Using swivels in fly fishing can at times be a must have requirement to keep line twisting to a minimum. In my experience this is dependent on the fly used, with most flies not requiring a need to run a swivel, but some other flies due to their design can twist either when casting or in the water, thus requiring a swivel.
Can You Add a Swivel to Your Fly Line Setup?
By all means if you’re experiencing twists and tangles caused by the flies your casting, go ahead and add a swivel. Make sure the swivel is high quality and small enough to slide through your fly rod guides. The only time I wouldn’t advise adding a swivel is when fishing small dry flies.
When to Use a Swivel for Fly Fishing
When casting big wind resistant flies like large bass bugs or streamers a swivel is advised. Constant twisting can be detrimental to your leader and tippet, causing kinks that weaken the line. Along with compromising your line, the twisting can cause issues when it comes to effectively casting your flies.
Not all flies require a swivel to fish effectively and in most cases aren’t needed. If your line is coiling it’s obvious that one is needed.
When choosing a swivel for fly fishing, micro swivels are the best choice, the smaller the swivel the less affect it will have on your fly line setup and casting. It’s also best to use high quality swivels and to shy away from the traditional cheap barrel swivels. Barrel swivels are generally weaker than higher quality swivels and they do not spin nearly as effortlessly as high-quality micro swivels. High quality swivels feature a tiny ball bearing to spin easily with very little resistance.
Fly types used that are typically used with swivels would be flies like wind resistant bass flies or larger streamers. Streamers used in heavy current are also commonly used with micro swivels. Swivels are also commonly used when pike and musky fishing with very large flies, due to their tendency to twist when casting.
Another type of common fly fishing situation in which you may need a swivel would be when fishing egg sacks for salmon in current where you may have the bait sitting in the current for longer periods of time as you wait for passing fish.
Where in a Fly Fishing Setup do You Place a Swivel?
When using a swivel, you should place the swivel in your line at the transition point between your tapered leader and your tippet.
For example, on a 9-foot leader the front 18 inches of your leader is the actual tippet, this is the spot where you want to cut the line and add a micro swivel.
The butt section of the leader will last you an entire season if it doesn’t get damaged, allowing you to replace the leader on the front end of the swivel as needed.
What Knot to Use with Swivels?
Knots for micro swivels don’t have to be complicated use a clinch knot which most anglers are familiar with, along with knots like a Palomar knot will work just fine for fly fishing applications in regards to using a micro swivel.
Where to Find Quality Swivels for Fly Fishing
Scientific Anglers offer a great micro swivel in two different variants, #25 and #40 options. In my opinion the #40 variant is my preferred choice, the added strength is important to ensure you don’t lose a large fish, but for smaller fish species the #25 should work just fine.
If you’re ready to buy some swivels, I highly recommend Scientific Anglers Micro Swivels < Link to Amazon
Fly Fishing Swivel Considerations
The color of your swivel is something to consider. Silver swivels can actually attract fish and cause fish to strike the swivel itself due to it being shiny and attractive. Due to this most fly fisherman tend to use black swivels to reduce the chances of this happening and it might be a good idea for you to consider this as well.
The Last Cast [Without a Twist]
Swivels like in conventional angling have a time and place in the fly fishing world. While they might not be as common, they definitely still serve a purpose. It would be wise of any fly angler to keep some in their kit when they hit the water in the event that the hot fly of the day tends to spin and twist up your line.
Hey David here the maker of Guide Recommended. I’m super passionate about everything fly fishing fishing; writing, teaching and even video.