OK, test time! What is the most useless part of a fly rod? A hint: it seems to be useful, but only gets in the way and actually hinders the purpose for which it is supposedly intended.
The hook keeper is the most useless part of the fly rod. In fact it is no longer part of most custom built rods, and some high end commercial offerings.
What makes me say these things? Well, first of all even when several of my rods had hook keepers, I kept getting my lines tangled around them in various casting situations. Admittedly I could control this by paying more attention to how I managed my line. But that required me to concentrate on something other than my casting stroke. Secondly, let’s consider how much leader and tippet most serious anglers use. In most cases, using the hook keeper requires the angler to reel the line further into the guides than the knot between the fly line and leader. This means that s/he cannot easily get the line/leader knot beyond the tip top by simply pulling the line with your hand. How much leader and tippet do you typically use? Personally I start with a shorter leader than many anglers. But as I think I may have mentioned already, I tie an 18-24 inch piece of heavy monofilament to my fly line before adding a leader. Joe convinced me long ago that this helps turn flies over, and I haven’t really questioned it beyond that. Then I most often add a 7.5 foot leader, followed by around 18 inches of whatever weight tippet is needed. Since I normally use at least 2 flies, I’ll add 1-2 feet of whatever weight tippet I want on my dropper or next fly. Nymphing on the river I’ll most often add a third fly along with another 15 inches or so of tippet. That means that I have 12 feet or more of nylon (sometimes including fluorocarbon) beyond the end of my fly line.
If I then hook my bottom fly into a hook keeper I have to reel 3 feet or more of nylon into my reel before the remainder snugs against my rod. Now what happens when I get ready to fish this rod? At this point I have had to reel 2 knots onto my reel. And guess what: those knots of leader and tippet have a tendency to snag on other leader or tippet material, so it’s sometimes a real battle to get them moving toward the tip top.
So how does one easily avoid this problem? When you need to prepare your rod for putting it into a rod holder, or to stack it somewhere for lunch (or a bathroom break) only reel your fly line far enough into the tip top so that 6 inches or so are left outside the tip top. Then wrap the leader and tippet material around the back of your reel between the reel and the butt of your rod. You now have 2-4 feet or so of leader and/or tippet in your hand. Hook your bottom fly into the support member of one of the nearest guides that allows you to snug everything down without pulling any knots through the tip top. Do not put your hook through the guide where your fly line is. That will eventually rough up the guide enough that it will put small pits in your line.
You are now fixed to lay your rod into a rod holder or to put it into some sort of holder for transporting to the next fishing spot. Joe and I or others we fish with often bank fish with routinely hit 5-10 different spots during even a short day of fishing. In the right season, we’ll maybe hit 6 spots on Pathfinder, 3 or 4 on Alcova and at least that many of the desert ponds in the area.
I’m seeing more and more of the long, expensive car top rod carriers. I’m fortunate in being able to insert a 9.5 foot rod rigged as described above into the back of my Outback. And I’m easily and quickly ready to put flies in the water at the next stop.
We’re mostly about making things as simple as possible without wasting time. The hook keeper has never made anything easy or simple for me and it has sometimes been a pain in the butt.