Ever feel like your dominant hand has all the fun? It holds an ice cream cone, throws a football and sets the hook on your biggest trout. Your off hand is so neglected that at times you might forget what it’s used for. Fishing with a spinning rod keeps your other hand busy — constantly doing the reel work. But we aren’t reeling in much line while fly fishing, right? And at the close distances we often fish for trout, it’s easy to forget to keep the line hand involved.
So this is another one of those “duh” tips. It’s the kind of thing that seems obvious. And yet, by considering all of the tasks for the line hand, we become better anglers. It’s always the little things that make a difference in life. It’s the basics, refined to perfection (or something close to it) that make us better — that bring more fish to hand.
Alright, so the first job of the line hand is to pull line from the reel spool. Let’s not make a big deal out of this. This isn’t Fly Fishing 101. This is Troutbitten.
I have just one point to make here. When you pull line off the spool, take the line forward, directly away from yourself. Do not pull sideways. If you drag the line to the side it will rub against the cage of the reel, creating friction that damages the fly line over time.
I made this mistake for years, until one day I complained to Steve Sywensky that my fly lines never lasted very long. He asked me to show him how I pull the line from the spool. He told me I was doing it wrong, and my fly lines immediately doubled their lifespan. Nice.
I already wrote about this one in a dedicated article. On an upstream presentation, there are two ways to take in slack line that the river feeds back to you. You can raise the rod tip, or you can pull slack in with you line hand to keep in touch.
Importantly, any and all line retrieval done with your reel hand should first come through the trigger finger on your rod hand. That goes for these next couple sections as well.
I think of line retrieval as an effort to recover slack without moving the flies — to hold a dead drift.
But what I’m referring to here is stripping line in, with an intention to move the fly. In this way, we can animate a streamer, wet fly, nymph or dry fly.
Think about the speed and the length of your strips. How fast is the strip and how far are you moving the fly?
Hand Twist Retrieve
I’ve seen many good anglers without the ability to perform a hand twist retrieve. I never really developed a good hand twist until I started night fishing. Only then, when I wanted to crawl my streamer along the bottom on an upstream presentation, did I finally develop a good hand twist.
Some call it a figure eight retrieve.
Attempting to explain it in words here would be silly.
Thanks, YouTube and Murray’s Fly Shop.
The double haul is another one that I never had much use for until I did. I was fly fishing for over a decade before I really learned to double haul. And I’ll say that if you don’t have a use for it, then who cares — don’t learn the double haul yet.
But when you do need it, learn it, because it’s extremely useful.
I now use the double haul for casting a pair of streamers on the Mono Rig at long distance. I first developed it while fishing from a boat, trying to get that extra ten feet to land the fly in the soft, shady edge, right off the bank.
The double haul is a cooperative concert between rod hand and line hand. Done well, it squeezes every ounce of casting power out of a fly rod, sending the line to new distances — all the way over to the brushy bank that holds the next Namer.
Of course, with both the double haul and standard casting, the time to let go and shoot the extra line is right after the powerstroke on the forward cast. Check the rod, stop it hard at 10:00, then let go of the line to shoot it through the guides. Perfect.
Reel ‘em in!
This is the fun part. Fish on! It’s best to get any larger fish on the reel. Allow the trout to take out the extra line on its first run, but remain under control. If the trout doesn’t run right away, then keep the trigger finger on the line and reel up any slack behind it to get the fish on the reel.
Having the fish on the reel means you can now let the reel’s drag do the work. So keep the trigger finger off the line, and keep your line hand off the handle until it’s time to reel. Bottom line — let the reel do the work. (Although, if it’s a click-and-pawl type reel, your line hand gets the extra fun of palming the spool and being the drag for your reel. I love it.)
When the trout is not pulling, then it’s your turn. Keep the trout moving, flex the rod and reel in line.
The line hand is also your net hand, so I guess it can have a lot of fun after all.
Fish hard, friends.
Enjoy the day.
T R O U T B I T T E N