Quick Tips — Unbutton Snags from the Backside

by | Sep 25, 2018 | 7 comments

Get your nymphs down to the fish. Put them in the strike zone — low — where the trout live. Keep your streamer near the rock bed because that’s where the baitfish are. Cast your flies over by that wet log. Trout love structure.

It’s all true. And to fish well, to be effective with our underwater patterns, we must take chances. Get low, but not so low that you hang up every cast. Target the structure and get close, but not so close that you drive the hook into a dead log.

Snags happen.

I’ve fished with guys that see every hang up as a failure — every lost fly as a mistake. But inevitably, that mindset breeds an overcautious angler, too careful and just hoping for some good luck.

Hang ups are not a failure. For a good angler, they are a calculated risk — an occasional consequence after assessing probability against skill, situation and loss. We all hang up the fly sometimes. So what.

Now let’s talk about how to pop loose the underwater snag.

Don’t drive it home

Let’s assume you cast upstream and the fly is drifting back down toward you when the line stops.

Good fishing is about being in contact with the flies. So the instant the fly stops (whether it touches a rock or a trout’s teeth) we should see or feel it. Usually, we set the hook.

And that’s a good thing. Since we set when the line pauses, the fly doesn’t have much chance to bury itself underneath a complicated mass of rocks and tree parts. When the angler’s rig is in touch with the flies, most snags end up on the edge of something — like a rock.

When we set the hook on a rock, the worst thing to do is keep setting the hook into the rock. Don’t do that. Don’t pull downstream over and over and expect the fly to come out.

Instead, reach out with the rod tip and pull up. Then try a tug sideways.

Get on the backside

When that doesn’t work, wade to an angle that gets your rod tip behind the fly — upstream from where it came. Often, it takes only a step or two. With a long fly rod we can reach behind the nymph and pull it out in reverse of the way it went in.

The backside angle does not need to be direct. If you get any kind of upstream pull, the snag often releases with little effort.

Yup

So the next time you trout-set on a stick-fish, don’t drive the hook home with another hard pull. Change the angle and pull from the backside.

If you’re lucky, it’ll pop loose.

 

Enjoy the day.
Domenick Swentosky
T R O U T B I T T E N
domenick@troutbitten.com

 

 

Share This Article . . .

Since 2014 and 700+ articles deep
Troutbitten is a free resource for all anglers.
Your support is greatly appreciated.

– Explore These Post Tags –

Domenick Swentosky

Central Pennsylvania

Hi. I’m a father of two young boys, a husband, author, fly fishing guide and a musician. I fish for wild brown trout in the cool limestone waters of Central Pennsylvania year round. This is my home, and I love it. Friends. Family. And the river.

More from this Category

The Mono Rig and Why Fly Line Sucks

The Mono Rig and Why Fly Line Sucks

For presenting nymphs and streamers to river trout, fly line sucks. There, I said it. Now I have to defend it. Most underwater deliveries require weight, and using a very long, monofilament leader to cast that weight is more efficient than using fly line; it keeps you...

What to Trust

What to Trust

The tall man crossed the old railroad bridge above me. He paused at the midpoint, lingered and watched me cast for a moment, then he bellowed downstream to me with a voice full of triumph. “I caught a bunch! They’re taking Zebra Midges just under the surface.” “Not...

Tight Line Nymph Rig

Tight Line Nymph Rig

Almost eight years ago, I made some adaptations to my nymph rig that completely changed the game for me, tripling my catch rate and adding a new spark to my passion for fly fishing. Suddenly, a whole new set of techniques and achievements were possible on the water,...

Night Shift – Into the Dark

Night Shift – Into the Dark

You can't stand up to the night until you understand what's hiding in its shadows.  -- Charles De Lint Last June I made a commitment. I promised myself that I would go deep into the night game and learn to catch the wildest trout in the darkest hours. Having spent a...

Efficiency: Part 2 – Leader/Tippet Changes

Efficiency: Part 2 – Leader/Tippet Changes

  My best days on the water are usually full of changes. The morning fog burns off, and I switch from streamers to nymphs; a half hour later, a swirling back eddy looks like the home of the next nameable brown trout (two footer), and I go back to...

Efficiency: Part 1 – Knots

Efficiency: Part 1 – Knots

"You can't catch a fish without your fly in the water." Efficiency has become a game for me; it's something I enjoy; it's something I think about when I'm not fishing, and I'm constantly trying to improve on a system that keeps my flies in the water and the downtime...

What do you think?

Be part of the Troutbitten community of ideas.
Be helpful. And be nice.

7 Comments

  1. I find throwing a roll cast or two on the back side of the snag will dislodge it most of the time

    Reply
    • Thanks Jon, that’s a good tip when you have enough fly line involved. But for most of us long liners, that’s one of the downsides — no roll casts.

      Reply
  2. I learned from Front Range legend Ed Engle, you gotta lose flies to catch fish. So I do more of both now. I’ll take that trade-off! A guy near you, Domenick, Matt Kowalchuk of the Feathered Hook, helped me get better with this fly-freeing technique you just wrote about. I’ve gotten better at it and it really helps you save your flies, and reduces the time when you’re not fishing.

    Reply
  3. Yes, spot on, that works for me, I get upstream and try gentle pulls first, then tension on the line and tap the rod, and circular movements with the rod tip as well, final try is to let the line go slack, then pull again with the rod tip down in the water to get another angle. On most of my waters, I can wade over and reach down and pluck the nymph out if all thats failed-making sure my feet are well planted and bending slowly to avoid joining the nymph on the snag LOL. I like to get stuff back in when I can as I don’t like leaving hooks and or nylon behind.

    Reply
  4. Nice post, another way is to do a roll cast that goes beyond where the fly is hooked then gently lift up at the end.

    Reply
  5. I have had some luck stripping some line off my Reel and sending a roll cast towards my fly.

    Reply

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recent Articles

Recent Posts

Domenick Swentosky

Central Pennsylvania

Hi. I’m a father of two young boys, a husband, author, fly fishing guide and a musician. I fish for wild brown trout in the cool limestone waters of Central Pennsylvania year round. This is my home, and I love it. Friends. Family. And the river.

Pin It on Pinterest