. This also works with single finger Buff Stripping Guards.

Joe Mahler
Fort Myers, Florida

7. Knot-spreader with a point


Sharpen the rounded edge of your hemostats to help remove wind knots and snarls from leaders and tippet. With the jaws closed, use a fine-tooth file to shape the tip of the hemostat into a fine point, tapering the jaws to meet the original contour of the tool. The newly formed taper and tip should be from an eighth to a quarter inch long. Next, polish the taper with fine emery cloth to remove any burrs and smooth the taper. Finally, to prevent cutting the leader, open the jaws and dull any sharp edges that may have been created between the inside of the jaw and the newly formed taper on the outside of the jaw.

To remove knots and snarls, prick the knot slightly open with a needle or hook point. Open the hemostat, and with your fingernail press the slightly loosened knot down onto one of the pointed jaws, spreading the knot further open. Then pull the jaw out of the knot, close the hemostat, and insert its point into the knot, again pressing the knot down onto both jaws with your fingernail. Finally, open the jaws of the hemostat, expanding the knot to a point where you can pry it apart with your fingers.

Skip Renchler
Hines, Oregon

8. Over/Under Wrap


I’ve worked as a professional audio engineer and video technician for over 35 years, and it’s standard industry practice to wrap cables in what we call an “over/under” wrap to prevent the cable from acquiring twists or memory when stored. One loop is twisted one direction; the next is twisted the opposite direction. I’ve been doing this for fly lines and leaders for quite a while, and also use it for any line or cord around the house and shop. When uncoiled, your line or leader lays out nice and straight without any twists.  Just be careful not to double an “over” or double an “under”—that will put a single overhand knot in the line or leader.

Mike Aldridge
Kerrville, Texas

9. Vise Grip


Whenever I tie a tube (nail) knot, as soon as I slide the tube off, I feel as though I need a third hand to hold the tip of the line I am attaching the tube knot to. I had an “aha!” moment the other day while trying to attach a butt section of stiff 40-pound monofilament on a new fly line. I was sitting at my tying bench and it suddenly dawned on me to clip the end of the fly line to my vise. I now had my hands free to pull the two ends of the mono to tighten the tube knot. Why didn’t I think of this years ago?

Dennis Pelletier
Narragansett, Rhode island

10. Taming of the Spool


Like many fly fishers, I build my own freshwater and saltwater leaders from conventional fishing line. To keep the line under control on the spools, I use flat (the round doesn’t work as well) elastic hair bands (Scünci No Damage Flat Elastics). On spools that have them, I remove the two-part plastic housing (which usually falls off anyway), and thread the line through the band with a needle. When placed on the spool, the band rotates as the line is pulled.

Capt. Chuck Skinner
Ft. Myers, Florida

11. Spool holder

Ever find that swapping out your fly line requires an extra hand? Slip your fly line spool onto your truck antenna, and maintaining tension on the line with one hand, wind it onto your reel with the other.

Moose Hofer
Crested Butte, Colorado

12. Spin It

Since the rainbows that I fish for seem to hit when there is 25 feet or more of fly line on the water, I’ve developed a technique to quickly gather excess loose line. After setting the hook, I hold my rod high with the fly line held by my index finger, and rather than using the spool knob to take up the excess line, I use my left hand to quickly spin the outside edge of the spool. I have found this method picks up your line in just a few seconds. After the fish is connected on a tight line, I can control the fight using the reel’s drag system.

Don Pysz

Imperial, Missouri

13. Quick-Cinch DropperS


You can waste a lot of time streamside just tying on droppers. To spend more time fishing and less time rigging, I tie droppers at home and store them on a snelled hook device. Tie your favorite tippet-to-fly knot; on the other end, tie an improved clinch knot and slip the open loop over the tab on the snell holder (do not trim the tag end of the knot). When you need a quick dropper, take the top fly’s hook point and place it in the open loop. Tighten the tag end to secure the knot. Not only does this save a lot of time, but it also keeps the dropper tippet straight.

Robert Santarelli
Hershey, Pennsylvania

14. Easy on the Eyes


A handy trick I sometimes use with UV acrylic and epoxy is to fill the eye of the hook with lip balm. This prevents epoxy or acrylic from filling in the eye of the hook. Flavored or colored lip balms are easier to see, and ensure the area is protected. After the epoxy cures, you can easily remove the wax from the hook eye with a feather or a couple of quick passes with a lighter.

Drew Chicone
Scottsdale, Arizona

15. Line Drill


Quickly remove fly line (or backing) from your reel for cleaning or storage with a cordless drill. Drill two clamps (broom holders) into a scrap piece of 2x4 to hold the butt end of a rod and reel in place. Insert a bolt (3" or longer, 5/16" diameter, or whatever fits best in the hole) through the spool that came with the line and then tighten with a wing nut. Insert the bolt into your drill. Use a small piece of painter's tape to adhere the tip of the line or leader butt (if attached) to the spool before you start winding. 

Fred Cox
Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania

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