How to play a fish

West coun­try in­struc­tor Nick Hart ex­plains...

Trout Fisherman (UK) - - Contents -

THE mo­ment of the take is the part of the an­gling ex­pe­ri­ence that we all crave. But get­ting a take is one thing; if we fail to land our prize then the take it­self is not nearly as sat­is­fy­ing. We must play the f ish to the net if we are to gain the most en­joy­ment and ac­tu­ally get to ad­mire our catch. This can be eas­ier said than done. Trout f ight hard (that’s why we like them) and can throw a hook at any point – it hap­pens to the ver y best of us. But there are a few tips that can at least re­duce the risk of los­ing that f ish.

Set the hook

You’ll soon lose a f ish if the hook hold isn’t firm enough. To achieve a de­cent hook­ing, enough pres­sure must be im­me­di­ately ex­erted to force the hook home. If f ish­ing dr y f ly, a mere pur­pose­ful rod raise is usu­ally enough – not too hard or you could pull free or break your leader.

When pulling lures, the fish tend to hook them­selves as they turn against the di­rec­tion of the lure. But when f ish­ing nymphs slowly, it may be nec­es­sar y to strike the rod to set the hook f irmly. A lter­na­tively, a swift pull on the f ly-line usu­ally does the job.

Raise the rod

This helps to ab­sorb ever y lunge from the f ish be­cause the rod will f lex and help to play the f ish for you. Many an­glers set the hook with a high rod strike which also im­me­di­ately achieves a tight line to the f ish. Slack line prov ides trout with a chance to shake off the hook, so avoid this.

Keep a tight line

A tight line gives you more con­trol over the f ish, al­low­ing you to re­spond quickly to ever y move that it makes. To main­tain a tight line, re­trieve slack line with your line hand when a fish swims to­wards you. Just keep the pres­sure on the f ish and it will even­tu­ally tire.

Ap­ply side strain

If there’s an ob­sta­cle nearly where the f ish can snag (such as a weedbed) it’ll prob­a­bly tr y to reach it. Tr y to ap­ply enough pres­sure to stop the f ish from get­ting there. If the weedbed is to the side then ap­ply side strain by pulling the rod away from the ob­sta­cle and against the di­rec­tion of the f ish. The skill is to not be too bullish be­cause you’ll risk snap­ping the leader or pulling the hook out. But, ob­vi­ously, you don’t want to be too soft with it ei­ther. Ex­pe­ri­ence will even­tu­ally show you a happy medium.

When a fish leaps

This is a crit­i­cal time. Tr y not to keep a tight line when a f ish leaps free of the wa­ter. In­stead, lower the rod tip slightly to al­low some slack. Then, as soon as it re­turns to the wa­ter, re­gain that tight line. A tight line to a trout in wa­ter is one thing…but imag­ine a tight line in thin air – a shake of the head and your leader will likely break.

When a fish runs

If you’ve hooked a f ish in shal­low wa­ter, it has only one way to run and that’s far away from you and at speed. You’ve no op­tion but to give line in this sit­u­a­tion. Sim­ply feed line through your line hand or – if you have the f ish on the reel – let the disc drag al­low line to be pulled off by the f ish. But make sure you re­gain a tight line once the f ish stops its run.

Disc drag

It’s ver y im­por­tant to set the drag so that it’s ap­pro­pri­ate to the size of quarr y you’re ex­pect­ing to catch. The cor­rect set­ting can be ver y help­ful when play­ing a f ish. When a fish wants to run, it can run and all you have to do is keep a tight line by wind­ing in ex­cess f ly-line. The beauty of play ing f ish on the reel is that there’s no slack line around your feet for you to stand on, caus­ing huge prob­lems when the fish runs. Many an­glers have lost fish due to stand­ing on loose line at their feet.

Catch and re­lease

Ob­vi­ously, the faster you can play a f ish to the net the less build-up of lac­tic acid and the greater chance of the f ish be­ing re­turned well. But, with this in mind, don’t be silly and bully the f ish too much. Just don’t hang about when play­ing and get it in the net, un­hooked and re­turned as quickly as safet y al­lows.

“If you hook a fish in shal­low wa­ter, it has only one way to run and that’s far away from you and at speed. You’ve no op­tion but to give line.”

Strike up­wards and you’re in im­me­di­ate con­trol of the fish. Get fish on the reel and al­low the disc drag to free up line as the fish runs.



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