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Ronan's report


Wednesday, July 21st, 2010

Inspired by Morsie’s helpful checklist on fishing photography, I’ve decided to come back on the FP after my vacation with a bit of a “How To” piece myself.

Of course, defining what is a big fish is highly debatable. Similarly, catching big fish is something fairly ridiculous to claim to know everything about. Now, I know plenty of guys that catch alot more big fish than me, so take this for what it's worth. Unfortunately, those guys don't write the FP, and I do. But I feel very fortunate to be able to say that I’ve seen a few of what I consider big fish, and I’ve had a few friends ask how my fishing buddies and I seem to get into big fish more consistently than the average angler.

So, inspired by that, here are a few tips on catching big fish based on my experience that I hope you are able to add to your set of tools for when the time is right.

1. Fish waters that have a lot of big fish in them. I’d say this is the number one “secret” of catching big fish. Yes, there are big fish in nearly every body of water, but some have, on average, much bigger fish.

2. Do your homework. When you are planning a trip or fishing waters for big fish, make sure you are there when the fish are there. The most famous steelhead or salmon river in the world is a bad place to fish when the run is not in.

3. Target big fish. In many cases the location that you chose to fish a given piece of water will dictate the size of the fish you are likely to encounter. For example, the biggest bonefish typically cruse the deeper water on the edges of the flats. They are less likely to be in the skinny water way up in the mangroves.

4. Target big fish. The techniques for catching big fish may be very specific and different from the typical techniques on given water. For example, I know one river that is famous for small and abundant trout that also hold some very large fish. Small dries and nymphs fished during the daytime hours and during hatches work great for the average fish. But the big boys are not eating bugs, and are hiding in the cut banks at midday. To find them, you need to fish flies that look like what they eat (other fish) at the time of day that they are feeding (dawn and dusk).

5. Abandon the idea of catching a lot of fish in different sizes in order to target a trophy. Sometimes you can’t catch all the fish if you want a big one. Rarely is a trophy caught accidentally.

6. Be a bit fanatical about tackle. When you are looking for big fish, and you may only have a couple of chances on a trip, do everything you can to make it count. Big guys have enough tricks up their sleeve and don’t need any extra advantage given to them. Buy the best hooks and make sure that you are always fishing a sharp hook. Carry a hone. Check your tippet regularly. If you even think that it might need replacing, replace it. Learn to tie great knots, and make sure your connections are solid all the time. Use the best reel you can afford. If you prefer, carry a big net with a fish friendly bag. This often helps finish a fight cleanly and can lead to a better photo and successful release.

7. Be the best caster you can be. This is about maximizing your chances and covering the most water. Add distance and accuracy in all conditions. Especially wind. This is not about ego, it is about effectiveness.

8. Stick it out. Sometimes you need to stay out a bit later or get up a bit earlier if you want a big fish.

9. Fight smart. Know the limits of your gear and the fighting tactics of the fish. Fight them as hard and well as you can. Learn from each big fish you do hook. Don’t panic at the end of the fight either. Pick out where you think you can land a fish before you even hook it if conditions are difficult. Ask people who know big fish for tips on fighting big fish. They probably won’t tell you their secret spots, but will be happy to offer this sort of tip.

10. Pay your dues. Don’t expect handouts or easy information on when and where to find the biggest fish. That information is hard won and should not be bought or sold. Even when you know where to find them it won’t happen every time, and you will miss chances, botch casts, and lose big fish. Get out there as much as you can. Enjoy it. Fish as hard and as well as you can. And stay focused and ready.

Take Care and Fish On,
Matt


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