Drop the Hokey Cokey and make a faster fly cast

April 05, 2018 4 min read

We occasionally get asked why we do not put hook keepers on any of our rods - there are a number of very practical reasons why we do not…
Here's the hook keeper 3 step:
1/ You are walking along the river between pools with fly rod in hand, fly hooked on to the hook keeper. Lo and behold a 4 pound Brown trout appears in a nice lie only 20 feet in front of you. Heart pounding you launch into action to make a cast.
You unhook the fly from the keeper and try to pull out some line - the line to leader connection catches at the tip top and precious time is wasted while you fumble around almost doubling your rod in half in order to reach the tip top and free the catch at the end at the tip. You then fluff and fart around trying to get a little line out and then manage to flap and flail out enough line to make a cast. You peel off loops of line in the sand and dirt around your feet, stand on your line a couple of times, do the Hokey Cokey and turn around. 
By this time, fish, friends and all hope have moved on.
Hokey Cokey fly fishing
"You stick your fly rod in, you pull your fly line out..." 
This whole rigmarole is further exacerbated on shorter rods with long leaders.
Even with a 9 ft rod this is problematic. A standard 9ft tapered leader with a couple of feet of tippet added means that that the leader to line connection is well inside the tip top and is difficult to get out  and get underway casting. Regardless of what line to leader connection you use (loops, nail knots etc) - although a needle knot is pretty low profile, they still catch at the tip top and you still do not have enough line to actually make a cast.
Even after you reach up and “encourage” the line to leader connection out past the tip top you’ll need to strip off a few feet of line in order to have enough fly line out past the tip to cast a loop and work sufficient line out to make your full cast.
2/ Hook keepers tend to catch & tangle fly lines when shooting line and fighting fish (the reason why you won’t, or shouldn’t, see one on a saltwater rod)
3/ We much prefer the clean elegant look of rods without a hook keeper and have followed this on all our fly rods. Honestly - they are a pain in the ass, you’re better off without one in our not so humble opinion.

There's a better way.

A far more effective way to hold the line and fly so that it is ready to go at a moments notice: 
Take your line and bring it down and around the fly reel and then hook the fly back up on the furtherest (is that a word?)  guide you can comfortably reach. This way you are ready to pop out a cast at a moments notice. Those guides are plenty tough (or at least ours are) they can take it.
Fly Casting fly rods hook keeper
The doubled over line will be a rod length and (at least ) a half long depending on how far you managed to reach out to hook the fly in a guide.
To make a cast simply slip the looped line off the fly reel, let it hang and give the back of the fly rod a sharp tap or two. The fly will drop loose from the guide and you are ready to cast. With practice you can sweep up and cast in one motion - your line and fly will never touch the ground.
Fly fishing fly rods
On a 9ft rod that's nine feet plus at least another 4 to 5 feet (you can just about reach your own height doing this) - thus you have about 14 feet ready to cast, one false cast and a short line shoot and you are in reach of the nice brownie 20 feet way  - and it took only seconds to do.
Fly Fishing fly rods
It's a much more effective method than unhooking a fly from a hook keeper and trying to pull fly line and leader to line connection out of the tip top, then pulling enough line out to make a cast and launching into that first cast Hokey Cokey.
You see, we really do think about fly fishing when we design gear. We are a small company, we fish, hand-craft and cast our own gear. Tradition absolutely has an influence over what we do, but in most cases we prefer to go with practical over conventional. 
Give it a go, it really is a winner  ;-)
All our fly rods use the very best quality Universal snake guides available - made by our buddy Mike at Snake Brand Guides USA. Our 590C fly rod, like all our carbon fiber (graphite) rods features titanium coated strippers and black nickel universals - they are tough.
(In case you were wondering - The rod used in these pics above is one of our very first 3 piece Epic 686's - it was made for me by Shane Gray,  we swapped a build for a blank to see if either if us were any good - and we both were.)
Fly rods

7 Responses

Howard Saslow
Howard Saslow

October 31, 2019

Shane Gray has built a few rods for me. He does an excellent job. I am very pleased with all of them and they don’t have hook keepers.

Jeff Bryant
Jeff Bryant

February 05, 2019

To resolve any issues with the leader knot getting stuck in the rings can I suggest using Dave Whitlock’s Knotless connection? I have been using it for years and it’s a game changer for short rod / long leader aficionados. Just type ‘Dave Whitlock knotless connection’ into Google for instructions, it’s a simple solution which works brilliantly

Tom Lucas
Tom Lucas

February 05, 2019

I don’t use hook keepers on any of my Epic rods, nor do I put them on my bamboo ones either. Lean and clean is the way to go!

Gordon Subritzky
Gordon Subritzky

February 05, 2019

Reading Don Pauls response – yep, here in New Zealand, Hokey Pokey is a great ice cream. Maybe a new inference is its as smooth as Tip Top (a NZ brand of ice cream. LOL


April 12, 2018

Yup! This is one my fishing pal showed me a long time ago-20+…works every time. Have shown it to all I have fished with since—it works.

Don Paul in Arizona
Don Paul in Arizona

April 09, 2018

Really Carl, the hokey cokey. over here we call it the hokey pokey. what’s going on down there besides nice fly rods. Boy, you New Zealanders are something else. Best Regards, Don

Noel King
Noel King

April 07, 2018

Thanks for that info but I already do that .cheers Noel

Leave a comment

Comments will be approved before showing up.

Also in The Drift - Fly Fishing, Fly Casting and Fly Rod Building

wels catfish on fiberglass fly rod epic boca grande 12 wt
Wels Catfish and the 12wt Boca Grande Fly Rod

August 02, 2021 2 min read

Read More
fly casting the reach mend or reach cast fly fishing casts
Reach for it - Fly casting, Mayflies, the Reach Mend and the drag free drift.

June 27, 2021 3 min read

A great method to help get good drag free drifts is to introduce some slack during the cast. There are many slack line casts but the Reach Mend is the most simple, if you tend to present your fly side on and at an angle to your fish  - (and I suggest you do) then you’ll want to use this cast pretty much every time you throw a fly
Read More
How to fly cast further fly fishing
7 Tips to Increase Your Fly Casting Distance

May 25, 2021 3 min read

Add 10 feet to your fly cast - pronto! Somewhere along the line who hasn’t wanted to cast just a little further.  While this isn’t intended to be a lesson on all out distance casting
Read More

Join Us