If you haven’t been out fishing for a few months, weeks, or even days, chances are that your line has settled into a series of coils from being on your reel for so long. When you peel line off the spool, you can see how the line’s “memory” causes it to coil on the ground. (The core and coating characteristics of the line and the air temperature determine how much memory a line exhibits in this situation.)
Line memory is a problem for two reasons: when the line travels through the rod guides during casting, it doesn’t travel in a straight line, and the rubbing of the coils against the guides introduces unwanted friction that means you have to work harder to get line out. This limits your ability to shoot line. Once the line is on the water, it won’t lie straight, so there’s unnecessary slack between you and your fly, which can make setting the hook more difficult. It’s also important to have a straightened line when you’re casting out of a boat because coiled line will tangle more.
So, you need to straighten your line by stretching it. There are three ways to do this, all simple and effective.
The most straightforward method requires an anchor and about 100 feet of clear space.
- Cut your leader back until it’s about 10-pound-test. Tie a loop in the end.
- Attach the loop to an anchor: a branch, a nail sticking out of the trunk of a tree, etc.
- With your drag set medium-tight, back away from the anchor until most if not all of your line is outside the reel.
- Clamp your hand on the reel and pull back smoothly. You don’t want to tug the line sharply; you’re simply trying to stretch it. Thirty seconds of stretching ought to do the job.
- Take a few steps forward, to release tension on the line and see if it falls to the ground in a straight line.
- Reel up as you normally would, and go fishing.
If you don’t have a lot space, but you have a smooth pole ( a flagpole, a fencepost, etc.) that won’t abrade your line, you can double the line when you stretch it. Just like our sartorially splendid friend Steve Edge does in the video above, loop your line around the pole, and hold the end of the line in your left hand. Back up, allowing line to come off your reel until you’ve got the length you’d like to stretch. Clamping down on the line against the rod and holding tight to the end of the line, pull back smoothly, as described above.
If you have neither the time nor the space to do the above–if you’re on a boat, for instance–you can stretch the line by hand. Since you’re probably not going to cast the entire line at any point during your fishing day, you only really have to stretch the front 50 feet or so. It’s easy to stretch it in about 3-foot sections.
- With one hand on the front end of the line, use the other hand to grab the line 3 feet away.
- Stretch that section by pulling your hands apart and holding for a few seconds. (Be careful as you’re stretching. If you accidentally pull the line through your bare hand, you can get a nasty line burn.)
- Then grab the next three feet, and repeat the process, and so on, until you’ve stretched as much as you expect to cast plus one more 3-foot section.
Watch the line as you drop it to the ground or the bottom of the boat to ensure that you’re getting the kinks out.
(Hat tip to Moldy Chum for the video.)