Dally’s How To: Untangling Wind Knots


We have all had them: those pesky, optimistically-named wind knots which take up fishing time. Few things can induce off-color language in nature’s most peaceful settings than a casting tangle, other than perhaps fly in the hat.

Like most of our guides I have a pretty high level of acquaintance with these in all their forms: the ball of yarn; the rod tip wrap; the indicator loop; the aerial macrame, “oops the streams crossed” and some non-casting cousins: the rainbow trout gator roll and the “why are my flies in my spool?”

And I’ve developed a protocol to make life a little easier, I hope the suggestions help.

  • I have a standard pre-trip introduction for beginners that there is no word as sorry in my boat unless there is blood involved. Sorry is for when you feel bad about something. A fly casting tangle for a beginner is a fact of life. We fix it and go on: no drama. It’s the next cast that counts most when you are learning.
  • Really big tangles should be treated with proper respect and awe, perhaps a photo. All tangles are better with at least a little humor. This is supposed to be fun right?
  • If you want to stop casting tangles make sure your back cast unrolls before you come forward. You are allowed to turn and watch it. This would take away 85% of fly fishing tangles, particularly with indicator rigs. But never all.
  • Tangles which occur when fighting or coming unbutton from fish con’t count against you. Stuff happens.
  • You can never remove a tangle by casting!
  • If the tangle is high in the leader and the flies are free and unscathed, cut the tippet at the upper fly. One knot is pretty fast to redo.
  • Start at the pointy end of the leader and work back
  • Most tangles are combinations of loops of line and twists of line.  Tackle the loops first, until you run into a twist.
  • Don’t pull anything until you know it’s not going to tighten the knot.
  • If anything is locked down the point of a euro-jig hook (Tailwater Jig) is about as clean a tool to open a knot as anything.
  • Passing one fly through twists (overhand knots) is faster than two.
  • On windy days borrow a third hand to control the bigger loops
  • Patience is a lubricant for the worst tangles
  • Go back to fishing