I’m standing in the middle of free stone river tying on a size eighteen zebra midge and in a moment of butter fingers, bloop, my favorite hemostat slips from my grasp and disappears into the torrent of the gurgling stream. My fishing buddy notices my clumsy moment, smiles and says, “You need a zinger, my friend.” I look at him with a stupor,

What’s a fly fishing zinger?

A zinger (sometimes referred to as a retractor) is a retractable lanyard that clips to the fly fisherman vest or gear bag and is used to keep fly fishing tools accessible. A zinger’s retractable cord is commonly attached to hemostats, nippers or other accessories.

Qualities to Look for in a Fly Fishing Zinger

My first retractor came as a part of a starter fly fishing kit, which was a great way to introduce me to the world of fly fishing. Unfortunately, that zinger didn’t last too long. The retractor was made of cheap metal components and eventually the retractor spring failed, rendering the zinger unusable.

Like many pieces of fly fishing equipment, zingers can be found in a variety of shapes, sizes, and prices. So, I embarked on a google quest to find out what I should look for in a good quality zinger. It didn’t take long to determine that the Fishpond Arrowhead Retractor is an excellent value. I found the following qualities to be important:

Best Zinger Materials

The casing of my first zinger was made from thin metal. The Arrowhead Retractor’s casing is made of a high-grade aluminum – aerospace 6060. This material is both lightweight (less than one ounce) and structurally solid. If I accidently drop my sling pack on a rock, I’m confident that this zinger will withstand the blow, no problem.

Attachment points are another area where materials make the difference in a quality zinger. Let’s revisit my first retractor; Another fail-point of that product was the spring closed clip (designed like the clip used to close a bag of chips), which rusted and would no longer close to secure to the zinger to my sling pack.

Materials are also only as good as the design applied to them, as a poor design can inevitably lead to product failure. I really like the caribiner design of the Arrowhead Retractor – it looks like it was designed for strength and durability, and I trust it to keep my net attached to my chest waders.

Breaking Strength of a Fly Fishing Accessories Retractor

fishpond retractor for fly fishing
fishpond retractor for fly fishing

Most lower quality zingers do not include a rating for the breaking strength for the retractable cable. Why is breaking strength important? It means the retractor is useful for a variety of applications. For example, not every retractor is designed to hold a net. Some, like the zinger in my starter kit, are designed only for light application like for nippers and hemostat.
When it comes to the strength of equipment, more is better. The Arrowhead Retractor includes a 130 pound test braided line with a breaking strength of 147 pounds. Under the conditions of normal use, this retractor cord is likely to provide the angler with many years of use.

Is the Zinger Cord Length Important

Cord length is an important feature of a retractor. Similar to the cord’s breaking strength, a longer cord length translates to versatility in how the zinger may be used. A good example is when the zinger is used for holding a net.

A twenty-four inch cord is probably not quite long-enough for most anglers to comfortably reach around and access their net from the D loop on the back of their waders. The Arrowhead Retractor is thirty-three inches and perfect for this kind of use.

I wrote more about the FISHPOND Arrowhead Retractor in my FLY FISHING ACCESSORIES article. I have had mine for a couple years and am really happy with it. If you’d like to checkout how much they cost AMAZON carries them LINK – Fishpond Arrowhead Retractor

Look for a Zinger with Good Product Reviews

Reading reviews can be really helpful for finding a quality product. I recommend doing some research online to find out about the experiences other anglers have had with the retractor you’re interested in. This is a good way to avoid products that may have design flaws or use inferior materials.

Items You Can Hold With a Zinger/Retractor

zinger for fly fishing
zinger for fly fishing

The items that can be attached to a retractor are only limited by one’s imagination. Here’s just a few of my standbys:

Nippers – are handy for when you need to change flies or add new tippet. This tool is super handy to keep on a retractor and will be used often.

Hemostat/ Forceps – Another great tool to have at the ready is a hemostat or forceps. This tool is great for removing hooks from landed fish and even tying knots for attaching flies.

Tippet Carrier – It’s great to have a good supply of tippet handy on any fly fishing venture. Attach a tippet carrier to your retractor for quick and easy access.

Floatant Holder – If you’re fishing dry flies for brookies in a cool mountain stream, having a floatant holder at the ready will make it easier to keep those dries on top of the water.

Fly Patch – Attach a fly patch to a retractor to keep your favorite flies close at hand.

Net – While wade fishing for bass on the Llano River in Texas, I set down my net on a large rock. It wasn’t until I got to my truck (two miles away) that I realized I had forgotten to pick the net back up. If I had attached it to my waders using a durable retractor, I’d probably still have that net.

Alternate Gear to Hold Fly Fishing Gadgets

FishPond 360 Swivel Retractor

The Fishpond 360 Swivel Retractor is an innovative spin on the zinger. It’s designed to rotate 360 degrees (as the name implies) so that you can access your attached item without tangling the retractor cord. This is a quality retractor and its price makes it an excellent value.

Make a Lanyard

Since the demise of my first retractor, I fashioned a makeshift lanyard out of some paracord (another option is old fly line). It’s very cost effective and durable material that will last for years. The disadvantage to this option is that its dependability rests wholly on the strength of the knots used.
If you decide to go this route, I recommend watching some Youtube videos to make sure the lanyard is formed using a reliable knot. I’ve tried using simple overhand knots in the past, but these have come undone on a few occasions.

Cool Accessories Make Better Experiences on the Water

I’ve written a huge aricle with tips for the beginning fly fisherman include a FREE downloadable check list. Go to my BEGINNER FLY FISHING CHECKLIST

All tools have a function and an intended purpose. The fly fishing zinger is purposed for bettering the fly angler’s experience on the water by improving the convenience and accessibility of fly fishing accessories.
When selecting a quality fly fishing zinger, the angler should look for a product that is crafted from reliable materials and is well designed for its purpose.

A little bit of online research of product reviews can go a long way to aid the angler in finding a reputable product. Once an angler experiences the functionality and ease of use that a zinger provides, it’s almost impossible to imagine a time when the tool was not in their quiver. So now you have a few pointers about the very useful and functional tool that is the fly fishing zinger.