A look at the pros and cons of adding a small clip to your fly fishing set-up.
Many surf fishermen and women tend to be stalwarts of tradition. After working so hard for decades to reach a level of proficiency in this challenging past time, they are reluctant to change techniques or try new methodologies. Yet, I believe we must be constantly willing to adapt, change, and push ourselves to get the most out of this crazy angling past time; and indeed, to get the most out of this one life we have to live. Without any risk, there is no reward.
One idea I had that I thought was new was using a Tactical Anglers clip while fly fishing the surf. At the time, the smallest clips the company was selling were their 50-pound model. They worked great with larger flies, and for at least three years I thought I was onto to some great secret. Then, a couple of years ago, Tactical Anglers released the new “Micro Clips” designed specifically for light-tackle and fly fishing. As it turned out, the owner of Tactical Anglers, Alberto Knie, had been developing these smaller clips for a decade or more, and others had been experimenting with clips in fly fishing for far longer than that.
While I was a little disappointed I hadn’t come up with a new idea, I wasn’t that surprised. But I was really excited to try the smaller clips, and I was one of the first to order them from my local tackle shop. Since then, I have used them to catch hundreds of stripers on the fly rod and I consider them essential gear. Let’s start with the very powerful positives of using these clips while fly fishing the surf.
First, they allow you to change flies very quickly without any penalty. This allows me to experiment more freely, and I have no doubt they then result in more caught fish. That alone is reason enough to use them. Further, constantly having to cut and retie a leader requires having to turn on my light (which could both spook the fish or give away my position) and quickly reduces the length of my tippet. Coming to surf fly fishing from the world of plugging (where virtually everyone uses some form of snap) I found these problems tedious and frustrating, and I felt they prevented me from making changes when I probably should have. The micro clips completely solved both issues overnight.
Using a clip also allows me to quickly fix tangles, snarls and twists in my line. No matter how good you are at fishing the surf, inevitably you will start to get some twist in your line which can cause tangles and reduce casting distance. The easiest way to fix this is to simply take off the fly and make a cast, then grip the line tightly between your fingers while stripping it back in to your basket. This forces the twist down the line, until it turns the leader and disappears. Without a clip, you’d have to cut the fly off to do this. No such problem with the clip: take the fly off, do the procedure above a couple times, then clip the fly right back on and get back to fishing. I find this particularly powerful when fishing outflows, where even well balanced flies can spin on the retrieve.
While there are other smaller benefits, those are the two biggest. There is only one major drawback I have found. When changing flies often, the small micro clips can bend and become damaged over a long night of fishing. This is particularly true when using flies that are on the large size – something with a 3/0 or larger hook. Therefore, I typically replace them a couple times a week during the heat of the season. However, since they only cost about $0.30 each, I think it’s completely worth it. The only other downside I’ve found is they don’t work well with huge flies – hooks larger than 7/0. While you can get these big hooks on the snap, the reduced clearance can cause them to bind. This reduces the action, but worse can also cause the clip to fail if you hook a big fish. I have not yet had one completely fail on me, but I’ve bent one so severely I felt very lucky to have landed the fish. Therefore, if you want to use big hooks, simply move up to the 50-pound clip.
In closing, I will answer a common question: don’t the fish see the clip, and don’t they disrupt the fly profile? The answer, for me, is simple: No, I don’t think they do. Look at any surf fishing lure, even something small like a Bomber A-Salt. There is so much metal and “stuff” hanging off it—a plastic lip, split rings, and six hook points—and yet the fish attack these lures with reckless abandon day and night. A small clip at the front of your fly is going to make absolutely no difference. And even if you are afraid you’re in a very rare situation where it might, the issue is solved very simply: cut it off, put it in your pocket, tie the fly on direct, and keep fishing.