Best Fly Fishing Zingers & Retractors 2021 (Complete Gear Guide)


The best thing about fly fishing is traveling light. You are full-on ‘commando’ mode with your gear all to hand around you.

But what to do with those smaller tools?

Well, there is a solution to save time and keep you fishing. The best fly fishing zingers allow you to store your gear but give you the freedom of movement to use it as you wish.

I’m going to look at how to use a fly fishing zinger and offer some great ideas as to which are the best!

Read on and get organized!

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Fly Fishing Zinger Buyer’s Guide

Right, so first thing’s first…

What is a zinger in fly fishing?

Think of a zinger, or as it is sometimes called, a fly fishing retractor, like a portable keychain for small pieces of fishing equipment. It normally consists of a few things:

  • A clip or Karabiner: This is what you will use to attach your tools to the zinger.
  • A chord: This extends to allow you to use the tools that you have clipped to the zinger.
  • A spool: This is a small storage area containing a spring. It holds the chord when it isn’t in use and winds the chord back automatically when you have finished using the tool.
  • A pin or another Karabiner: This is used to attach the zinger to the outside of your fishing vest or fishing pack.

All make sense? Zingers aren’t particularly complex pieces of gear. If you pick the right one, they will become something that you never want to be without.

Here are some great tips on choosing the best fly fishing retractor.

fly fishing equipment rod, tools, box with flies and landing net

Look at the Clip

Ok, for me, there is no option when it comes to the best fly fishing retractor. Hands down, a Karabiner wins. They are so easy to attach to your tools. Whether that is something so small as fly fishing nippers or something larger like my favorite fly fishing multi tools, a karabiner will be strong and substantial enough to hold it.

They are really easy to open, too, as they normally have a one-way latch that lets you snap gear on quickly.

There’s a choice to be made…

You might find split rings too. While these are ok, they can be cumbersome if your hands are cold or wet or your tool has a user-unfriendly attachment.

Pick a Strong Chord on Your Zinger

Chord strength is key to the best zingers. The chord is all that is keeping your tools from dropping into the deep. If you’ve seen my list of fly fishing nippers, even they can be expensive if you pick something high quality. To drop it would be a disaster.

Trust me, I’ve done it.

The chord is going to be whizzing in and out of your zinger often and is subject to a substantial amount of wear and tear. Once it has failed, your fly fishing zinger will become useless. They do break occasionally, but this should be a rare occurrence, not something that happens regularly.

man with fishing vest holding tackle box and fly fishing rod

Fly Fishing Zinger Spools

Think of the spool like an ‘engine’ for your zinger. It is actually the part that does the most work. When the tools are not being used, they must have a strong enough spring to prevent the chord from paying out.

I don’t know about you, but when I put a tool somewhere, I like it to stay there.

However, when it comes to using whatever tool you have attached, you want the chord to pay out smoothly and quickly without too much resistance.

Is that it?

No, not quite. Once you have finished using your gear, you want to be able to let it go and the zinger to do its thing and retract, taking the chord and tool back up. It can be a bit of a balancing act when it comes to spool strength.

Is there an ideal solution?

Some fly fishing retractors feature a sort of magnet in the spool. This keeps your tools nice and secure, but you can apply enough resistance to ‘break away’ and have free use when it is time to use them.

Construction and Materials

Ok, let’s be upfront.

Your zinger is going to be getting wet. It’s a fact of life, like the day following night, or me catching fish (yeah, right).

The material that your zinger is made from will ultimately dictate how long it lasts. I love metal zingers, but only the best metal zingers. Look for materials that won’t rust or begin to corrode, especially when they get wet.

Plastic can actually be a good choice provided you don’t go too cheap.

Pick a cheap zinger at your peril. If the spool breaks, you are literally left with a $5 piece of chord.

Zinger Attachments

How is your zinger going to fix to your vest?

Is it a pin?

Is it a karabiner?

And most importantly (if it is a karabiner), do you have a spare loop on your vest? If not, it might be time to change tactics. I’ve got loops for days on my fly fishing vests right here.

It’s no good if your zinger doesn’t stay put either in use or when it’s stowed. I tried one with a simple crocodile clip once…

I loved those pliers…

Luckily there are other great ones out there, like these.

fisherman wearing fishing vest and using rod fly fishing in river

What Can You Hold with a Zinger?

Now there’s a question…

The answer is practically anything. Some guys I know use them for holding the little things, like, say, nippers or perhaps a small pair of scissors.

Me?

I say go big or go home. I use one on my back to hold my landing net (it is pretty lightweight…).

Essentially you can hold anything with a zinger provided you pick on strong enough!

Alright alright! Here’s what I have mounted on my zinger at one time or another. Seriously look how handy it is:

  • Landing net
  • A fly patch
  • Fly Floatant
  • Nippers
  • Pliers
  • Forceps
  • Scissors
  • A Multi-tool
  • Hemostat

Hell, if you were feeling brave, you could even use it for your mobile phone!

Alright, so you know about zingers… let’s see if I can practice what I preach while I show you some great examples of good fly fishing retractors.

Top 5 Best Fly Fishing Zingers & Retractors 2021

SF Fly Fishing Zinger Retractor

If this is your first trip into ‘zinger-land’, you might be apprehensive about dropping a fortune on something that you don’t know is right.

Well, check these.

They are super value, and the retractors aren’t bad either. You’ll get three for the price of one, allowing you to get really organized and stow your gear about your body.

The clips at the top are sturdy and can be mounted on just about any loop.

The cord is strong and durable and made entirely from steel, so no more lost items!

Pros

  • Three for the price of one, what a bargain!
  • I like the steel chord. It’s very durable.

Cons

  • I haven’t tried it long term, but it would be game over for these zingers if the steel chord rusted.

Takeaway

I know I said don’t buy cheap, but for the money, these are great as a one-time first purchase. You won’t be able to mount big, heavy gear on, but they will work great as an introduction.

Fishpond Arrowhead Retractor

Now we’re talking.

The fish pond arrowhead retractor takes its name from the unique diamond shape. The chord is nearly three feet long, making it ideal if you want to back mount a landing net. It just feels absolutely rock solid.

I love the quality.

What do I mean? Well, the body is made out of 6060 aerospace aluminum. If it is good enough for NASA, it’s good enough for fishin’, that’s what I say!

The line inside is great too. It is capable of holding up to 130 pounds. More than enough for your fishing gear.

As a final ‘cherry’ on top, the clip to attach it to your vest is easy to open and really substantial.

Pros

  • Absolutely bombproof construction.
  • Made from high-quality parts.

Cons

  • Damn, this was nearly perfect. I don’t like the split ring for my tools. That said, it is easy to purchase a separate karabiner.

Takeaway

One of the best zingers I’ve seen for fly fishing. This is a purchase that you wouldn’t regret.

Orvis Black Nickel Zinger

When you buy Orvis, you buy quality.

It’s that simple.

They’ve been in the game for years, and this lightweight zinger is classic in looks and performance.

It’s not as chunky as the arrowhead, but it will do the job well for something to hold lightweight bits.

Here’s why it is great…

The full metal nickel construction means it won’t rust. And the chord within is a two-foot metal wire!

I really like the lobster clip. It’s really secure.

Pros

Cons

  • I am not a fan of pin attachments. I wish it had a loop to attach to my jacket.

Takeaway

Orvis doesn’t mess around. They are the industry leaders, and the quality of their gear is easily reflected in this zinger. It’s great for smaller tools.

SAMSFX Fly Fishing Zinger

Now, this is clever…

Really clever.

I feel like the SAMSFX zinger is like having a third hand. Ok, the chords aren’t massive, and it attaches with a pin.

But here is the cool bit. It features a strong magnet on the front. This is great for holding metal objects like hooks, knives, or forceps, leaving your hands free.

You’ll also get two fly fishing retractors inside the body too!

Not bad considering the price.

Pros

  • Two zingers all in one body. That’s smart!
  • I love the magnet. It is great when you want to put your fly within reach while you do something else.

Cons

  • The zinger chords are a bit short, limiting where you can place them.

Takeaway

For the money, this is decent. As a standalone zinger, I wouldn’t be impressed, but as the magnet makes life easy, it is well worth a try!

Orvis Gear Keeper Super Zinger

So I keep going on about being able to hold a net.

Take a look at this bad boy!

The Orvis super zinger is a leviathan. Mount this anywhere and attach anything!

The 3-foot cord with 60lb breaking strain means that you can hang a landing net on with ease. Take a look at the attaching loop too. It would work perfectly on the back of any vest with a loop.

This might actually be overkill for a front-mounted tool holder, but that said, those multi-tools can get quite heavy.

This zinger’s body is constructed entirely from stainless steel. As long as you maintain it, it will be extremely durable.

Pros

  • One of the largest most heavy-duty zingers on the market.
  • It is from Orvis, so you can rely on it.

Cons

  • This is too heavy duty for lighter pieces of equipment. The spring is that powerful you’d hit yourself in the face with your nippers.

Takeaway

I told you before it’s a balancing act. For a great zinger capable of holding a landing net, this is an obvious choice.

Summary

You’ll know when you’ve found the best fly fishing zinger, as you’ll wonder what you did before you had it!

There’s a fair choice there. From heavy-duty to lightweight and fine, you’ll find something perfect, I’m sure.

If you are looking for gear, why not check out my essential list to ensure you are covered?

What do you hang on your zinger? Let me know in the comments.

Bob Hoffmann

The author of this post is Bob Hoffmann. Bob has spend most of his childhood fishing with his father and now share all his knowledge with other anglers. Feel free to leave a comment below.

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