Posts Tagged ‘fighting fish


Fighting Fish: Breaking Rod Tips

The Surface SwirlI was reading this piece on MidCurrent about fighting big fish. For many of us, fighting a fish over 50# on a fly rod is rare. Studying how to apply pressure on such big fish is important and learning from our mishaps along the way does help for the next time we are so fortunate to hook into those special fish.

I have broken six rods (3 through falls, 3 fighting fish). The fighting fish encounters were against fish sub-10#’s with the fish close at hand, the rod held more vertical, the tip bent down and hoisting/drawing the fish near me to grab the leader. That is the dangerous moment for the rod. Whether the rod tip was previously damaged by me or faulty I don’t know, but the position I put the bent rod into is often a fatal error for the rod.


Be mindful of a vertical rod with a very bent tip!!! Use the full power of the rod down down into the mid section toward the butt/handle when managing fish. And, be very careful in protecting those rod tips from banging against anything while casting or improperly storing the rod sections.  

Rod Tip Up SB


Your Reel’s Drag System

For many of us, we fish for smaller fish as is often said the reel is nothing more than a storage place for the fly line. This implies the reel’s drag really won’t be used by those 6″-12″ trout.

So, assuming you infrequently catch fish that will pull line from your reel to test the drag…that is all the more reason to test a few things about your drag: how is the drag set now? too tight…too loose? You will usually know this as you strip line from the reel to make that ever longer cast. Which way do you turn the drag knob to loosen or tighten the drag? It is good to know this before you are stumbling about playing a large fish.

Also, develop the habit of reeling line up onto the reel in a somewhat uniform manner.  Loops and loose coils on the reel will potentially cause a problem when the large fish (yes this is that fish of the season for many of us) makes its run. The line is streaming off the reel, the drag is working and then you come to a loose loop, coil or tangle. The reel can hesitate, or shoot line out too quickly (when a loop of line shoots off the reel) or come to a complete halt. All these create jolting forces that make the line/rod tip move about with a movement that is not smooth and threatens to snap the tippet. Smooth and consistent is the goal.

So, periodically check that spool. Is the fly line a jumbled mess? Strip out the tangles, loose coils and loops and reel the line back on nice and neat. Also, have some familiarity with that drag knob…in advance of that big one.


Stripping Line Onto the Apron (Stillwater Fly Fishing)

A frequent scenario that occurs while fly fishing: you are retrieving the fly line while presenting the fly. The fish takes the fly and the fly fisher, tight to the fish, continues to fight the fish, with coils of line at their feet or on the apron of deck of a vessel (float tube, pontoon boat or drift boat, etc.), by stripping the line/fish inward.

This is not a huge problem if the fish is smaller and the fisher can strip it inward to the net/hand. But, if the fish are likely bigger, my advice is to get the fish on the reel/drag. Do not continue to strip in lengths of line while pinching the line to the cork. I know this is common, I do it also for fish up to 18-20 inches. 

A second problem: the coils may or may not be a problem of tangling as they lay below the reel. I recently purchased a Rio Aqua Lux Intermediate line for stillwater fishing. My previous, older Intermediate coiled badly in cold weather and frequently had multiple knotted, messes tangled on my apron.

When a larger than usual fish took line, the knots jetted upward toward the stripping guide. The knots jammed there, or if they made it through the stripping guide, they definitely jammed against the more fragile second guide. Fish were lost or damage occurred. The new Rio Aqua Lux line never tangled once during days of fishing and thousands of strips. Sure there were a couple simple slips knots, but not the sticky, coiled tangled messes that use to beset my old Intermediate line. 

My suggestion is buy quality lines that are less prone to tangles/coils and when that uncoiled line slips up through the guides, as a bigger fish takes line, get that fish onto the reel. Even if you pinch tight to the cork at the first signs of a hook up, reel the loose line onto the reel in order to get tight to the fish.


Fly Fishing: Line Management Onto the Reel

Regardless of the type of reel (level wind, spinning or fly reel) it always important to watch how the line is going onto the reel whether fighting a fish or quickly reeling in to re-rig or cast. Reeling in a tangle onto the reel while playing a substantial fish is a possible disaster.

Here I was playing a substantial fish off the reel and I had reeled that mess down through the rod’s guides. When the fish ran, the tangle did come off the reel but failed to make it back up through all the guides. Fish gone. Fortunately no damage to the rod’s guide(s).

Normally, I would use my right hand fingers to tuck the fly line, above the tangle, behind my forefinger/middle finger and against the cork. From there I would attempt to use my off hand to untangle the mess by allowing some slack to the line around the tangle. If the fish is sizable, you may only get one shot at this. In the photo above, I never noticed the tangle as I fought the fish.


Fly Fishing: ‘Bow To the fish’

Well, I was going to write something about bowing to fish, should you be fortunate enough to hook a larger, airborne missile. So I queried ‘bow to fish’ and to my surprise there was a different take on bow to fish.

Some how 'bow to fish' produced this imagery. She does seem to know what she is doing.

So, I kept looking for the visual to best clarify my written words about fighting the bigger fish that goes airborne and how to lower the rod (‘bow’) toward the water. This provides slack in the fly line because the theory goes the fish will crash down on the water and below upon a slack leader thereby reducing the chances the line tension would break the leader or dislodge the hook. After the fish hits the water you regain tension to the fish. If a fish, as some species do, has a tendency to jump a lot, it is important to learn this technique whether fishing for tarpon or chasing airborne Kamloops trout while sitting in a pontoon boat. Slack does not mean too much slack…a learned, intuitive response to provide just enough slack then regain it to keep pressure on the fish. Side pressures versus upward pressures are beneficial in steering the fish. Of course, if you are hanging on for dear life then make sure you enjoy ‘the moment’. 

So you can see this whole bow to the fish is only as close to fly fishing as the fletchings on the butt of that arrow.


Fly Fishing: High Sticking

In fly fishing (actually fishing in general) there are two  descriptions for ‘high sticking’.

First, and most common, is a method of nymph fishing, whereby the rod tip is held high to theoretically put the fisher in more direct contact with the offering (fly, bait) and reduce line drag (fly line, tippet, mono). This, generally, involves a short line and is different than Czech Nymphing, which is more akin to dredging.

But, there is another kind of high sticking that deals with fish fighting and unfortunately often rod breakage. I thought about this while reviewing a TFO Rod ad, which contained a short blurb about rod breakage due to high sticking. I have broken three rods, while fighting salmon. Once, while playing a Chinook in heavy currents, I felt the fish make that fateful turn broadside in the current and then turn. Not familiar with the power of big fish in heavy currents, I torqued down on the drag and leaned back on the rod, while holding the rod high on the butt section for torque…SNAP!!!!  Lesson learned.  As Clint Eastwood would have said..’a mans got to know his rod’s limitations’.

But, twice more, with smaller salmon, I fought the fish in close and to control them, I held the rod high (butt section vertical) and kept the line pinched to the cork. The fish thrashed and surged. With the rod held high, the tips snapped into multiple pieces.

I always admonished my kids to ‘keep the tip up’ to avoid a rod horizontal and all the stress on the line/tippet. All that is fine, until you have a bigger fish at your feet, alone and trying to control the fish.

Avoid lifting and trying to hoist/control a strong fish by putting excessive bend into the top third of the rod with the butt section of the rod nearly vertical. Often this is done while lifting the rod to steer the line into the non-rod hand to gain control of the fish. This is a difficult dance indeed. Easy with a trout, but much harder with a bigger fish. If the fish is not on its side yet, be careful when you lift the rod while reaching for the line!


Ultimate Steelhead Battle

Craziness…Pure Craziness…On Many Levels

Vodpod videos no longer available.

more about “Ultimate Steelhead Battle“, posted with vodpod

Playing & Fighting the Fish, Enjoying the Moment…seriously, enjoy it.


Perfect Posture

Now, I have only a little to offer, but you have to pay attention…down here…yes, the drag has to be set so the spool doesn’t over run on a big fish- it shouldn’t be too tight as big fish snap rods-the bend in the rod should aid in fighting the fish-don’t put a hand too far up the rod causing stress on the rod-  bend or bow at the waist to the jumping fish to take pressure off the line as the fish crashes down upon the leader (at least drop your arm)-once the fish stops strong runs but zips a bit here and there move the rod tip at different angles from hi up to down to the water surface…keep the fish off balance with the ‘walking the dog’  technique of moving it in the opposite direction of the fish’s surge and do it smoothly…speaking of smoothly, don’t get so adrenalized that you stumble about and slip and slide. Move smoothly AND….most importantly!!! pause at times and savor ‘the moment’…seriously, this is what it is all about…preparation, tying, presentation, deception, the take, success…yes, all good, but savor that moment…you have earned it.

If you were standing elbow to elbow on some Alaskan, Oregon, Michigan river flinging hardware or drift gear and you hook that fish…you have about 10 seconds before some dipshit starts casting into the general direction of where you were fishing and others  expect you to raise your rod and move down river with your fish and hurry up while you are at it! Fortunately, fly fishers usually are spread out a touch more, and are more patient…giving you maybe a minute or two to savor your success…so enjoy…feel the power, feel your equipment work (you paid enough for it) and feel how darn smooth you can be under that adrenaline surge…     

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