FIGHT­ING SALMON WITH A SIN­GLE-HAN­DER

Trout & Salmon (UK) - - Know How -

With catch-and-re­lease, pro­long­ing the fight is an ar­gu­ment against us­ing a sin­gle-han­der and I think this con­cern is valid – up to a point. Mod­ern seven- or eight-weight rods are pow­er­ful and with good tech­nique it’s pos­si­ble to land fish quickly. In my ex­pe­ri­ence the same fun­da­men­tal as­pects ap­ply to fight­ing salmon on a sin­gle- or dou­ble-han­der, how­ever a sin­gle-handed set-up will ex­pose the is­sues more quickly and leave you feel­ing un­der­gunned. Watch­ing Alaskan guides sub­due large Pa­cific salmon taught me much about how to carry the fight to salmon on sin­gle-handed tackle. Here are some sug­ges­tions:

1 Get level or down­stream of the fish when­ever pos­si­ble so the salmon bat­tles the pull of your line and the cur­rent. Try to pre­vent the fish get­ting far down­stream of you in a strong cur­rent – you will be forced to work it back against the cur­rent and this gives the fish a free ride. It’s hard work for you and easy for the fish. When­ever prac­ti­cal, walk down­stream and wind quickly to re­cover line on down­stream runs. If you can get level or down­stream of the fish in the same ma­noeu­vre, the fish will of­ten re­spond by mak­ing an up­stream-and-across run, which will give you much more con­trol.

2 Use side-strain to keep the fish off bal­ance and mov­ing. Let­ting the fish pause al­lows it to rest and re-charge. Keep­ing the fish off bal­ance makes it work much harder. As long as the pres­sure is firm and steady you can an­gle the rod (as you want/need) par­al­lel to the water and ap­ply pres­sure to­wards your own bank (or in any di­rec­tion to try and move the fish away from ob­sta­cles). You don’t need to hold the rod ver­ti­cally all the time.

3 Use the power in the rod butt by low­er­ing the ver­ti­cal an­gle. As you lower the an­gle the pow­er­ful butt sec­tion does more work with less cush­ion­ing from the tip. The strength of your tip­pet will de­ter­mine what’s sen­si­ble. As a test, set up your rod and tie the tip­pet to some scales or a weigh net. Then get a friend to pull as hard as they dare with the rod at var­i­ous an­gles while you take a read­ing. I think you will be sur­prised how lit­tle pull you can muster with the rod ver­ti­cal. Ei­ther way, it’s handy to have a sense of how hard you can pull be­fore your tip­pet is at risk. Think about how you can use the an­gle of your rod to ap­ply side-strain and access power from the butt sec­tion.

4 Take every op­por­tu­nity to re­cover line. Use a pump­ing ac­tion (lift­ing the rod and wind­ing down) to re­cover line when a fish pauses or holds sta­tion. It’s tempt­ing to just cling on and have a breather your­self in these sit­u­a­tions but al­ways try to carry the fight to the fish.

5 Use a net. Net­ting a salmon on your own with a long dou­ble-han­der is pretty tricky, but with a sin­gle-han­der it’s much eas­ier and will usu­ally shorten the fight con­sid­er­ably. Once the fish is net­ted, you can let it re­cover while you or­gan­ise a quick photo. This min­imises the time the fish’s head is out of the water, and that’s the key to it re­cov­er­ing quickly and swim­ming away strongly.

On small and medium-sized salmon rivers, sin­gle-han­ders are un­der­utilised and of­fer lots of prac­ti­cal fish­ing advantages. On big rivers dur­ing pe­ri­ods of low water, they also en­able a new level of fi­nesse and bal­ance with small flies and del­i­cate tip­pets, and al­low nymph­ing tech­niques with flies such as a small red Frances. Let’s not dis­miss sin­gle-han­ders as toys or nov­el­ties. They’re great fun and many fish are to be caught with them.

“Mod­ern seven- or eight-weight rods are pow­er­ful and with good tech­nique it’s pos­si­ble to land fish quickly”

Nearly there: A salmon taken on a sin­gle-han­der and re­trieved fly on a slow stretch of the River Lyon.

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