tangled flyline

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Twisted line is just a part of fly fishing. Learn how to deal with it.

There’s nothing more infuriating than attempting to make a long-awaited cast at a tailing redfish or rolling tarpon (or any fish, for that matter), only to find that after you have judged the distance and powered up a great loop, the tangled coils of a twisted fly line have bunched up against your stripping guide — completely killing your cast and any chance at that fish. Regardless of your skill level, type of fly line, or whether you fish in fresh or salt water, fly line twist is part of the game. There are a number of factors that can cause it. With the exception of some extreme cases, it’s relatively easy to fix.

Fly line twist can occur from a variety of causes, many of which are unavoidable during a typical day of fishing. Often, anglers are quick to assume that a particular brand of line twists up more than others (which has been true in a few cases), or that there is something wrong with the core type. Some may even get down on themselves thinking there is a casting fault of theirs to blame. While factors such as the core of the line, a particular coating, or perfectly tight loops may prolong the line from twisting, all lines are likely to twist up a little at some point.

Certain casting styles that employ a change of plane between the forward and back casts — Belgian casts, roll casts and even spey casts — will cause your line to twist over time. Casting bushy, wind-resistant flies or indicators will also cause your line to twist up as well. Even certain retrieves, such as figure-eight retrieves or simply stripping big water-pushing streamers all day can lead to that ugly twist in your fly line at the end of the day.

Here is a scenario you might be familiar with. You’re getting ready to make a cast but you have stepped on your line so, of course, it won’t go anywhere. Don’t, and I repeat don’t, try to kick your line out of the way. You will undoubtedly roll that line with the bottom of your foot and it will twist terribly. Bend over, and pick it up with your fingers and move it to where it needs to go to avoid the rolling twist.

Almost every fishing situation presents a way to leave your fly line a mess. Not to worry; it’s easy to fix. The best method to use depends on where you are at the time. Check out the list below to find the best method for you the next time you find yourself cussing at the mess and missed opportunity.

On the River

If you’re wading in moving water, straightening out your line couldn’t be easier. Simply clip your fly off and strip out your entire fly line, allowing the current to take it downstream. Pinch the backing against the cork, hold it there for 20 to 30 seconds and let the current do the work. There you go — your line should be ready to fish again.

In the Boat

If fishing from a boat, use the same method as above but use the boat’s power to straighten your fly line instead of the stream current. Clip your fly off and strip out the entire line and “troll” the fly line behind the moving boat until the twists are removed.

On the lawn

If you need to untwist your line when not on the water, try laying the majority of your fly line out in a straight line. Grass fields or lawns work best for this method, as your fly line is less likely to pick up dirt here than on a parking lot or beach. Hold the line between your thumb and forefinger and run down the length of the line.

Make sure to start at the backing end and work your way towards the tip of the fly line so the twist can disappear at the end. Also, it’s important not to let go of the line with your fingers until you are finished, as this will cause the line to twist back up to the starting point.

You may find if you are trying to work quickly this method can burn your fingers. If this is the case, use a thin cloth to pull down the line. This is also a great time to recondition your line as well. Clean it with a damp rag as you pull and apply your favorite line dressing when completed.


I use this technique the most. Cast out the amount of line you have off the reel. Try to keep some tension on the line by lifting the rod a little or backing away a couple steps so the line doesn’t wrap around the tip during the following process. While keeping the rod pointed at the fly, turn your body 90 degrees to the right and hold the rod at arm’s length, forming O’s with the forefinger and the thumb of both hands. You want one O on the fighting butt, and the other just below the stripping guide.

Now, using the reel as weight, flip the rod rapidly on its long axis counterclockwise (back toward your body) 10 to 15 times. This takes just a couple of seconds. Make a couple of overhead casts or roll casts and strip line back — and you are all untwisted ready to go. If you are a lefty, flip the rod clockwise. This will work a little better if you take the time to cut off your fly first.

Anywhere else

This method, although the most time-consuming, it is an effective way to remove the twists in your fly line. It can be done anywhere and with very little room. First, strip off your entire fly line (or as far as it is twisted). Then, starting at the backing end of your reel, strip in roughly 3 to 4 feet of line, leaving a loop of line. If twisted, this loop will spin around itself. If this is the case, remove your reel from the rod and rotate it in the opposite direction of the twist until the loop of line is free of any tangles. Reattach the reel and repeat until your fly line is free of twists.

Now that you have it all “straightened out,” find some clean water and go fish. Ladyfish, jacks and blues have been found schooling and are a blast on 6 weights. I found a huge school of trout busting the other day and caught them from 8 inches to 22 inches. It was crazy! Snook and a few reds have been on the mangroves, and in cleaner water you can sight fish them with success. Tarpon from baby to big are eating feathers and fur too.

Stay fly.

Capt. Rex Gudgel is a fly fishing guide in the Boca Grande area and an International Federation Of Fly Fishers Master Certified casting instructor. If you’d like to get casting lessons, book a trip or just need more fly fishing info, contact him at 706-254-3504 or visit BocaGrandeSlamFlyFishing.com or CastWithRex.com.

Capt. Rex Gudgel is a fly fishing guide in the Boca Grande area and an International Federation Of Fly Fishers Master Certified casting instructor. If you’d like to get casting lessons, book a trip or just need more fly fishing info, contact him at 706-254-3504 or visit BocaGrandeSlamFlyFishing.com or CastWithRex.com.


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