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The Figure 8 Retrieve
By Leon Chandler
Illustrations by Dick Leyden*

One of the most perplexing problems that confronts the beginning fly rod fisherman is gathering the line during the retrieve. To be effective, the line must be under control at all times - to allow setting the hook at the time of the strike and to have it in an orderly position for the next cast.

When fishing from a boat or from shore the problem is minimized, as the line can be stripped beneath a finger on the rod hand and merely dropped at the feet. When wading in moving water, however, one must hold the line in some manner to keep the loose line from moving downstream with the current. Various methods are used. Some will store the line in loose coils on the fingers of the stripping hand; others will use a "hand twist" to gather the line and retain it in the palm of the hand. Frequently, tangles will occur when attempting to "shoot" the line on the next cast.

Many years ago, someone showed me the "Figure 8" Retrieve which I find easy and efficient to use - particularly in those situations where a relatively slow retrieve is desirable. It allows me to store the line on the fingers of my left hand, always under control, and to spiral it off the end of the fingers on the next cast without tangling and bunching up on the stripping guide.

Leon using the method

At clinics and demonstrations over the past 30 years I have taught thousands of anglers around the world that, with a little practice, the Figure 8 Retrieve can do much to help resolve the problem of fly line control.

Let's take it in four easy steps:
    1. Reach forward and drape line OVER forefinger - then UNDER the remaining three fingers.

    2. Tilt hand downward and route line back BETWEEN second and third fingers.

    3. Wiggle fingers to work stored line back toward palm. Line is now in the form of a figure 8.

    4. To shoot line merely straighten fingers. Line will spiral off without tangling.

Repeat these four easy steps while wiggling the fingers to work the line back toward the palm to accommodate more line.

When a fish hits, snub the line beneath a finger on the rod hand, shake the spirals off the retrieving hand, and wind in to get the fish on the reel. The drag can then be used to control the running fish. ~ Leon Chandler

* This article originally appeared in the Winter 1983 issue of Trout and was sent to us by Leon Chandler for use here.

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