Confessions of a Recovering EZ Keeper User

On July 5, 2012
Comments (41)

Written by Jason

Tenkara Rod with EZ Keepers

Many people might not realize this but I was actually the first person to suggest using EZ Keepers on tenkara rods as a line storage solution. That’s right. Check out the video I did here more than two years ago.

At the time, I thought it was a brilliant solution. And apparently, many other people did too because I now see photos of tenkara rods with EZ Keepers on them all over the internet. But anyone who has fished with me in the last year has noticed that they’re conspicuously absent from my rods. I gave up on the idea of using EZ Keepers a long time ago and returned to using spools.

It’s not that I think that it was a bad idea. The logic behind it at least was sound—a line storage system that is integrated with the rod and doesn’t rely on a separate piece of gear to keep track of. But after using them for a while, I discovered some clear disadvantages of EZ Keepers that lead me back to line spools.

Disadvantages of EZ Keepers

  • They’re kinky! In some other context, this might be a good thing but not when it comes to tenkara lines. Winding a line around EZ Keepers produces kinks in the line which are more difficult to straighten out than the comparatively slight memory caused by winding the line around a round object like a spool. To me, this was the deal breaker.
  • They’re tricky. Rather than simple wrapping your line around the EZ Keepers in an elipse, you have to wrap it in a figure-8 over and under each hook (otherwise when you take the line off, it can easily tangle). This is not only a more awkward motion than simply wrapping in a circle (which is more natural), but makes it easy to miss a wrap. Then, you have to back up and do it again. If you’re not paying attention to what you’re doing, you might miss several wraps just winding one line. No thanks.
  • They leave your fly homeless. After you’ve wound your line, there isn’t really a good way to store the fly. If the length of your line is just right, you could secure the hook in the O-rings of the EZ keepers but this is a rare event. You could add an extra O-ring to the rod and then slide it to the right position and slip your hook between it and the rod but this is a little too much finagling for me. Or, you could stick the hook in the cork handle of the rod. No way! I’ve never liked giving my nice cork handles death by a thousand pricks (even with my western fly rods). In short, there isn’t really a good or simple way to keep your fly from just dangling there, waiting to be snatched up by a branch lying in wait.
  • They leave your line homeless. I usually carry two or three lines with me. The problem with EZ Keepers is what to do with a spare line once you’ve removed it? You could wind it up and put it in your pack or pocket. But that opens you up to more tangles. Plus, I like to leave a fly pre-rigged on my lines so that doesn’t really work. Or, you could carry extra spools to store the line. But then if you wanted to switch lines, you’d have to first unwind the from the EZ Keeper, then wind it on to a spare spool. At that point, doesn’t is just make sense to use spools in lieu of the EZ Keepers?
  • They send out the wrong message. OK, this one is less practical and more philosophical than the others but I don’t like the perception EZ Keepers create. They make tenkara rods look like, yes, “crappie rods” or “cane poles” that those who don’t really understand tenkara compare it to. I don’t want to do anything to perpetuate that stereotype.

After using the EZ Keepers for quite a while, I realized that spools just made more sense for me. Since they’re round, they don’t produce kinks in the line, they have notches to securely hold the fly (no matter the line length), and don’t take any more time to wrap than EZ Keepers. I have the perfect pocket in the front of my chest pack to keep my spool. It’s stretch mesh which holds it securely, yet always keeps it at hand.

It’s funny how things come full circle sometimes. But experimentation and trying different things is all part of the fun.

Further comments by Daniel

I should note that we could easily offer these if they were a good solution. I agree with Jason the reasoning for them was solid in that it is a system integrated into the rod. But as he writes, there are several drawbacks which kept me from believing in them. The line holders we decided to offer are ubiquitous in Japan, and I found there were reasons. Not only do the line holders allow for different line lengths to be carried, they also allow for the line to be completely removed from the rod once you are done fishing. Not having a bunch of line sticking outside the rod prevents snags from happening (I know of at least 2 rods broken by customers walking with the rod when the line snagged a branch and broke the tip).

Time after time whenever I would show the line holders to someone in person it would win them over. But, as I noticed how people were using them in the field I realized that there were a few quick tips I needed to share on the best way to use the tenkara line holders. The line holder is a very quick and efficient system to use if you look at the tips below.

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41 Responses to Confessions of a Recovering EZ Keeper User

  1. Morgan Lyle says:

    Jason & Daniel, I agree about EX Keepers leaving the fly and the line homeless — those are the biggest drawbacks, as far as I’m concerned. But I do find the Keepers a little easier and simpler when moving to a new spot requires travel through woods & brush.

  2. Morgan Lyle says:

    And of course that would be EZ, not EX.

  3. Jason Wyatt says:

    Definitely good information. I’ve been using the EZ Keepers since Jason Klass first introduced the idea. I haven’t run into most of the issues, but the kinky line bit is rather annoying. Will definitely consider the line holders in the future.

  4. Tom Sadler says:

    Nicely done Jason. I love the spools for their versatility. And as a guide being able to quickly change lines for clients and not wind up with a tangled mess is key. Spools are a low cost accessory that are well worth having. Nice tips and photo’s Daniel.

  5. Anthony says:

    Could not disagree more! 1) Don’t find kinking a real problem. 2) I just wrap without figure-eighting and have never had problems with tangles 3) Tippet is easy to squeeze between the red ez keeper hook and the o-ring for storage (or just held in hand) 4)I very rarely switch lines? And either way – your winding and/or unwinding two lines 5) Send the wrong message – I’m not too worried about that.

    I feel the ez-keeper solution is much better suited to actual use in the field – when I’m on the stream walking with the extended there is no reason to use any holder obviously, but when i get out of the water – sometimes the trees and brush are thick – it is much quicker to collapse the rod and wrap the line on ex-keepers than on a spool – I can easily do it as I’m moving – not so much with a spool. Secondly the spool when kept on the rod always seems to get in the way – I grip the rod in all different ways depending on situations and that spool on the rod is often in the way of my fingers. Thirdly for storage – when not in use and when in the car I like to keep the rods in the tubes to avoid accidental damage – with ez-keepers I can keep the line with the rod.

    Keep the spools for line stroage – but keep the ez-keepers for actual fishing.

    I may be in the minority – but you can have my ez-keepers when you pry them from my cold dead fingers!

    Please take all with a nudge and a wink – not such a serious issue obviously, but I do like the ez-keepers.

  6. Hi Anthony, to each their own, right? Thanks for laying out a good counter argument so people can come to their own conclusions. Hey, at least you like my idea, LOL!

  7. I completely agree! I love the ease and convenience of using a spool. I don’t want to leave my line and fly homeless!!

  8. Delane G says:

    I’m with Anthony on this one. Each serves their own purpose and are both excellent products for line management and storage. I carry both. With the spool I would always have to concentrate on keeping the rod pointed upward when moving to new locations on the stream or I would loose the spool and the rod would open up. With the EZ Keeper I can have my rod in any direction with out loosing line and having the rod come out of the handle section. Less chance for breakage, in my opinion.

    Thanks for the great exchange of ideas offered here. You guys are great!

    • Delane, that’s a good point. I noticed my wife recently holding the rod by the handle with the line on the spool over the rod. At one point she started tilting the rod. I suggested she hold the rod by the actual rod part when walking around, with the handle now below her hand. That solved the problem.

  9. Rice Cake says:

    I’ve used both and much prefer the EZ Keepers. I have at least one spool that I keep in my vest as back up (e.g. different configuration, rig, or length). I do not like the fly issues described by Jason or the line kinks (line straightener?), but I really enjoy the convenience.

    I love Anthony’s fifth point about ‘sending the wrong message’. Hilarious. How’s this for some Zen-‘kara – when you stop worrying about what others think of your fishing kit, then you’re really fishing.

  10. You are all wrong. I employ a small woodland gnome to accompany me and carry my line.

    It’s quite simple, when I’m done fishing I say “Frederick, pick up my line!” which he dutifully does and we walk to a new spot.

    The only drawback is when wading in waist high water, Frederick requires his own pontoon boat or else the water is be over his head. In those scenarios I do find the spool a touch more convenient.

  11. Greg Jensen says:

    Have been using the ez-keepers and had the same problem with kinking, tried wrapping lighter and occasionally had all of it un-spool at once. (nasty mess!) reading both arguments I think I shall order a couple of the spools, and retain it on the rod with my leftover ez-keeper o-ring. Thanks everyone. :-)

  12. Rick Setina says:

    I thought the EZ Keepers were a good idea when I first saw them on a Tenkara USA rod but after a short time using them I too reverted back to the spool. All it took was a stick from a branch to bump the keeper and I had line everywhere in a tangle.

  13. Anthony says:

    Is the gnome indentured, or otherwise magically (or legally) bound to you? Or is he an employee? Just curious.

  14. Robert says:

    I am on the spool side on this one. I find the spool works great. I really dislike having do-dads on my nice Tenkara rod as much as I dislike stuff hanging from my rear view mirror in the car. If I could find a local gnome that liked fishing I would go that route for sure.

  15. Mike S says:

    Also depends on where you are fishing. Here in the East most small streams are brushy and require constant collapsing of the rod (sometimes even to move 10′) the speed of wrapping the line is unmatched. I’ve never had an issue with the fly, since 1 O ring inbetween the keepers adjusted one time to match your line length does the trick.

    What drives me insane is having to keep track of the cap for the rod which you must do if you take the line off with using spools. while walking in the woods. It’s a non issue with the keepers as when its wrapped it holds the sections in the rob.

    Now Daniel if you can make a way to clip the end cap to or in the butt end of the rod to store it while fishing, then you have a major improvement!

    • Hey Mike,
      Based on my usage of both systems I believe the speed of wrapping the line on the spool is much quicker as long as you hold it through the middle and not put the hand over it as on our pictures. Also, if you look at the video I posted on the bottom you’ll see that you can keep the spool on the rod the exact same way as the EZ-keepers and thus you have to keep track of the cap with whichever system you use.
      But, yes, we will be looking at options based on your suggestions.

  16. Jason,
    Well, im not sure Im buying into your latest blog! Up until you were “hired” by Tenkara Usa, this was your “baby”!? Maybe you have given in to the “corp. culture” and came full circle to a different point of view to alinge your self with ur BOSS Daniel?! The EZ KEEPER” is still the fastest and most “minimal-listic” way to work the line! Anyone who has tried the “spool approach” has surley discovered the longest way and most difficult way of “winding a line”! A for effort though, we are just not “buying into it”!

    • Tim,
      I’ll let Jason respond as well, but you’ll notice on his former blog that he started coming around to preferring the line holders back in 2010: Tenkara USA Line Holder Review. I can probably take some credit for turning him around by showing him the advantages of the holders when properly used, but this was before we had any working relationship.
      The EZ-Keeper looks like a fast way at first, which is why so many people adopted it early on, but anyone who has been shown the best way to use the line holder will attest the line holders are much quicker once you learn how to use them.
      Jason has been given full liberty in discussing topics of his choice. The only mandate is to share good content about tenkara. You’ll see his post on tenkara flies yesterday are for hooks and flies we do not sell. Don’t think it is fair of accusing him of giving in to a “corp culture”. I brought him in for the creativity and different view points, not to write what I think.

  17. Perry says:

    I agree with Anthony!! I carry spools and love my keepers too!! The work well together.

  18. Tom Davis says:

    I occasionally use one EZ keeper placed near the tip end of the first segment. I then use a plastic hook made from a Pringles cap that screws on with the butt cap (sort of a variant of what is used by Tenkara Guides LLC). I have another O-ring on the rod between them (it is this O-ring which accepts the hook). I wrap the line between the plastic butt hook and the EZ Keeper and I adjust the small O-ring up or down the rod segment to receive the fly. I only use them when moving from location to location, such as walking a quarter mile or less. I do not keep line on my rods since the rods string up so fast. I store my lines on spools. If I am going to relocate more then a quarter mile I collapse the rod and use a spool for the line as suggested by Daniel.

    I agree with the statement of why do we care what other people think or what kind of message we are sending. We choose to fish using tenkara techniques, that is message enough, I think.

  19. Hi Tim,
    Daniel pretty much already summed it up, but just to elaborate, as I said in my post, I stopped using EZ Keepers in favor of spools long before being hired by Tenkara USA. I would have written this same post whether it was on Tenkara Talk or here. Daniel doesn’t tell me what to write or censor any of my content. I never would have taken the job if that were the case. My freedom to write what I want was very clearly stated in our agreement. And as someone who has worked for corporate America for way too many years, I can tell you that Tenkara USA is anything but a “corp culture”. It’s just a few guys who are passionate about fishing and want to make a living off of doing what they love instead of working for corporate America. My dream has always been to earn a living by writing about fishing instead of sitting in a cubicle all day working for a company I don’t care about. Working for Tenkara USA has brought me a little closer to that dream and without compromise. If anything, I hope it will be my ticket out of corporate culture. No one hates it more than me.

  20. Anthony says:

    You know in all honesty, and after reading the responses here, I think that there is no “best” option for everyone. It seems to be a matter what peeves you vs. what you can put up with. What bugs me might not bug you and vice versa. You put those two things on the scale and see where it balances out.

    By the way I was looking at a fly fishing catalog and I saw the best solution for line storage – they call it a reel. Just joking!

  21. I agree that there is probably no “best” option. I’ve used both line spools and EZ Keepers. Both have pluses and minuses. I’ve found the hangups that Jason listed with the EZ Keepers not to be that big a deal. Matter of fact, when I pull my line off the EZ Keepers I can simply give it one steady pull and it pops right off them one loop at a time very easily and quickly. Great post…isn’t it good to have all of these options available? :)

  22. Van H says:

    In use both, depending on the circumstances. I think there could be a better way to hold the line but still keep it simple and hope to have my prototype finished soon. ( And no it’s not a reel)

  23. TJ Ferreira says:

    For what it is worth, I don’t use the EZ Keepers. I had a set on an used Tenkara USA rod I had purchased early on and I had issues casting the rod. Probably all in my head but I could swear these things made all my casts go right. 😎

    I took them off and walla, I cast perfect. hehehe

    I used them for a short time but the kinks in the line I did not like and just seemed to get in the way for me. I guess like a spot on my glasses that drive me crazy.

    So off they went and I use only spools now.


  24. Larry says:

    The first “on rod” Tenkara line control “TLC” device I invented (pre-EZ-Keepers) still is far superior to EZ-Keepers and I wouldn’t fish Tenkara without it. The catch, you will need to make it yourself. Use a slotted dense foam block for the top of the butt section and a plastic disc w/90 deg. flange screwed to the butt cap. It makes deployment and stowage (extended or retracted) much faster than a spool or EZ-Keeper, it fits into the Tenkara rod tube fully assembled and ready to go, it has less kinking qualities than EZ-Keepers, it gives you foam to stick your fly into (or cork handle). Additionally, add a strip of dense foam to the rod above the handle too if desired to hook extra flies and wrap tippet and/or an extra line onto if you want a fully self-contained tenkara unit (no vest needed). What could be simpler, easier and more efficient? Note: the foam I use is high density EVA foam bricks, as sold by several fly tying suppliers for making poppers.

  25. JDSmith says:

    I use both because Gnomes give me the creeps.

  26. Karel says:

    I keep going back and forth on the EZ Keepers and spools. When fishing a creek where constant movement around brush and climbing is required, the EZ Keepers are the better/faster option to “temporarily” store the line. I like spools to store the line and have it handy.

  27. Brian says:

    Well what about “The Catch”?
    Is anyone using it? From what I can tell, it’s the best of both worlds, it does what the keeper does, but seems to do better, and gives a place for you to put your fly.
    Yes? No? Maybe so?

    • Brian
      Yes, I do not use it but have gotten some for testing. And, yes, I do think they are a bit better than the EZ-Keepers. There is still some line kinking and I still find them to be much slower to wind the line around than the spools, but at least they are firmer and don’t kink the line as sharply.

  28. Brian says:

    Good to know Daniel. Thanks!

  29. Anthony says:

    we’ll have to have line winding races at the summit; spools vs. ez-keepers :)

  30. TJ Ferreira says:

    Yes, the prize, Tenkara USA Line Holder. 8-)~~

  31. I’ve used the EZ Keepers for a year now without any problem. I do not figure 8 wrap the line and have had absolutely no issues with tangling, and I find the extra O-ring to be a very simple solution to fly storage.

  32. Chris says:

    I am new to Tenkara, but have fished Western of all forms for nearly 10 years. Tenkara is new to me, and I just got my first rod.

    Interestingly, I had not seen EZ keepers until now, but had seen a similar concept marketed as a DIY solution from other Tenkara folks (the paperclip/rubber band option).

    With that general premise, I invented a cheap and remarkably similar EZ keeper using replacement garden hose gaskets I had sitting around in my garage. Mine are black.

    What I noticed while rooting around my garage to devise a method is that if you take a rubber garden hose ring and pinch it firmly on one side, it imparts a natural curve (facing up or down, meaning you can put them in opposition on the rod to hold the line). Then, I found a pencil or pen of similar diameter to my Tenkara rod. Slip the black rubber gasket over the suitable pen or pencil and pull the loop relatively tight. Pinch the excess gasket material evenly so as to facilitate some sparing drops of Krazy Glue into the sealing surfaces between the remaining gasket material. Neatness and evenness counts. Hold the pinch until the Krazy Glue sets fully. Let dry. Take care not to glue the gasket to the pen due to excess glue.

    When all is set, remove the DIY EZ-Keepers from the temporary pencil or pen apparatus. Position on your rod in opposition, first one facing downwards just ahead of the cork grip. Position the second one further down the rod with the curve facing towards the tip (to create opposing line holders).

    Wind your line just in an oval…I do not see an advantage of a figure-8 pattern…but time will tell as I get more experience.

    Lastly, once you see how your line sits in the new system, trim some of the excess gasket material to leave a sufficient cradle for the line but lessen the chances of line snags while fishing due to unnecessarily long gasket material.

    As far as the issues about how to store a fly, I plan to try a movable rubber O-ring on the handle or just a small Velcro loop I can move around or out of the way on the handle. Most of the time I will probably just carry my rod from spot to spot and will just hold the leader and fly as I grip the handle and walk to the next spot of interest.

    Presto! 2 black garden hose gaskets and a couple drops of Krazy Glue…super cheap, ultra-easy / fast, and adjustable. Using the instructions above, I feel it is even sleeker, better looking, easier to adjust, slimmer in profile to the rod, and cheaper that the EZ keeper design.

    Having said all that, I DO plan to order several of the Tenkara USA line holders because I agree they work best for storing unused lines and having a couple of those in my jacket pocket is no biggie. That will work better than just winding the line kits around my fingers and doing multiple threads in a circle at the end to secure (much like a tapered leader comes). That’s a hassle and tangles. I would have ordered several when I bought my first rod, but they were backordered at the time.

    I am looking forward to using my new Tenkara rod and learning a lot more about it. I just wanted to contribute in some small way as I have learned a lot from Jason, Daniel, and all the contributors to many blog posts. Thank You!

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