What is the Omnispool Switchbox?
The Omnispool Switchbox is a nifty gadget designed to make it easier to change, store, and clean fly lines. It combines a line winder with multiple spools that can be used to store lines you're not currently using, or allow you to quickly swap one line for another.
If you find it a pain repackaging shooting heads into head wallets while salmon fishing, the Omnispool could also make this process much easier for you too.
Why would I want to use one of these?
Many fly fishers, especially those who fish for salmon or saltwater species, typically use very expensive machined aluminium fly reels, where the spare spools can cost almost half as much as the reel itself - often a couple of hundred quid each. For these fly fishers, the Omnispool Switchbox could massively reduce their costs, since they'd need far fewer spare spools.
If you use a cassette reel or don't change fly lines very often, then the Switchbox will have less appeal. However, if you've got loads of lines, you expensive reels, and you change lines frequently, and you want to avoid buying more expensive spools, then the Switchbox should be ideal.
How does the Omnispool Switchbox work?
Essentially, the Switchbox is a very well thought out line winder. A small plastic Crank Handle attaches to a central spool inside the Switchbox, which is then enclosed in a plastic case.
You poke the fly line through a hole in the front of the Switchbox, thread it through the middle of the Switchbox spool, and turn the crank handle until the fly line wraps around the arbour.
You can then place the fly reel on your lap, or between your feet, and wind the fly line off the reel and onto the Switchbox. You can also connect the spool to the side of the blue part of the case, effectively giving you a wide-based foot that you can place beneath your feet to make line changing even easier.
When you're done, you can label the spool so you don't forget what the line is, and connect it to your other Switchbox spools using the neat slide-lock mechanism on the side of the spool. When you want to switch the line, you remove the line currently on your reel by loading it onto an empty Switchbox spool, then wind the stored line off another Switchbox spool and back onto the reel.
What's it like to use?
There's a knack to using the Switchbox. You have to poke the fly line carefully through a hole in the centre of the spool to ensure it catches when winding. However, once you've figured this out it's very easy. It's a cleverly designed gadget and is well made to do its job.
The really handy thing about the Switchbox is that you can use it to change a fly line on your own. There's no need to find a helper to sit there with a pencil poked through a spool (or to keep reminding them to maintain some gentle tension so it doesn't fall apart and end up in a tangled mess).
It's very quick and simple to use and it works very well. The minor downside, for me at least, is that you can't also use the Switchbox as a line winder to help you load a new fly line directly onto your reel. For this, you'll still need to resort to a helper with a pencil. However, for changing lines, it's really spot on.
How long does it take to change a fly line?
You can wind the fly line off your reel and onto the Switchbox in a couple of minutes, then reattach a different line from a separate Switchbox spool and reload your fly reel in a couple of minutes more.
The process is pretty simple and can be done on your own in under five minutes. While I probably wouldn't do it myself, some Switchbox owners take the gadget with them on trips and change lines during their trip while on the bank, beach, or boat.
How do you clean a fly line with a Switchbox?
To clean a fly line using your Switchbox you need to purchase an additional accessory called the Linecarebox. This attaches to the top of the Switchbox using some built-in catches and allows you to pass the fly line through the box while winding.
The inside of the Linecarebox contains a gently abrasive pad that you can soak in your preferred fly line treatment to ensure that the line goes onto the spool clean before you put it into storage.
I tried a couple of different fly line treatments on mine - including Snowbee Line Slick on floating fly lines and Lee Wulff Line Dressing on intermediates. It applied both very well and the lines came off nice and slick.
Does it increase line memory?
The Omnispool Switchbox is available with optional arbour spacers to help you increase the internal diameter of the spool. This means that the line gets stored on the Omnispool under a similar amount of tension, and with a similar arbour size as it would if you'd stored it on a fly reel.
I stored some lines on mine for a month or so to assess whether the storage system affected coiling and there were no noticeable differences. The tension at which the line is stored, while certainly not tight, is probably more than I would use when storing a line, but that's splitting hairs as it didn't seem to make any difference to the lines I stored on the Switchbox. However, I would invest in the arbour spacers to help reduce the chances.
How much does it cost?
I was sent this Omnispool Switchbox to review by the manufacturer, so I haven't purchased this one myself and I don't think I'm really the target market. However, I can definitely see the appeal for saltwater fly fishers, and the gadget itself is very well designed, easy to use, and effective.
The Omnispool Switchbox components are all sold separately so you can also buy only what you need and add extra spools as and when you need them. Each Switchbox costs £9.99, the Crank Handle is £3.99, Arbour Spacers are £3.99, and the Linecarebox costs £7.99. That's decent value for money I think.
More information: Omnispool