Although there are few 'absolutes,' there are many 'you betters.' I am not sure at all
just who said that, but it applies to many of the things about fly fishing. I started teaching
fly fishing and casting about forty years ago and have picked up a few 'you betters.'
Here is one whose time has come. I am not sure when I started using this in my casting
classes but it was a long time ago.
The perhaps unusual method I use in teaching actually includes teaching how to, on purpose,
do a few things wrong. That way when they do happen to a student, they will not only recognize
them, but know how to correct them. I will try to paint a few mental pictures here for you.
Visualize a matador sweeping his cape before the bull, the flowing, graceful motion to his
right side as the animal passes harmlessly. Sir Walter Raleigh doffing his coiffeur with a low
graceful wave of his hand to 'Milady.' Getting the pictures yet? One more, the traffic cop
directing cars from the center of an intersection motioning you to make a left turn. OK,
that is how I try to land fish.
Sound bizarre? Well, it works, at least for me it works. It may for you too. Here is why.
I am forever seeing on TV and in magazines fly-fishers, whether fishing upstream or down,
hook a fish, let it get down current and then just stand there winching it back upstream.
The fish is putting out little effort, simply using the water pressure to tack wherever he wants
to go. Eventually the hook pulls out, wonder why. It is usually possible with any forethought
at all, to get the fish 'on the reel' and get below the fish! Hold him in the current and reel in
line as you walk down stream and get behind him as fast as possible. Sure, it is not always
possible, but many times it is if you plan for it.
Once below him he has to fight the current and you! Don't pull so hard that
you pull him even with you, or let him get back below you. Keep him upstream and you
will tire and land him much faster. I suppose not faster than most on TV who have the
guide stand below them and leap into the water five seconds later and net-nab the fish almost
before it knows it has been fooled. This to me is not fly fishing, not sure what it is, but fly
fishing it is not. It seems to me there should be some intelligent interplay between the fish
and a knowledgeable angler. (At least on the part of the angler.)
Now for the landing of our fish. Keeping him on the upstream side , it doesn't matter if it
is a beach where there is no current or not, I get my line as short as possible, the leader
at the rod tip at least. Being right handed, I hold the rod, my arm extended, in front
of me and while making that 'sweep' to my right, guide the fish to shallow water or a beach
if it is soft and will not hurt the fish. If I am in a stream, I allow the fish to now drop back to
my net, or hand land him. All the while keeping my arm straight and raised well high. This
way if the fish runs, turns, jumps or whatever he tries, because the line is short now, the
rod tip follows him as I only bend my wrist to allow it to happen. I keep myself
between the fish and the rod, right in the middle, often ending with the rod well behind me.
Now think about this. When the fish is in the water and you are pulling it toward you, he has
very little weight. He does have the waters resistance, but as you are not lifting UP against
gravity, no weight. As he gets closer and you start getting his head up, he develops weight
because of the angle. The closer he gets, the more he weighs! As the line to him
reaches ninety degrees he not only weighs the most, you are now pulling the hook at possibly
a bad angle as well. This is where most fish are lost. As they gain weight.
I try to keep my line in as much a straight line with the fish as possible. This is
especially true when landing fish on a shore, sand-bar, or beach. Using the 'sweep' I keep
the line low and in line with the fish and keep him headed toward the shore as I step behind
him. It does not take much pressure when you have the fish headed that way, every flip of
his tail takes him into shallower water, often beaching themselves.
Remember, it all starts with getting below your fish, (make that, getting him under
control) and then letting the fish tire himself out against both you and the water.
~ James Castwell