7 Fly Fishing Hacks

Fly fishing is an inherently relaxing activity. Listening to the sound of a flowing creek and watching a dry fly drift make time seem to slow down. That said, there are times when you’ll be impatient, frustrated, and in need of some shortcuts. These hacks will make your day of fishing just a little bit easier, which sometimes makes all the difference.

1. Stringing up a rod

When I teach beginners how to cast, I always cover how to string up a fly rod as well. If the person starts to string up before I jump in, they tend to grab the end of the leader and start feeding it up through the guides.

While this will work eventually, there are two big downsides to doing it this way. One is that it’s pretty easy to miss a guide. Thin fishing line is difficult to see and feel, and it’s easy to think you’ve strung up a guide when you’ve missed it. Additionally, if you accidentally let go, the weight of the fly line hanging down by the reel will instantly de-string the whole rod.

An easy hack to fix both problems is to string up by the fly line. Right behind the connection to the leader, pinch a small loop in the fly line and use this loop to string up. Not only is it way easier to see and feel, but if you accidentally let go, the loop should start to expand and catch itself before falling back to the ground.

A close-up image of fly line in a guide

2. Keeping your wrist steady

This tip is mostly for beginners. One mistake many beginners make is breaking the wrist during a cast. Before I get hate mail on this topic, I want to clarify that I know wrist movements can play a big part of a good cast.

However, most beginners should focus on not breaking their wrist at all, because until they grasp how to form a good cast with tight loops, they’re likely to overuse the wrist and wave the rod around.

For many first-time casters, it’s hard to focus on keeping the wrist relatively straight while also performing the rest of the cast. A hack to help with this is to use your long sleeve (or if you have long hair, the hair tie that’s likely around your wrist) to tuck the butt of the rod. By putting the end of the reel seat under your sleeve, you allow a slight wrist motion, but prevent egregious wrist breaking during a cast. This will allow you to focus on all the other parts of the cast until you’re ready to start incorporating more controlled wrist movements.

A person is holding a fly rod with the reel seat tucked in a shirt sleeve

3. Pre-tie multi-fly rigs

One of the most frustrating aspects of fly fishing is re-rigging any time new flies are needed. It’s one thing when you simply want to swap one fly out for another. It’s another thing when you have three flies on with a split shot and a bird’s nest of line from a snagged cast.

If you know you’re going to be fishing multi-fly rigs throughout the day, try preparing some pre-made fly combos the day before. You can store them however you see fit, but I find that having a foam fly holder works great. Just secure one fly and wrap the tippet and other flies around the holder. Secure the last fly when it pulls tight, and you’ll have a compact pre-tied setup.

When you’re ready to fish it, just tie on the top fly and you’re ready to go.

4. Use your legs when your ferrules stick

When I used to take large groups of people fishing, we’d always break down their rods for them after the trip. Breaking down up to 10 rods or so at a time inevitably led to the occasional stuck ferrules.

If the ferrules are stuck together, it’s tempting to grab the rod pieces and twist with a little leverage from the guides, but this can lead to bent or broken guides.

A way less risky, and also way easier, way to unstick ferrules nearly every time is the leg trick. To do it, bend your knees slightly and hold your rod horizontally behind your knees with both hands. Put one hand on each side of the stuck ferrules. Then, with your arms resting in against your knees, slowly start to open up your legs. The legs will push into the arms, giving you both extra strength and leverage to pull the ferrules apart.

A person is using her legs to unstick fly rod ferrules
A person is using her legs to unstick fly rod ferrules

5. Making a hook keeper work with a long leader

The hook keeper on a fly rod comes in really handy when you need a place to stash your fly. While the cork can be used in a pinch, it’s nice to keep it as clean and scratch-free as possible. The problem with a hook keeper if you have a long leader, though, is that it’s generally preferable to not pull the fly line back into the guides, since the line-to-leader knot can get hung up in the tip-top.

The solution is to wrap the line down around the reel once and pull it up to the hook keeper (instead of coming down to the hook keeper). That’s fairly common knowledge.

However, when I first started using that trick, I’d grab the fly, wrap it down around the reel using a lot of slack, and pull it up to the hook keeper. The hack to make this easier is to pull some slack out of the reel, hook the fly on the keeper as usual, and then grab the slack line and hold it under the reel while reeling in. This goes way faster and generally has fewer holdups.

6. Create rulers in other items

Lots of anglers don’t care too much about fish size. However, many of those same people have caught a couple huge fish that they really wish they’d been able to measure.

Since most people don’t feel like carrying around a ruler or measuring tape, an easy hack to allow measurements in a pinch is to create rulers out of other things.

This could mean physically marking something by the inch, or putting a mark at a certain length. For example, if you have an old crappy rod that you don’t mind marking up, you can add sharpie marks coming up from the cork. If you don’t mind a single mark but don’t want a ton, you could mark a single length, for example, 18 inches. This provides a point of reference for fish of similar lengths.

Alternatively, you can avoid marks and simply memorize a couple lengths you’ll always have available. This could be something on the rod again, like the distance between certain guides. One I like to use is the distance between the tip of my thumb and the tip of my pinky with both fingers fully outstretched. This is a super quick one to pull out, and you can measure longer fish by “stacking” your thumb-to-pinky lengths.

7. Live on a time zone line

This is a new one I recently picked up during a chat with Landon DeKeyser from the Fishing Podcast. He mentioned that during the summer, he can fish until nearly 10 pm, because he lives on the back end of his time zone. New York and Michigan clocks may both say 10 o’clock, but the east coast has passed into darkness long before the midwesterners reading the same time.

This could probably fall into the category of lifestyle hacks more than fishing hacks, but if you want to get the most out of your evenings and fish after work, remember that doing so at the back of a time zone will give you the most bang for your buck.


This Post Has 8 Comments

  1. Al Hermosillo

    Nice! Give me more.
    I love going out to “MY” fishing holes, alone. I can cover more water, I don’t have to leave every other spots for the other guy, I don’t like standing around talking, i can go on & on. I’m a very friendly guy don’t get me wrong
    but when I’m on the water i get in a zone, a fishing zone.
    The down side is sharing tricks, hacks etc. with my fly fishing buddies.
    I LOVE to Fly Fish!

  2. Frank Rinkevich

    Yep, been there, done that. Years back you were able to get a decal ruler for the rod. Haven’t seen one in a long time. I think Orvis had it.

    1. Katie Burgert

      You know, I’d never really thought to check whether this exists. I wonder if something like that is still on the market.

  3. don richardson

    THANK YOU.Im a beginner and can surely use these tips you have given.Its nice to get info shared by veteran fly fisherman to help us less expierienced ones.

    1. Katie Burgert

      Thanks, Don!

  4. David R Poindexter

    Measuring Ruler Decals specifically for fishing rods are listed on Amazon.

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