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The Handtwist Retrieve

by Phil Rowley


When it comes to stillwater presentation, you soon realize that lakes are different environments than rivers or streams. Other than wind induced current there is little or no flow to help propel and animate your fly. You must move or retrieve the fly to suggest life to stimulate the interest of a passing trout. Successful stillwater presentations depend in large part on your ability to manipulate the fly using your hands.

Humans are naturally impatient when it comes to fly fishing stillwaters. The pace differs from moving waters. Patterns must be allowed to sink to the proper depth, typically just above the bottom, and they must be moved in a slow erratic manner coupled with pauses to mimic stillwater foods sources. The handtwist, hand weave or figure eight retrieve is the primary retrieve of seasoned stillwater fly fishers. It is a busy retrieve that keeps the hands moving and the impatient at bay. Powered by a handtwist retrieve, flies move in a natural manner, travelling through the water at a variety of speeds, from brisk to near static.