Wednesday 27th February, 2008
On Sunday, while I was out chasing the imaginary steelhead (I know they were there. Really), Bob started a discussion about busting off fish. From Bob...
"A few broken tippets is acceptable, but eight or ten in a day is rubbish. What's your take on this problem?"
No one stepped up to answer Bob's question, and I'm in search of a FP topic, so here goes. I'm not sure about how browns eat cicadas, or anything else about what was going on down in NZ. I've never fished there, so I'm not qualified to comment on the specifics. But I can offer some comments on busting off in general. My personal take on bust offs is a bit more critical than Bob's. I consider bust offs unacceptable.
Sounds harsh, but I've got my reasons. It's ridiculous, but while I find it perfectly acceptable to harass a fish by fooling it, poking a hole in its face with a hook, and hauling it around on a string, I can't stand the thought of leaving the hook stuck in a fish for any longer than absolutely necessary. When I bust a fish off, I think about it for a couple of weeks. It really gets to me. It makes me feel horrible.
While I might disagree with Bob on the acceptable number of bust offs, I agree with his assertion that some break offs are, unfortunately, inevitable. Sometimes a good trout finds the weeds, a steelhead finds a sharp rock, or a bonefish finds a coral head. Sometimes a toothy northern pike nabs your fly when fishing for bass without a bite leader. But I think the majority of break offs are avoidable. Most bust offs are the result of angler error or simple lack of foresight. Sometimes you just get excited and strike too hard, but more often than not, the break off is the result of poor planning. I'm proud of the fact that I rarely leave a fly in a fish. I believe that the fact is partially a testament to my skill as an angler, but primarily a result of the way I prepare for fishing. I do all I can to reduce my chances of a bust off before a fish ever takes my fly.
So, how can you reduce break offs? First, know your quarry and the fishery, and select your tackle accordingly. Fish the heaviest tippet possible, even if you might miss out on a couple of hookups because of it. Learn the real limits of tippet strength by experimenting with how hard you can pull on a fixed, static object like a fence post. Set your drag appropriately. Select your leader material based on abrasion resistance as well as tensile strength when fishing waters with sharp boulders and ledge rock or coral heads. When conditions and presentations techniques make fine tippets a requirement, protect the tippet by selecting a rod with a soft tip and add a section of shock gum into the leader's butt section. Before you even make a cast think about what a fish might do or where it might run if you hook up. The list goes on. You've probably heard it all before. But there is a reason. This stuff works.
Reduce bust offs. Expect the unexpected. Plan accordingly. Think Sexyloops.
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