Archive for March 9th, 2010


Fly Fishing: Stillwater Dangers (Handling the gear)

No, this is not a piece telling you to wear a flotation device; or to not tumble out of your tube, upside down in three feet of water trying to hurry out of the tube before you wet your pants (father in law); nor is it about not wearing sunscreen at high altitude lakes and begging skin cancer.  The danger is less severe but costly. Gear over board, to the depths, into the muck or weeds and wood debris.

How you manage your rod and reel after landing a fish, or when working on your line is important so it  does not go over board and down. How you manage your change of spools from one spool to another is important.

The juggling act begins

Stillwater flyfishing requires you to not just seduce the fish to the fly, but to juggle all manner of gear in the process.

The size of the fish does not matter, although your composure may be tasked a bit if it is the biggest fish that has graced your net. Regardless of the fish establish where does your rod go? Where ever you plan to place it, at that moment, LOOK as you place it. Have the tension out of the line/leader to protect the tip of your rod. In a pontoon boat that tension, while handling a fish, can cause the rod to jettison to the rear, out the back side of your boat. I advocate hooking the front edge of your reel behind your apron’s back edge.

Looking for the spot to to place the rod, while juggling the slab

Release your fish. Rinse your net and put it away, if you use one. Inspect your fly or redo your leader, if need be. Whatever you fuss around with…know where that rod is setting and keep that reel counter balanced to the rear so it does not slide off to the front or rear of your vessel.


Do not troll or kick along with a fly in the water, with the rod on top of the apron or hold it with a loose grip…especially if fishing for B.C. trout. That rod handle can be removed from your grasp in some lakes up there (yes, and elsewhere). Do not troll along, set your rod down and reach to the side to grab your bottle of water or look for that fly in the box. That rod can shoot off the apron. A unique trait, that I have only observed with B.C. trout, is as you kick along or retrieve your fly, you observe a fish jump four feet out of the water, 45 degrees to your left…how!….then suddenly your rod tip lurches left and you hear your fly line cutting through the water. Wow! is right. You have had no idea your fly has been taken and the fish is already thirty feet to the left of where you think your fly should be and the fish is already sounding. If you were not holding the rod, you would be in awe of the jumping fish and then your rod propelling out six feet from your grasp. I have personally observed a rod off the front of an apron (no, not mine) near Lac Des Roches in B.C. and I have also seen a rod jerked from a man’s grasp on Logan Lake in B.C. Neither rod was recovered depite jigging with weighted treble hook rigs. I often wondered about the fish on the other end.

Changing spools on your reel is equally dangerous. My suggestion: Set your rod down in its safe spot. Make sure it is anchored. However you carry your spare spools (individual neoprene like pouches or a box that holds four or so spare spools) identify the spool you intend to put on the reel.  Now this is where it gets dicey. I will leave it to you how you swap out your spools. I wish I could say kick or row to shore and in the shallows swap spools but that won’t often happen. No, you will be out over some degree of depth, and that is what adds the element of danger to this swap out.

Practice this at home or off the water and get use to how do you remove the spool on your reel. How hard do you push that button and pull that spool off the reel frame? Keep your movements slow and controlled and near the apron not up a foot above the apron. On the water, remove the spool and apply a death grip, especially if it is 32 degrees out, windy and your fingers are frozen. Set your rod down or hold it tight. I place my spools in my left pocket of the pontoon or tube. I take the spool I am removing in my left hand and grab the rod in my right (right handed/left hand retrieve). Remember the reel is much lighter now without the spool and line. If you set the rod down it will now be front heavy without the spool/line on the reel. That is why I hold the rod when the spool is removed.

Now, back to the swap. With my left hand I make sure the removed spool is safely tucked away before I remove the new spool. Do not set the removed spool on your apron, while you fetch the new spool. Put away one and then grab the new one and affix it to the reel. Oh now we are going to string the line of the new spool up the guides of the rod. Hmm?. ‘

Another moment of reaching, pulling, raising, dipping to get that line up those guides and out without breaking the tip of your rod.  Be careful pulling the line through at the end and pulling the tip too far down under tension. Pull enough line off the reel to take tension off the tip as you pull out line. When you close the spool into the reel housing do not pinch or score your fly line against sharp edges.

Those are the three key elements I wanted to alert you too as you bob around out there: securely storing the rod…safely swapping spools…restringing the rod. There are other lesser things to consider: the wind blowing you a quarter mile off of the spot you spent all morning to find while you are preoccupied with your task; or being blown back into that back cove into sharp protruding snags which poke a hole in your tube or neck (yes, I have done that). Also, I generally fish with two rods along. I have one strung with an Intermediate line (I use this most often) and the other strung with a floating line. I swap rods. Again, I remove a rod from the holder. I have safely situated the rod I was using with the reel anchored down behind the apron. I swap rods, putting the new rod in its safe position. Now, I have to put away the other rod and securely put it in the rod holder. While doing this I am mindful of my body’s movements  and any potential effect it might have on my rod stationed behind the apron.

I have seen some anglers use a variety of hooks, snaps, ties etc. to anchor/tie their rod to a nearby D loop. Test, in a safe environment, how well your fins, net, fly boxes float.

Wind, waves, excitement, frozen fingers, too much sun, fatigue, distractions all assault you in varying degrees as you pursue ‘the moment’. Don’t take the edge off of that special moment, photo op or fish love fest by being careless with the tools that got you there.

Minimal costs for a set up that has a reel that supports spare spools: If you are an average beginner on the lake. You have spent, let’s say $150.00 for that entry level rod. Another $100 for the reel and then $50.00+ for a floating line. So, you are sporting a $300. set up. (I don’t argue you can get a starter kit for <$200.; one of those in the box kits). Perhaps you were talked into another or more types of lines for your stillwater fly fishing. So let’s say you also bought an Intermediate line (should be your primary line in my book) and a Type III line. That is about $60.00 per line and generally half the price of the reel per extra spool…so now we have $220.00 for spare spools/lines. So, just the rod, reel and lines, at a modest level, will run you roughly $500. US. Factor in everything else you can’t live without and you are pushing $…well, you understand. (Pricing here is quite variable, I know).

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March 2010

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