As fly fishing has expanded from the pursuit of traditional cold water and flats fishing to all kinds of different species, the need for more robust fishing tools is at an all-time high. Instead of dangling a clogged-up lanyard with everything (nippers, forceps, and knot tightener) hanging at your hands, many anglers are adopting the single tool that does most of the heavy lifting— fly fishing pliers. They cut line, help release a fish safely, are there for de-barbing, and can be useful for tightening specialty knots now common when rigging for large, toothy fish. Here are some helpful hints in finding the right fishing pliers and how to best utilize them to simplify the fishing equipment you carry on the water.
If you want to be a versatile, organized angler on the water, fly fishing pliers are a must-have. They accomplish what would otherwise take many fishing tools, which streamlines your kit. Saltwater anglers have always known this, but a growing number of freshwater anglers and guides swear that it is the most important fishing tool in their quiver. The ability to have quick access, out of the way but at the ready, plus the versatility of a multi-function fishing plier simply makes carrying multiple fishing tools obsolete.
One of the reasons for the rise in popularity of fly fishing pliers is that good pliers allow you to do multiple rigging and releasing tasks with one tool. Pliers should have good cutters that can help you trim tag ends of tippet knots and when tying on flies. But they can also help if you are working with backing to change fly lines or to cut wire leader or thicker butt-sections of leaders. Pliers can be used for de-barbing your hooks with the flat part of the jaws. They are also very handy for taking the fly out of the fish— so critical when you are working to release the fish unharmed. Finally, they can be used for specialty rigging. As folks are becoming more innovative in rigging, pliers can be crucial. Having a loop or a hole that you can hook your fly through to be able to tighten stiff bite tippet or to rig up metal wire for pike, musky, barracuda or bluefish. Tying complex knots like a Bimini twist are made much easier. A split ring “tooth” can also be helpful with some steelhead, trout, and saltwater specialty rigs that require you to utilize small metal swivels or split rings.
Material: Great fishing plier material is similar to great fishing reel material. they need to be strong, light, and corrosion-resistant. Anodizing is helpful in preventing corrosion and it also looks great. The Cheeky Fishing 750 Fishing Pliers and 550 Fishing Pliers are made of aerospace-grade aluminum bar stock which are machined to perfection. Stainless steel is also incorporated into the design, especially in the cutter and the jaws.
Jaws: The jaws should have enough strength to smash barbs even on larger streamers but be precise enough to extract hooks. The 750 plier has all the beef for your larger and mid-sized flies and the 550 plier has precision tips to extract even the tiniest flies when they are in the back of a fish’s throat. When seconds are critical for having the fish released safely it is important to have great grip and precision jaws. With ergonomic handles, Cheeky pliers are easy to hold onto. All Cheeky Pliers have replaceable jaws and cutters so you can get a lifetime of use out of them.
Size: This is where your style of fishing comes into play. The 550 Pliers are great for light duty; they excel on trout streams and for most freshwater fish—and even some saltwater fish. They are a great all-around option for many anglers. For larger fish, the sheer size of the 750 plier makes them a good choice. Stripers, Albies, and the more toothy fish species require the reach of the 770 Fishing Plier. If you intend to put a lot of sideways torque on your pliers, the 770 is the choice.
Cutter Style: There are two basic styles of cutter: in-line or handle-based. Both the Cheeky Fishing 750 Fishing Plier and the 550 Fishing Plier utilize the in-line cutter. This allows the user to easily slip the line down the jaws and cut line, wire or backing. We use HSS or High Speed Steel—used in drill bits—which is very strong, lightweight, and it stays sharp for our cutters and our jaws.
Knot tightening: One overlooked purpose of fishing pliers is to help you tighten knots. This is especially important with loop knots on heavy leaders —like when rigging for tarpon. The 750 fishing Pliers and the 550 Fishing Pliers both have multiple ways to help you tighten knots. The most useful is the split ring but also the holes at the handle come in handy.
Sheath and Leash: A good carrying case should keep your pliers snug on your belt for easy access while also allowing water to drain off your fishing pliers completely to avoid corrosion. While some cases have snap tabs, if the case fits snugly this is unnecessary. A coiled or bungie lanyard is recommended so you don’t lose your pliers overboard or fumble them into the river. Cheeky utilizes a coiled leash with a micro carabiner so you can easily unclip pliers for the unexpected.
Fly fishing pliers should always be rinsed after use—especially after salt water use— to combat corrosion. Steel jaws and cutters are less corrosion-proof than the body of the pliers, which is why both jaws and cutters are replaceable. Don’t forget to rinse off the plier sheath too after each use so that salt water build up won’t corrode steel jaws and cutters between uses.