During one of the coldest, wettest, and windiest days of our season here in Western Alaska this week, we couldn’t help but let our minds wander toward the flats. Surprising, right?
That got us to thinking, what’s the most overlooked facet of saltwater fly fishing that results in more fish lost or landed? We’d argue its that vulnerable moment of time between setting the hook, and getting the fish on the reel.
That’s why today we present you with seven tips for clearing line – You’ve set the hook, chaos ensues, now what? Here’s what.
- Separate Your Hands. Once you have set the hook with a nice long strip set followed by raising the rod, separate your hands at least shoulder width apart. As line zings through the guides from the boat deck, hands kept close together positions the fast moving fly line close to tangle points like reel handles, rod butts, stripping guides, etc. Separating your hands as your fish takes line lessens the likelihood of tangles.
- Pin the Rod Butt Against Your Forearm. One of the most common tangle points while clearing line, most often resulting in break offs, is the fighting butt. Sounds familiar, right? A simple solution is to pin the fighting butt against the front of your forearm immediately after raising the rod to fight the fish. Doing so eliminates the chance of the line sneaking around the butt until it is safely on the reel.
- Watch Your Line, Not the Fish. Watching a bonefish reach top speed is impressive, however when it comes to landing fish, one of the most important tips for clearing line is paying attention to your fly line until it is safely on the reel, before watching the show. Until the fly line is tight to the reel, the rod has no control over the fish anyhow, so probably best to watch your line clear first, then watch the fish.
- Feather the Fly Line. One mistake we see on a regular basis, even from relatively experienced anglers, is a loss of tension once the fish begins to take line. While clearing line, its important to maintain tension by allowing the line to slide through your fingers on its way out the guides. Providing friction with your fingers can act as a small amount drag, keeping tension on your hook-hold, until you can allow your finely tuned reel to do its job.
- Don’t Fish Too Much Line. The more line out, the more line to tangle. Stripping off more line than you can effectively cast, or better yet, more than you can spot fish at, is more likely a hindrance than a help. Be honest with yourself and only fish what’s needed.
- No Dancing. Moving your feet around while on the deck often leads to the fly line finding its way under your foot. While clearing line, try to keep your feet planted, at least until you get the fish on the reel.
- Bring a Good Boat Buddy. What’s the best way to remain tangle-free while clearing line? A good boat buddy. A fishing partner willing to watch for tangles as it comes off the deck is invaluable. Strive to be a good boat buddy yourself.. After all, what goes around, comes around.
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