Fighting fish - part 1
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So the first thing that a fish does is take line. It is extremely rare that the fish will run towards you. Life can be extremely exciting if the fish does decide to run towards you. When fish do come at you, don't panic (unless it's a shark of course – hey look one never knows) simply try to catch up with the fish by bringing the line in quicker.
If you are boat fishing and this happens and you have a big enough net, it is quite possible to land the fish as it reaches the boat. It suddenly dawns on the fish that it has made a mistake, and that a change of plan is in order. Now is the time, for the smart angler to net the fish, and believe me, this is a smart thing to do, because if he realises his blunder and buggers off in the other direction, he will take a lot of coaxing to come back again.
Anyway, most fish don't do this. Most decide that they'd rather put as much distance between you and them, and as quickly as possible. Now is the time to keep the rod up and allow the fish to take line. If you try stopping the first run, you will either get broken or pull the hook free. If you point the rod at the fish it will pull the hook free (nice trick if you want to lose them – 'Sure, right,' Karen is thinking).
Keep the tension on the fish at all times. Keep the rod up – it will act as cushion against head shaking. We are trying to tire the fish out, not pull him in. This is not tug-o-war (normally).
So let's have a bit of a discussion about the reel. For a short while in history fly-fishermen played the fish off the reel and made life even more complicated for themselves by changing hands before doing so. Don't ask, ok?
On the whole, it is best not to worry about trying to play the fish off the reel. There is almost always slack line at your feet. If the first thing you do when you hook a fish is to try to get this slack line on the reel, then you are going to end up in a muddle. Those first few seconds are critical for playing fish and many fish are lost during these moments. It must be said, that there are those who would rather wind in the 30 yards of flyline at their feet, before playing fish. Of course what makes this a really bad move, is the fact that the line they are attempting to wind onto the spool, is at the bottom of the pile. I'll leave the rest to your imagination.
BTW, this raises an interesting issue: how to wind the line on the spool. The only safe way to wind the line on the spool is to cast all of the line out and retrieve it in by winding the handle. Run the line between your index finger and the cork so as to give some extra tension. If you are fishing a stillwater and have caught your limit (rather strange this fishing isn't it?) then you should snip your hooks off first, because fish always take when you are reeling in to go home.
Actually this reminds me of the guy we once saw who simply cast out, reeled in, pulled the line off the reel again, cast out and continued this procedure all afternoon. I can only surmise that he figured out that that the fish wanted this retrieve. Interestingly there was a little gadget marketed a few years ago, that one was supposed to mount on the rod and pull the line through. This apparently gave the same vibrations (See?? I told you it was a strange sport). Anyway we never saw him catch anything. The secret is to use the technique sparingly, otherwise the fish get wise and realise that it's just a ruse.
So what do you do with all that line at your feet? Well the thing not to do, is to stand on it. Generally this is a bad idea and once discovered requires a special Native American Indian dance to untangle. My feeling is to just 'be aware' of it. Treat it with respect and all being well, it will not bunch itself into a huge knot (assuming that you are worthy of landing the fish in question of course).
If the fish does decide to take all of your flyline and most of your backing, do make certain that you wind the backing back on the reel with every chance you get. It's one thing to have 30 yards of flyline at your feet, it's quite another to have an additional 20 of backing.