Playing & Landing

Playing a fish on a fly rod can be boiled down into simply making the fish work against the spring of the rod until it becomes tired enough to net.

After the fish takes your fly, try to reel in excess line as soon as possible. Tension can be maintained by keeping the line pinched between the handle and your index finger. Feel free to pause reeling and let line out as needed. Finding the right balance between keeping the line tight and letting the fish run comes with experience.⁣

Types of Pressure

There are two different types of pressure that you can put on a fish:

1. Vertical pressure - raising the pole straight up high into the air

2. Side pressure - tilting the pole parallel with the water left or right ⁣

Which one is better?

Well it all depends on the positioning of the fish. Remember, you are the one who hooked into the fish, and you are in control of its direction. Your objective in fighting the fish is to try to create a 90 degree angle between the tip of the rod and the opposite direction the fish is facing. This will fatigue the fish more quickly and also prevent it from taking your line downstream. When the fish goes upstream, tilt your rod in the opposite direction and vice versa. If the fish is straight out in front of you, it will typically call for a vertical raise.

Even though you will use both the vertical raise and side pressure, the side pressure has a distinct advantage. Well-known Orvis instructor Peter Kutzer did a test where he measured the pressure that was applied between the two. Vertical pressure applied 1-2 lbs, while side pressure applied 3.5-5 lbs. This is because moving from a vertical raise to the side, transfers the leverage of the rod from the tip to the butt.

Fish cannot swim backwards. To make a fish go in your desired direction, all you have to do is turn its head. ⁣

Always try to get the fish upstream from you so that it has to work against the current as discussed in the playing section. ⁣

Never hold a rod above the handle. This will decrease the butt section’s efficiency, lessening power and increasing strain on the rod tip. If the fish makes a sudden run or jolt, you risk snapping your rod tip.

Try to be proactive about positioning yourself below the fish so that you can net it. Any sudden swipes with the net, and the fish will get spooked continuing the fight. Let the fish come to the net, rather than the net to the fish.