Better Twist Management for Better Fly Casting

Chubby Checkers created “The Twist”, but I really don’t care for it much, especially in my fly line. Twist in fly line makes for numerous problems, especially for those of who cast long, shoot line, use stripping buckets and basically just want to make trouble free casts and avoid the dreaded “spaghetti monster”.

So where does the twist come from? Well there can be different sources, flies for example that twist on retrieve or in casting. Tie a spoon fly on without a non-slip loop knot, you’ll quickly find out what twist is. Use the non-slip loop knot and you won’t have an issue, but that’s not the source of the twist that we deal with most commonly. The main source of twist for me is changing planes when casting. Not supposed to do that right? Well some of it is unavoidable. Even if you are an excellent caster and stay in the same plane normally, you still change planes when you cast to a different spot. For example you don’t change planes when casting to the same place over and over again, but say you notice some nervous water and you pick up and cast 45 degrees away to it, what did you just do? Changed planes. Not a full turn mind you, nothing you would notice but after some time passes, those fractional twists will add up and ultimately show up in the fly line. Of course if one makes short casts without shooting line, those fractional twists can work themselves out, which is why some folks don’t have an issue with line twist i.e. short casts without shooting any line.

Looking on the web for solutions to line twist will generally turn up the following solutions:

Remove the reel and let it free spin to remove the twist. This process is a pain and has two issues that prevent me from using it. On my favorite pan-fish rod I have a click and pawl reel, which won’t hang and spin, it just falls to the ground. The other issue is over-spin, it spins too far and puts spin from the other direction, hard to get it perfect. Not to mention the issue of when you are wading or on a boat. I once dropped a reel on a boat because the drag wasn’t tight enough. The guide winced.

Cut the fly off and drag the fly line behind a boat or let it float down current, then cast it out. Yeah, having a boat available or asking your guide to run around for you to untwist your line, yeah, no. Casting it out, also, no.

The other day I bumped into the following video on Gink and Gasoline made by Zack Dalton of Rio Products with a great tip about flipping the rod over to eliminate the twist.

If a right-handed caster, hold the reel in your right hand and rod in the left hand and flip the rod toward you, away from you for left-handed casters. I thought to myself, this is great, why didn’t I think of that? So I started applying this new tip. Somehow though, the tip wasn’t working as I expected. I noticed sometimes when doing the Tongoriro Roll Cast that flipping the rod toward me was making the twist worse and I had to flip the rod away from me to remove twist. That worked for a while then I noticed when mixing different kinds of casts, the twist would sometimes be clockwise, sometimes counter clock-wise. I came to the realization that when fishing and using different casts and casting to different spots etc (changing planes), I could be introducing twist in various directions. I needed to be able to look at the line and see the direction of the twist to determine which way to flip the rod.

Can you look at your line and know immediately which way the twist was introduced? Well, I couldn’t, so I sat down with some fly line and studied it. What I found was that if you are holding your rod, if you look down at the line the twist will come up toward you and then down away from you.

If the line coming up toward you veers right as it starts up, then left just before it starts down, the twist is counter clock-wise, flip the rod clock-wise to eliminate the twist. In other words, the bend is to the right, flip the rod to the right (CW).

If the line coming up toward you veers left, then right before it starts down, then it is twisted clock-wise, flip the rod counter clock-wise. In other words, the bend is to the left, flip the rod to the left (CC).

I started just noticing the direction of the twist and making the adjustments as I fish and now my fly line stays untwisted all the time. ALL THE TIME. I don’t have to wait for it to become a problem and then untwist it, I just manage the little twists that are introduced as they happen. Fractional twists will add up, but as soon as I notice a curve in the line, I notice which way its oriented and give the rod a flip or two and go back to fishing.

And this has helped me how? Well, my casts are longer as there are no coils banging their way through the guides. And I have little or no issue with what I call “spaghetti monsters” which are tangled gobs of fly line that occasionally come up out of the stripping bucket and hang in the guides. (Keeping a clean, slick line is also key to killing the spaghetti monsters.) I also think it helps me with strike detection in that the lack of twist makes the line more sensitive visually. Casting is even more enjoyable now as I’m always casting a supple and trouble-free fly line.

I have to say, as the only stripping bucket user I know, this process of managing the twist has made all the difference in the world. Fly line twist may be a large reason for fly fishers not adopting the use of a stripping bucket because twist causes issues quicker when putting line in a small space like a bucket/basket.

By the way, I mean no detraction on Zacks’ video tip, it’s a great tip and I am thankful for it, I just think I am pushing the envelope a little when I mix overhead casting with Tongoriro Roll Casts and still water fishing which includes a lot of casts intentionally out of plane, producing mixed twist scenarios.


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