Fighting the hard fight

Fighting the hard fight

Paul Arden | Monday, 14 September 2015

The past two months has taught me a great deal in fly fishing, which I think I can put to great use in the future, and one thing in particular I'd like to share with you at the moment, is related to fish fighting. Normally when trout fishing for example, we will use the rod to cushion the battle. Of course we also use rod pressure to change the angle of the pull - to turn the fish, but on the most part when trout fishing we are forcing the fish to tire itself. The same thing happens in Saltwater too - at least it does when you have the luxury of open water and can allow the fish to take off and run sometimes 100m or more. But what about when you simply don't have the luxury of space?

Here in Malaysia I've been working with no-space situations. I've been increasing the breaking point of my leaders to around 35lbs, after knot considerations. Now that's a pretty serious pull. Fly lines pop around there - obviously I don't want to pop my fly line. But equally I don't want to give any line.

There is a video on YouTube of a chap who's wrestled a Snakehead into a bag, and then as he walks away from the water, the Snakehead violently shakes its head and knocks the guy unconscious. So I think is should be pretty obvious that a large Snakehead can break even 35lb line. So simply hanging on is not actually a option. But *almost* simply hanging on most certainly is. And that is the fight I'm learning.

An interesting thing happens when you refuse to give line: the fish curves straight under the boat. While this is happening there is an opportunity be able to shorten the distance between you and it, because there are snags under the boat too! What eventuates - and rather quickly - is that the fish is directly below you and if you are not fast in moving your rod to the outside the boat, with a direct pull to the fish, the rod will strike the gunwales with a tremendous smack and you will have broken another rod. I have broken two rods in the past 6 weeks simply by not moving quickly enough.

When you play fish this hard, something else interesting happens: the fish gives up quicker. It works out that he is stuck and it really is you directly pulling the fish. Consequently while the fight is very much shorter to bring the fish to the surface, when he surfaces early on you can bet he still has a lot of energy left. When a fish is in this position you can normally angle the rod to be a little bit more forgiving, but in this case it is a mistake, for having taken the pressure off the fish might dive, and you most certainly don't want to be playing a lively 5KG Snakehead with the rod tip. Yes I have broken one this way too. So even in the late stages of the fight, my rod butt is pointed straight down with the reel held high above my head.

All up I've broken four rods this trip, three on fish (two hitting the gunwales) and a fourth on a snag. So hopefully my mistakes will enable you not to have to follow my learning curve, instead just take the lessons learned! One might reasonably ask why am I fishing an 8-weight, when a 12 might be more appropriate? It all comes down to the speed of the shot. Thinner flylines cut through the air quicker, and just to be in this game you have to be fast. Fast and deadly accurate. There is a lot more to it than this: being in the right place at the right time, anticipating the rise, stealthy approach, waiting for the fish to turn down (if you move before he's turned down you will spook him, every time), making a lightning fast shot - that has to be accurate to within a dinner plate (a little longer is OK, a little short is no good), the right fly, the right retrieve (sometimes a fast retrieve is NOT the answer and they will take a static popper), learning serious knots and, finally, fighting fish harder than you've ever dared.

And because the speed of the shot is so important, I'm thinking of fishing a 7-line - still on the HT8. I've actually got a few ideas on how this line should be built and I'm going to talk to Bruce. I reckon a different flyline profile would actually double or maybe even triple my success rate.

It's been a good week this one. I've had to change my six-day fishing trips to 3 day trips, so I can get online a couple of times/week. As you'll probably have noticed I've been working a little on the promo-box, the tackle testimonials page and the shopping cart. This has been fun actually! And a couple of evenings ago, very unusually I saw a herd of elephants on the water's edge. While I hear them often at night, it is rare to see them during daylight hours.

Oh and I hooked a Gourami too. But missed the bugger on the strike. I do think that braid is the answer to landing these fish. Time will tell. Casting the 4-weight is a lot of fun I can tell you. And yes I'll be adopting similar hard fighting measures on these fish when I finally set the hook again!

Have a great fishing week.

Cheers, Paul