Vorhis tricks - Pre-Rig_Transport_Frame

Guest Blogger: Michael Vorhis, Fly Fisher & Author, FreeFlight Publishing

Here are a handful of do-it-yourself shortcuts I’ve used to make my time on the water more efficient, better equipped, more pleasant.  (Note that this list may lean partially toward stream wading.)

  1. I hate it when I’m in a hurry to set up…sun’s already streaming its rays and there’s a hatch on…and I thread the fly line through the guides, turn to grab a leader, and find that the line has fallen back through and is sitting in a heap on the ground next to the reel. So now, as soon as I string it through, I squeeze one of those little squishy foam ear plugs and put it into one of the snake guides (a higher one, but still one I can reach while holding the rod’s cork grip in my other hand). It prevents self-dismount of the line. I can rig up leader, tippet, shot and flies, wade into the stream, and then just slip that foam ear plug out and put it in my pocket before my first cast. (It even turns a “guided” rod into a little miniature “Tenkara-ish” rod of sorts, for really tiny overgrown streams too narrow for your leader length.)
  2. Vorhis tricks - Pre-Rig_Transport_FrameTo save time setting up at dawn, I built a simple pre-rig “transport frame.” The night before I head out, I string line and leader through the guides but leave the rod sections apart, snugging them into foam holders on the frame (see the photo). I can even pre-attach the fly, if I know what I want to start with. At the stream, all I need do is pull on waders and boots, fit the rod sections together, and start to fish. (And the ear plug idea helps keep the line in place on the rod sections when it’s all still on the transport frame, so that there’s no tangling and the task of joining the sections is fast.) It usually gives me at least twenty more minutes of fishing than I’d otherwise get. (And on popular rivers on weekend mornings a 20-minute head start can even mean not losing the prime wading spot to another fisherman.)
  3. It helps to have a basic scheme for fly box organization. Of any given pattern, in general I’ll put bigger-hook flies to right, smaller to left. Any rule you know by heart works. Size and wet-vs-dry is admittedly easy to see while fishing, but some aspects are not, especially in low light–such as whether there’s lead weight tied in under a thorax or whether the hook has a low profile barb vs. being truly barbless. Having some general scheme helps in making decisions like whether we need extra shot on the leader, whether the fly is legal to tie on at all, etc. It also later helps me see at a glance what I’m running low on, when I sit down to the vise.
  4.  After I use a fly and remove it from the tippet, I don’t put it back in the fly box. I put it in a little lidded “already used today” cup (something like a film canister–remember film?). It allows me, on returning home, to recall (maybe log) what flies I’d tried, to dry them for a few minutes, and to inspect them carefully to make sure they’re still fishable–that the dubbing isn’t worn off or tails gone or herl unraveling or something. Easier to see that on a table at home than in low light on the stream.
  5.  I store tapered leaders by winding them around little bits of foam that are oval-shaped rather than round. When a leader is cold and wants to obstinately retain its curl, the oval shape of the coils seem far less prone to having coils slip between each other and tangle. Saves time and expletives.
  6.  Long ago I bought ski boot driers on eBay, for little more than nothing. You slip one mouse-shaped unit in each boot and plug them in, and they generate a little low-level heat that really drives the moisture from a boot. I use these to accelerate the drying of my wading boots, so that the leather doesn’t sit there wet, smelly and decomposing for days or weeks. You can tilt the toe up and put the heater in at the heel, so that warmed air rises toward the toe and also toward the ankle. It works great.

Well, those are a few tricks I use and love. Reply to this article and share your own! Maybe we can get a database of great tricks and tips going.

Note from J. Stockard: Next week, we’ll publish the 2nd half of Mike’s Baker’s Dozen of Tips & Tricks. Michael Vorhis is the author of ARCHANGEL suspense thriller…which has some fly fishing in it…and of adventure thriller OPEN DISTANCE, based on aviation and the deep sea.


  1. Good tips. Here’s another trick I just started using after purchasing some fluorocarbon leaders for nymphing, but then discovering I couldn’t tell them from non-fluorocarbon monofilament leaders just by looking, once removed from the original package.

    Use a permanent black magic marker and blacken the loop or the first inch or two of the butt end
    of your fluorocarbon leaders.

    1. Two words – furled leaders/b> – no memory, lasts multiple seasons and by far cheaper in the long run over mono and flouro leaders which get consumed and knotted over a season.

  2. Never used one, Mike. I kinda enjoy using gear I made myself (to the degree it’s reasonably feasible), such as flies and leaders (and rod). I once looked into what it would take to make my own furled leader and to say it’s involved would be an understatement. Even building the gig is a science. So I bagged the idea. But your endorsement carries a lot of weight with me and I might revisit that at some point.

    1. Michael, I’ve never made one and have tried many different brands over time. I’ve settled on the Feather Craft leaders becuase they have been of great quality and last for several seasons. My suggestion is to try one sized for a three to five weight floating line and see what you think. I remember when I first started using them back in the late 90s, how pleased I was with their performance. Bottomline is–if you like the way they perform they will save you a lot of money over the course of several seasons.

      1. Thanks, great tip regarding Feather Craft, Mike. I rather doubt they will save me any money, as I actually only get out every fewe weeks, and other than tippet itself, a tapered leader lasts me an incredibly long time–numerous seasons in fact. That’s far more, I suspect, than it lasts a guy who lives up in Montana. In fact I’m more apt to drop a leader accidentally on the ground by my vehicle and drive off without it than I am to wear one out. (And yes, I’m always envious when I hear about guys like you wearing leaders out.)

        So it would probably be handling and presentation, not leader longevity, that would drive me to “go furled.” Mostly I fish subsurface (nymphs) so “presentation” to me usually has more to do with drift and depth than with delicate plop-down.

        But if furled leaders are just a plain joy to use, then logic be damned and I’ll give one a go anyway. Tnx for the tip Mike.

  3. Haven’t used this long enough to say how long the permanent marker lasts, but it’s long enough to retouch between outings, if needed. Also, I can highly recommend the micro rings, 1.5 mm I believe, to attach tippets to leaders. With these, all leaders last longer. I ordered both shiny and black nickel rings thinking maybe that would be a good way to differentiate, but the rings are too small, so I broke out the marking pen.

  4. A big yes on the tippet rings, Tommy (as my #7 thru #13 list mentions), although the sizes you cite are WAAAAYYYY too small for my eyes and fingers. I go way up to three to four mm rings for nymph leaders, with no ill effects whatever, and those sizes make it easy for me to replace the tippet out there on the water, in low light…while shivering…. I use the darker color so it won’t distract wary trout from my fly.

    Those tipet rings have another advantage: If you need to add a little piece of shot, put it above the ring; it’s on thicker leader material than your tippet that way, and it won’t slide down onto the fly. I don’t seem to lose expensive polymer-coated micro-shot anymore, either.

    – Mike

    1. Mike:
      Just checked — the small rings are 5/64th, or about 2mm, and work well with 5x leaders and 6x or 7x tippet. I also like to use UV-setting glue to secure the knot on the leader side of the ring. I did pick up some medium size rings for bass fishing, but haven’t used them yet. I mostly fish a very small creek near my place in western NC, where the natives are very spooky and a 7 ft creek rod is the order of the day.

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