Fly Fishing Quick Tips — Put the fish on the reel

by | Jun 24, 2019 | 3 comments

With a ten inch trout, none of this really matters. The little guys don’t challenge your tackle or fish-fighting skills. But with a trout longer than your arm, if you don’t put the fish on the reel, problems are right around the corner.

Unique to fly fishing is what’s going on with all the extra line. We don’t reel in the excess every time. There might be two feet or twenty feet of line we’re working with. Strip it in and shoot it back out. But when a trout takes the fly, it’s time to get the extra line back on the spool and fight the fish on the reel.

Whether you have a high-end disc drag or you palm the spool with an old-school click-and pawl, getting the line on the reel is the first order of business. It’s the only reliable method of fighting fish.

With extra fly line slopping around, too many unexpected things can happen. A dreaded loop finds its way around the rod butt, so you become distracted while trying to untangle it. The trout surges and breaks the tippet. The excess line can tangle at your feet or around the gear hanging from your fishing pack. And with slack between rod and reel, there’s no drag system in play. Bottom line: If you want to land a trout, put it on the reel.

Do this even for smaller trout. Form the habit. Make it a default practice, and you’ll have no trouble when the next Namer eats your fly.

 

How?

Retrieve line through your trigger finger, all the way through the drift.. Whether recovering slack or stripping, that finger is ready to lock down on the line. Trap it against the rod and set the hook. (Strip setting with streamers is a little different, but the line still comes over the trigger finger.) And after the hook set, immediate awareness of the extra line is critical. How much line is out? And where is it?

Often, there’s time to reel in that slack while the trigger finger stays locked down for a few seconds. Quickly reel in the extra line while the fish flexes against the rod tip for a moment.

However, big trout cover water at high speed. And after the hook set, a good fish may immediately run upstream or down. So give them the extra line — allow it to slip through your trigger finger — but always maintain control, keeping tension from rod tip to the trout’s jaw. Just feed the line back through the guides with your line hand until the trout takes all the slack and the fish is on the reel.

Only then are you in a fair fighting stance. Only then are you in a controlled, predictable position. Only then are you ready to fight and land the biggest trout of your life.

Fish hard, friends.

READ: Troutbitten | Category | Fighting Fish

 

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 600 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

Habits: Keep It On the Reel

Habits: Keep It On the Reel

Bad habits start easily enough, but they’re ingrained when an angler chooses not to make a change, instead staying with what is comfortable and convenient. We all do this at times. Instead of learning a better way, we do what is easier. In fishing, that happens a lot.

All line and leader not being used should be on the reel. Always. Yes, always, as in ALL the time.

Here’s how, why and what problems arise from doing it any other way . . .

Perfect from the Start

Perfect from the Start

Never underestimate how far away a trout can see upstream. And never underestimate how far away a trout will refuse a fly. It might drift perfectly, right past the trout. But the decision — the refusal, may have already been made with the fly twenty feet upstream.

Here’s more . . .

What water type? Where are they eating?

What water type? Where are they eating?

Fast, heavy, deep runs have always been my favorite water type to fish. I can spend a full day in the big stuff. I love the mind-clearing washout of whitewater. No average sounds penetrate it. And the never ending roar of a chunky run is mesmerizing. I also enjoy the wading challenge. The heaviest water requires not just effort, but a constant focus and a planned path to keep you upright and on two feet. Constant adjustment is needed to stay balanced, and one slip or misstep ends up in a thorough dunking. It reminds me of the scaffold work I did on construction crews in my twenties. I always enjoyed being a few stories up, because the workday flew by. When every movement means life or death, you’d better stay focused. I always liked that . . .

What does it take to catch a big trout?

What does it take to catch a big trout?

For many years, I believed that it takes nothing special to catch a big trout. I argued with friends about this over beers, during baseball games, on drives to the river and through text messages at 1:00 am. My contention was always that big trout don’t require anything extraordinary to seal the deal. They need a quality drift, a good presentation, and if they are hungry they will eat it. I frequently pushed back against the notion that big wild trout were caught only with exceptional skill.

So for all who’ve heard me make this argument, I’d like to offer this revision: I still believe that large trout don’t need more than a good presentation. But what is GOOD may actually be pretty special. Meaning, it’s rare to find the skill level necessary to consistently get good drifts and put them over trout (large or small).

Here’s more . . .

Why do we miss trout on a nymph?

Why do we miss trout on a nymph?

Late hook sets are a problem, as is guessing about whether we should set the hook in the first place. But I believe, more times than not, when we miss a trout, the fish actually misses the fly. However, that doesn’t let us off the hook either. It’s probably still our fault. And here’s why . . .

Loss of contact, refusals and bad drifts. All of these things and more add into missing trout on nymphs. So how do we improve the hookup ratio?

What do you think?

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

3 Comments

  1. Totally agree. I don’t understand why people try to strip in a fish. I guess it’s fine for the vast majority of fish, but for the big dogs, the ones you really care about, I want the technology working for me – that drag. I do it on every fish because sometimes you don’t know how big the fish is at first, especially since we’re nymphing low in the water column. With all that moving water above the fish at the end of your line, you can’t tell how big he is initially. I don’t want to be unprepared when he takes off like a train!

    Reply
  2. Oh hell yea always on the reel! On the reel + side pressure = big fish in the net.

    Reply
  3. Glad you wrote about this. I grew up getting back to the reel as fast I could just cause it seemed right. Then I had some guy says to just strip them in and I never liked it. The problem for me with striping them in is that I can never get the right tension on the line when I need to release line for the fish. The line almost sticks between my fingers and if the fish runs it tends to break off because there no graceful release. In addition, I want to use my reel, its more fun.

    Reply

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published.

Recent Articles

Recent Posts

Pin It on Pinterest