I’ve been an avid fly-fisherman for well over 45 years. I’ve watched the sport transition from a relatively obscure pastime enjoyed by eccentrics, old-timers and a small cadre from the upper crust, to an ultra-trendy sport claimed by virtually everyone as their favorite form of relaxation, whether or not they’d ever tried it. Of late, the sport seems to be falling off the radar of most, fading at worst, becoming very homogenized at best. Like so many things nowadays, Mega retailers, whether on-line or big box brick and mortar, and the resultant “bottom-line” financial considerations on which they operate, are driving the decisions of designers, manufacturers, innovators and by proxy, buyers.
As such there seems to be a lack of well thought-out innovation lately. I was pleasantly surprised recently when I received a package with items from Omnispool www.omnispool.com The Omnispool “Switchbox”, and some accompanying accoutrements (see image above) is a very clever group of tools that solves the problem of changing, cleaning and storing fly-lines. These are relevant issues for anyone that has been in the sport for long and/or fishes a lot. If you’re like me, you’re constantly changing lines, for different pursuits or presentations, or in the course of testing new lines. I was in the FF biz for a long time, I was a guide and instructor, and I’ve just fished for my own gratification for a very long time, but I was still a bit surprised when, preparing to “test” the SwitchBox, I realized that I have over 40 fly lines in various states of use and/or storage. I have a lot of fly reels too, even after paring down the herd a few years ago, but still, there are far more lines than reels. This means that lines do get switched out from time to time, and they do need to be cleaned on occasion, and they do need to be stored in a better way than they’re currently stored.
In the old days there were really only a couple of fly line makers, and they tended to use the same two-piece plastic spool to package their wares. Nowadays every seller of fly lines seems to have their own spool, some of which are useless for re-spooling and storing a line.
The Switchback solves all those issues with an amazing level of thought in the product development and the resultant engineering that must’ve gone into manufacturing this product, especially considering the economies of sporting goods nowadays. The SwitchBox combines a storage spool, with a crank handle and 2 piece spool storage “box” that allows the spool to be used just like a reel for all intents and purposes. Cranking a line onto the SwitchBox spool is a breeze. The SwitchBox came with clever arbor spacers so that the “spool” section can be used in 3 different arbor sizes. Wanting to always store a line in the largest coil diameter possible, to avoid tight kinky coils when casting a previously stored line, you are able to choose the arbor size, appropriate to your line storage needs. An entire line, with a lot of backing could be stored using the smallest diameter arbor, or one can choose the large arbor and store just a fly line in large coils.
The SwitchBox “frame”, or “case” (the part that holds the spool) is two pieces, to allow the spool to be removed or changed. It has a nice polished hole that the line feeds in through as you crank. The fact that it’s polished is pertinent so that an expensive fly-line isn’t abraded while feeding onto the storage spool. Each frame has tabs that allow for more Switchboxes to be stacked together for very neat storage. Each frame also has tabs to allow for a “Line Care Box” to be attached, so that as you crank a line onto the spool, you can clean and/or condition the line. The Line Care Box attaches firmly to the frame and contains felt cleaning patches. The box is filled with cleaner or dressing, closed around the line, which runs through a smooth “eyelet” on either end of the box, then attached to the tabs and cleaned as it’s cranked onto the spool. Viola, two birds! In addition to a well-made plastic crank handle, each spool even had an adhesive label so your newly cleaned and stored line can also be identified the next time you need to find it.
The Switchbox couldn’t have been cheap or easy to design or prototype. There are too many little details that must’ve been conceived of by a very knowledgeable fly-fisherman. Unlike many “innovations” in the industry lately, this one passes the sniff test. I’m a very tough sell for most new gear because I’m extremely detail focused. This is one of the very few new products that I’d buy without hesitation. Is the SwitchBox from Omnispool niche and esoteric? Yes. Is it well thought out, useful and innovative? Absolutely.
If you only fly fish once in a while, and if you own one rod, one reel and one fly-line, and if you refer to your entire rig as a “5 pound floating trout pole” (!?!? Don’t laugh, I’ve heard it before), this probably isn’t for you. If on the other hand you are fairly serious about fly-fishing and you understand the complexities of the sport, and you aspire to new horizons (even if you’re a beginner now), then this is a great bit of gear that can actually help you keep track of your tools as your skills develop and your needs expand.
The patented design would seem to be an awesome opportunity for some “mega sized” fly-fishing company looking to license a great idea on which to standardize their fly-line offerings, sold on the Omnispool spool and instantly compatible with the Switchbox system. Then again maybe that paradigm is at the root of fly-fishing’s decline.
Every once in a while a new idea is well worth the effort. If you’re a fly-fisherman and if you own fly-fishing lines, try the SwitchBox from Omnispool. It’s a new addition to my Fly-gear bench and the clutter is noticeably diminished and I can now find the line I’m looking for in an instant.