At Alaska West and Rapids Camp we see a lot of big fish fought by our guests – we’re talking steelhead and king salmon here. Sometimes our anglers do a great job fighting the big ones. Other times…not so much.
Fight hard, fight smart, and get it over fast!
Top 5 Mistakes Made Fighting Big Fish
- Rod bent at the tip. The tip of your rod doesn’t have a lot of power. If your rod angle is high (i.e. you’re acting like you’re in a bass boat), you’re bending the tip of your rod. The power in your rod is in the butt section. Keep your rod lower and pull back, not up, on the handle – that will bend the butt of your rod and apply much more pressure to the fish.
- Slow stroll downriver. Lots of times big fish get way below you on the river. We get that. But if you’re strolling downriver and casually reeling up slack as you go, you’re probably losing more ground than you’re gaining. Some expert anglers like to ‘stand their ground’ and literally not move, keeping maximum pressure on the fish. Others want to pull more sideways on the fish so they move quickly downriver to get a better angle. That’s fine, but if you’re going to make a move downriver, do it quickly and reel aggressively as you go – otherwise you’re guaranteed to lose ground.
- Pulling like a pansy. Big fish are strong. If you’re not pulling hard, they’re resting, and you’re just increasing the length of the fight, allowing more time for something to go wrong. You need to be working hard when you’re fighting a big fish – you should be breathing hard and your arms should get tired! The gear we use for big fish is strong – you probably can’t break 15 pound Maxima with your bare hands – so pull hard and get it done.
- Sudden movements. Often during a fight with a big fish you need to change your rod angle to pull from the other side. Do it smoothly! Particularly with two-handed rods, this movement is really pulling the fly from side to side, and you don’t want slack or sudden jerks in the process. That’s a recipe for working the fly loose.
- Rod tip too high. We like the ‘down and dirty’ method with big fish – in most situations right up to the end of the fight, your rod tip should be in the water. Yes, sometimes you need to raise your rod to avoid an obstacle – that’s fine. But otherwise, keep your rod low for maximum fish-fighting mojo.
Seen some other mistakes made fighting big fish? Leave us a comment and let the world know.