Tools for keeping your fly line tangle-free and ready to shoot.
Line management is the single biggest issue for fly fishermen. A wet beach towel placed over offending projections might solve your problems. Sometimes duct tape will do it. When that isn’t enough, you may need a line management tool.
You have several options. One is to use a product made for another purpose and adapt it to fly fishing. As an example, the pop-up laundry or leaf baskets made by Rubbermaid, Toro, Worx and others, available for about $20, work well as fly line baskets. They can be folded up so they take very little space when not being used. A section of garden hose cut to fit inside the basket and filled with lead sinkers holds the basket on the deck when the wind blows.
The main disadvantage of these products is that the spring that pops the basket up is made of steel. Steel rusts around saltwater. Rust stains your boat’s deck. Still, you can get a couple years out of one of these baskets before it’s time to dispose of it.
A few companies make modern iterations of the now-defunct Fly Line Tamer. One is called the Strip and Feed Ultimate Fly basket from Strip and Feed Research, another is The Bucket from Sea Level Flyfishing Adventures, and still another is the Line Hut from Carbon Marine.
What I like about these types of products is that you can place them where you want them relative to you so that you do not have to alter how you work the fly. They adapt to you, rather than requiring you to adapt to them.
If you don’t like the bucket-style tools, you may prefer a mat. A couple of popular mats for fly fishers include the Line Lair from Carbon Marine, which comes in both a round and a square version, and the new Toad Loader from Strip and Feed Research. Both of these are made from a soft, rubbery material. The Line Lair has little rubber “fingers,” while the Toad Loader has cones. Both are designed to trap your line so the wind can’t blow it around. I have a Line Lair and like it a lot.
You may like wearable stripping baskets. Certainly for beach fishing these are a necessity. In a boat they are somewhat cumbersome. Many companies offer these, including Sea Level Fly fishing, Orvis, William Joseph, L.L. Bean, and more. Stripping baskets are also pretty easy to make yourself. Wearable baskets generally require you to alter your stripping motion to accommodate them.
A product which I have not personally used, but which looks very promising, is the Stripper Clip from Peter Hayes. The clip sits on a belt on your hip and holds coils of line as you strip it in, then allows you to cast without the line tangling.
My research found several line management products similar to those currently available that are no longer made. If you find a product you like you might think about getting several of them. Regardless of which tool you choose, line that’s not tangled will catch more fish for you. That’s the beauty of using these tools. FS
First published Florida Sportsman September 2014