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10 Fly Fishing Tools You Don’t Think You Need - Skwala Fishing

10 Fly Fishing Tools You Don’t Think You Need

Check your ego; improve your fishing

Everybody warned me. Friends, mentors, random guides at the bar, they told me what to expect. Some claimed 40 as the end horizon. Others stretched it to 42. Even as I stacked birthdays higher and higher, like layers of sedimentary rock, annually ascending ever closer to the predicted date of failure, I didn’t believe them. It wouldn’t happen to me.  

But, of course, it did. 

At 43 years old, I stood beside a river, the ravenous gloam of twilight devouring the last magical moments of an evening rise, unable to get 5X tippet through the eye of a size 18 dry fly. I wasn’t even close. 

It didn’t have to go down that way. Had I been slightly less prideful and equipped myself with a few basic and cheap tools, I could have postponed the inevitable helplessness of realizing I could no longer perform a task that once felt effortless. I tripped over my ego.  

This article recommends a handful of cheap, simple tools you should consider adding to your fly fishing kit. Not all of them deal with the inevitable failing eyesight, but they’re all tools that I resisted carrying until I realized their utility. This isn’t a list of basic fly fishing tools—if you’re reading this, you’re probably beyond the basic stage. While I consider simplicity a virtue in life and fly fishing, I also like having the right tools on hand for every situation. 

1) Cheaters.  
Most people call these “reading glasses.” I have always called them “cheaters,” and will continue to do so even though I am now a cheater myself. They make small things look bigger and assist failing eyes when threading (and tying) flies. Any pair of cheap magnifying glasses will work, found at any drug store and most grocery stores. Personally, I like the ones that go around your neck and have a magnetic closure in the bridge for quick and easy use. Of course, wearing them around your neck announces to everyone that you need cheaters, but I prefer that to digging around in my bag whenever I tie on a new fly. 

2) Magnetic Fly Threader 
While cheaters are common, I rarely see other anglers using one of these tools. It’s a little box with a divot on top lined up to a narrow gutter. You put the eye of your hook into the divot, and a strong magnet holds it in place. Then you push your tippet through the gutter, and it threads through the hook eye. This tool takes a little practice, and it doesn’t always work. Some flies, especially very small ones or ones with curved eyes, can prove challenging, but by and large it will save you time. You can get these from various distributors under different names, but it seems like they’re all essentially the same product. Check out a demo here 

3) Tie-Fast Tool 
I don’t know how many nail knots I’ve tied, but between a decade and a half guiding and some fill-in stints at fly shops, I’ve tied more than my share. These days, most fly lines come with welded loops, so nail knots have fallen out of fashion. Recently, I started cutting the welded loops off the front of my fly lines and attaching leaders with nail knots again. Flip Pallot does a good job explaining why. In the old days (or my dumber days), I always thought nail knot tools unnecessary. While you should know a few different ways to tie a nail knot with whatever you have on hand, a Tie-Fast tool lets you tie strong, consistent nail knots quickly. 

4) Cheap Back Up Nippers and Hemostats 
Do you need $100 nippers? Of course not. Do you want them? That’s a personal decision. Even if you do prefer machined aluminum line cutters with replaceable jaws, you should always carry at least one set of 99 cent nail clippers from Dollar General and one pair of generic, cheap hemostats. I don’t know how many expensive hemos, clippers, cutters, and pliers I’ve lost over the years, and I don’t want to know. But for some reason I never lose the ultra-shitty backups, and I’m always happy to have them when I chuck the nice ones overboard or leave them streamside in the bushes somewhere. 

5) Wading staff 
Only a wading staff dangling from your belt makes you look older than cheaters hanging from your neck. Guiding in Alaska in my mid-20s, I relished aggressive and risky wading. These days, I appreciate the stability of a third contact point when I’m belly deep in a stiff current. Fly fishing is not an extreme sport, and there’s no point drowning for a fish. If you don’t want to buy an actual wading staff, clip an old ski pole to your belt. 

6) Ketchum release tool 
Your hands are bad for trout. Handling fish disturbs their protective coating and leaves them more vulnerable to disease and infection. The Ketchum release tool allows you to remove hooks from fish faces without ever touching the fish. Get the fish in the net, slide the tool down the leader, back out the hook, and let the fish swim away. This requires a little bit of practice, but if you can learn to catch a fish on a fly rod, you can learn to use this tool for easier releases. 

7) Low light lenses 
You already know the importance of quality polarized sunglasses. In addition to protecting your eyes from UV damage (and flying hooks), they make spotting fish and underwater structure much easier. But do you own a good pair of yellow tinted, low light polarized lenses? You should. Cloudy and rainy days still bombard your eyes with UV rays and wearing dark amber lenses makes it very difficult to see in low conditions. The Smith Ignitor and Costa Sunrise lenses are both good choices. 

8) Magic Markers 
Carrying a basic assortment of felt-tip markers means you can carry fewer fly patterns. Say the fish are eating brown mayflies but you’ve only got gray or yellow-bodied imitations. A brown marker will fix that. You can also add hot spots to your nymphs or make bright flies more subdued (this is particularly useful on hoppers and stonefly dries). Having trouble seeing those white parachutes on the surface? Color the posts orange. The options are only limited by your creativity. 

9) Mucilin 
Modern fly lines float incredibly well compared to their predecessors, but all lines eventually lose that fresh-from-the-box buoyancy. Most manufacturers suggest cleaning your line if it starts to sink, and that does usually solve the problem. When you’re fishing, however, you don’t necessarily want to take the time to clean your fly line. In that case, you can coat the last few feet (or whatever section is sinking) in Mucilin, and that will get you through the day. Bonus tips: Smear Mucilin into the wings of your chubby Chernobyls and they’ll float all day. On hot days, store Mucilin in the cooler to avoid greasy messes. 

10) Zap-a-Gap (or other superglue) 
This comes in handy for all manner of situations. Reinforce a fly that’s starting to unravel (especially useful when it’s your last one of the only pattern that’s working). Shore up a nick in your fly line. You can even use it to close open wounds. Things break. Superglue puts them back together. 

Maybe you’re still resistant to wearing cheaters and carrying a wading staff. If I’m being totally honest, me too. Unfortunately, the only other options are to quit fishing (not going to happen) or procreate. It’ll take a while, but eventually that kid will get old enough to tie your flies on for you and shepherd you across sketchy crossings. Pretty sure cheaters and a wading staff are more cost effective in the long run. 

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