From the time we start fishing we dream of
catching the 'Big One.' We spend years learning,
years in pursuit and we invest mucho bucks on gear
and getting there. But for sure, the one thing we
never plan for, or even try to learn anything about,
is what to do if we actually tied into a 'Big One.'
Why are we like that?
I think I can tell you why. We don't ever figure
we will get a 'Big One.' Not us, the other guy
perhaps, but not us.
In fact, be the truth known, it even kind of scares
us a tiny bit as to just what would we do. But,
before it might happen, will we ask anyone what
to do if we hook into a 'Big One'? Of course not.
We are who we are and we're not about to ask
directions when we are lost, what really is in
quiche and for sure, how do I land the 'Big One?'
We are guys, born with lots of knowledge on lots
of things, landing 'Big Ones' must certainly have
Well, it ain't! Or, wasn't, or whatever. Anyhow,
it is not something we have, not in our genes,
instincts or heredity. So, in true J Castwell
style, I am here to help you over this fly-fishing
speed-bump without anyone noticing that you really
do not know how to land a 'Big One.' You don't
mention where you read it, and I won't tell anyone
that you didn't know. Ok, ready now?
Relax. The first rule is you must relax, or work
very hard at trying to. What makes that a bit
difficult is the fact that most rods are broken
landing fish. Got that? Landing fish breaks most
rods. Like I said, relax. If you are all
squirreled up, you have an even better chance
of screwing up. Now this mostly applies for
landing a fish when you are in waders, and can
get to the shore or stream edge or whatever you
call it. Some of this will apply for other
situations but you make what ever connections
Relax, (yes, it's number two also). When you
are relaxed you can take control of most any
fish or situation. You do it moment by moment,
foot by foot by foot, sometimes inch by inch.
But, you must take, and be, and remain in,
control. Even when and if the fish runs, you
must be in charge of the situation.
By the way, here is a tid-bit of interest. If
the fish is deep into your backing, switching
your rod from the left to the right side to
really irritate the fish is dumb. All it does
is annoy the guide if you have one, if not it
makes you simply look silly. No, I do not care
if you saw some jerk on T.V. doing it. If the
fish is in very close that might be another
If you have not 'put your fish on your reel'
yet, do so. If he did not do it himself, I
am surprised. By now several things may be
happening. He's in your backing and heading
for the next zip code. Not a lot to do. Hang
on, make sure you have reduced the tension on
your drag, remember it increases the deeper you
get into your reel. Keep the rod low to apply
pressure, pump in and wind line on the reel on
the way down, then repeat, bow to a jumper if
you like or can. Eventually the fish will get
off or come in. If you go at this in a relaxed
way you improve your chances.
Do not lie to me here. What? I mean it. Don't
do it. I have heard it all before. Remember I
also fly fish. You can not convince me that you
are going to get the fish in as fast as possible
for the sake of the fish. The first reason really
is you are all excited and are in a 'fish-fever'
(a bit like buck-fever) moment and all you can
think of doing is reeling like hell. Your second
thought is on the lines of "I must hurry and get
this one landed so I can get another one!"
Boy, doesn't that take the cake. You have a big
fish on and can't wait to get your fly out there
to get another one. But, join the club, remember,
I fly fish too. Somewhere in all of this you
should try to make a decision on whether to
fight the fish or play it. Fighting it is
using the strongest possible gear and wrestling
the thing in the shortest time. Some feel that
this scares the crap out of some fish and is
not really good for them, but that is not for
Playing would be not trying to land the fish
immediately, but attempting to stay connected
while you somewhat artfully gain line and cause
it to spend energy at a less than atomic rate
and then land it without a huge display of
flying water, debris and fish scales. Your
choice, I made mine years ago.
Ok, your fish is now tiring and you can look at
it 'eyeball to eyeball.' Oh, by the way, if you
haven't (during the fight or play) pointed your
flyrod straight back (180 degrees) to the fish
and busted it all to heck by now, this is the
time when you can smash it by pointing it up
while the fish is down by your feet. (The 180
degree thing again). With a tight line, the rod
pointed like that, a very short flip of a fishes
head will snap the rod tip instantly. Remember
here, you are not concentrating on your rod, you
are bug-eyed over some 'Big One.'
If the fish is downstream from you at this
point, shame on you. Fix that and fix it now.
Yes, if you have to, get out of the water and
get below the fish. In fact if you haven't done
that by now, I think you have already lost it.
But, if you are, by some small miracle, still
are connected hold your rod arm straight up.
Yes, up, elbow straight. Hold your fly rod
horizontal. Yes, bend your wrist and hold
the rod flat, horizontal. As soon as your 'Big
One' feels bottom tickling his tummy he is going
to go for another swim. With your rod in the
position I just described he can go wherever
he wants and not bust anything, rod, leader,
or line. Simply follow him with the rod tip.
Now, this time when you have him near your
boots for the second time, or maybe one of
the next several times, at one of them you
will see some signs of tiring, (on his part,
not yours). On his side is a good indicator
of being pooped out. Still remain composed
here. Position yourself, if at all possible,
to the outside of the fish. Get him between
you and the shore. Do not stand on the bank
and try to winch him into you unless there
is no other way possible.
With your 'Big One' now between you and the
stream edge or bank or shore, again holding
your arm straight up and the rod horizontal,
with the rod and a bit of strain, and with
you behind him, lead him onto the land. If
he wags his tail he will land himself, if he
flips around and goes back out you are
protected by the way you are holding your rod.
Eventually you will get him landed.
In some states it is illegal to even hold some
fish out of water for a picture or any reason,
even unhooking. Make every second count now if
C&R is your choice. Be gentle and fast. Revive
him for as long as it takes. It could be several
minutes. It is your responsibility, don't screw
it up. If you are going to keep it, dispatch it
in your own way, I slice the gills and let the
heart pump out the blood while he is still alive.
Smart guys tell me he just goes to sleep. Bonking
with a rock leaves all that in the fish.
I hope this gives you a few things to think
about while you are face-to-face with your
'Big One.' Oh, after you have caught one
real big one, the next ones will still be
just as much fun. Isn't that what we are all
after... just one more 'Big One?' ~ JC