Thursday, January 19, 2012

To Catch BIG fish -- Part 1 -- Gearing up, hooking, chasing and landing big fish

There are 8 RULES listed in the article below that will help you understand a little more about hooking into, and landing a BIG fish, which equate to PNW steelhead and salmon fishing. A lot of fun when you get into the hang of it.
  • Steelhead don't like to swim in hard fast current - search for them near the bank of a river (5' to15') from water's edge depending on size/depth of water and cubic feet per second water flow (cfs). Salmon are strong swimmers and can be found anywhere in the river but will hold behind structure resting before making their next run upstream.
  • Steelhead because they are trout by nature wish to hide in water at least 2' to 4' feet deep.
  • Because steelhead don't like to swim in strong current, search for them behind or in front of rocks, boulders, debris and in the current seam between fast water and swirling back eddies.
  • On clear bright days use a flash fly, on overcast / rainy days use a dark fly. In cold winter weather black and purple are good color flies to use and an egg-sucking leech will usually work wonders. It is much easier to throw a weighted fly than to attach split-shot. Consider using a sink-tip line in cold weather and use no more than a 4' leader.
  • WATER TEMPERATURE (carry a thermometer) it will help determine the amount of action you might see on the river. In winter steelhead fishing (38* or less water temperature) you might find a need to tap the fish on the nose to get its attention. Usually in very cold water the take is slow and the fight/ runs are slow and short.
  • Check the CFS water flow rate of the river you plan to fish before you start your vehicle.
    No need to go fly fishing if you can't get in the water. see some PNW flow links below
  • NEVER JERK on a steelhead's head... until it has made its take and is into its first run. Set the hook by pulling your rod towards the bank, not lifting it towards the sky.
One thing this writer has learned in steelhead fishing is that fish caught July - December 31 are good table-fare (firm meat), thereafter fish caught upriver of the John Day Dam until April 15 the meat is generally of poor table-fare quality, mushy soft meat fit for a spoon. After December smoke the fish to a firm dryness if you feel a need for a fish dinner. Consider C&R after January 1st.
You can follow this link for a heads-up guide on where is best to find steelhead in our local Oregon waters...

How to Avoid Eight Fatal Mistakes That Will Cost You the Big One.
By Don Bryant

Every fisherman dreams of the day when he will hook "the Big One." I know I love the prospect of hooking into large fish. How about you? But do you know how to control and land a large fish when you hook one?

What should you do once you hook a fish to raise the odds that you also land him? How do you do battle with the fish? The answer here depends on how large the fish is. It also depends on which kind of rig you are using.

Let me give you Eight Battle Rules which will help you land large fish, even very large fish, and successfully release them as well.

BATTLE RULE #1: Expect the fish to run.
A hooked fish will try to run. And what is a "run?"

Generally, a fish smaller than 12" will not tug so hard that he will pull line away from you. When a fish does pull so hard that you are forced to let him pull out line as he tries to escape, that is called a "run." The bigger the fish, the stronger the run. The bigger the fish, the longer the run. The bigger the fish, the more times the fish will run. Large fish will make more than just one run.

Here is the way it works. When you first strike the fish, the fish spooks at the moment he feels the hook and makes a run in a panicked attempt to escape. Then he tires as he pulls against the reel drag. So he stops running. But as you wind in line to land the fish, he will spook again when he sees you and make another run. A large fish can do this several times before wearing down. Normally, each run is a little less energetic than the previous one. So Battle Rule #1 for fighting a fish is, "Expect the fish to run."

But you usually don't know how large the fish is at the moment you hook him. So, at the moment you hook ANY fish, EXPECT the fish to break into a run.

So Battle Rule #1 for fighting any fish actually is, "Expect EVERY fish to run."


Expecting the fish to run means you have already tended to, or immediately tend to, four important matters.

A. Pre-set the reel's drag.
You set the drag to match the strength of your line on a spinning reel or the strength of your tippet on a fly reel, and you do this before you ever start fishing for the day.

If you are a fly fisherman, this also means that you take time during the fishing day to reset the drag when you change to a tippet with a different breaking strength. For example, you will need to loosen the drag if you replace a 5X (4-lb.) tippet with a 6X (3-lb.) tippet.

For spinning reels, the general rule is to set the drag to slightly less than the break-point of the line. I follow that rule when I use a spinning reel.

But for fly reels, I do NOT follow the general rule, which says I should set my drag to slightly less than the break-point of the tippet. Contrary to most fly fishermen, I prefer to set my drag only tight enough to stop over-spin and backlash of the fly line. Usually, that is well below the breaking point of even the thinnest tippet. I will explain why in Battle Rule #6.

The Correct Way to Set the Drag's Release Point:
When you set reel drag according to line or tippet strength, you should take rod guide friction into account. The guides on a rod add their own resistance when line is pulled from the reel spool with the rod heavily bent (bent like a heavy fish would bend a rod). So, do not set your reel drag by just pulling line directly from the reel spool. Instead, set the drag so that it yields line when you pull line from the end of the rod with the rod bent back hard. Do this before you tie on any fly or lure, to avoid injury. And the best way to do this is to enlist the help of your fishing buddy. Have him hold the end of your line (remember, no hooks) while you jerk back suddenly and hard on your rod several times.

B. Throw the anti-reverse lever to the "ON" position.
This applies to spin fishermen.
If you are using a spinning reel, move the lever for the reel's anti-reverse to the "ON" position as soon as you hook the fish. If you don't, the first lunge of a larger fish to escape will send the reel handle spinning backward, unwinding multiple coils of loose monofilament. That almost guarantees you will lose the fish due to the tangles.

C. Get the fish "on the reel" as soon as possible.
This applies to fly fishermen.
Most fly fishing retrieves involve stripping line in and dropping it at your feet or in the water, if you are wading. So, as soon as you hook a fish, wind onto the reel any loose coils of line lying at your feet. This is called "getting the fish on the reel." Don't try to fight the fish from that supply of loose coils of line. They inevitably tangle.

And if you do leave them lying there in the water, there is one final "gotcha." Fish instinctively seem to know one last escape trick: Make a mad dash right through all those coils just as the fisherman's net appears. At least, a lot of my fish all knew that, until I got smart and began fighting my fish "from the reel."

When the fish is "on the reel," that means the fly line passes from the reel spool, under the index finger of your rod hand, up the guides and out the rod tip to the fish. And once the fish is "on the reel," you are ready to begin battling the fish as described in the remaining Battle Rules.

You may have to wait to get the fish "on the reel" until after the first, explosive run. That brings us to the final Step in expecting a fish to run.

D. Turn the reel handle "down" slightly.
This applies to fly fishermen.

If you are using a fly reel, turn your wrist slightly to aim the protruding reel handle slightly down toward the water. You don't want the handle and spool to face sideways or, worse yet, slightly up. It takes only one "hot" fish on its first, explosive run to teach you why. Most likely, just before you hooked the fish, you were stripping in line and letting it accumulate at your feet or on the water directly below the reel. This is an accident waiting to happen if you don't turn your wrist slightly. Hopefully, it will happen to you only once for you to learn the lesson permanently.

If the fish makes a super-fast, explosive, first run, before you can get him "on the reel," the fish can pull that accumulated line out so fast that the line coils leap upward off the water high enough to wrap around the fly reel hand. The next thing you know, the tippet pops when the line comes tight to the reel handle and the spool won't turn because the line is wrapped around the handle. You are left with a limp line. But, if you turn your wrist slightly, so the reel handle points slightly down, the leaping line will fall off and away from it.

BATTLE RULE #2: Fight the fish from the reel.
To fight the fish from the reel, you use the reel's drag to wear out the fish.

At this point, I need to tell you how to use the drag on your reel to control a running fish. The drag forces the fish to use up its strength by pulling against the resistance of the drag, while drag protects against the line or tippet breaking.
If you are using a spinning reel, you need to do nothing yourself. The reel's drag, properly set, will fully protect against the line breaking when a fish runs. Let the drag were out the fish as it runs.

But if you are using a fly reel, you, the fisherman, become "the drag," as I will describe in the next paragraph. I am convinced that fly reels do not need an expensive drag (except for saltwater fly fishing or salmon fly fishing or steelhead fly fishing). Drags on fly reels, in my opinion, only need to keep the spool on the flyreel from over-spinning and back-lashing when a fish runs hard. That means that the drag on a flyreel can be set very, very light, with only slight resistance. See Battle Rule #6 below for the reason for the light setting.

Now on a spinning reel, the drag does all the work. But on a flyreel, the lightly-set drag does almost none of the work to slow down a running fish. You, the fisherman, do most of the dragging. Here's how. First, keep your knuckles away from the spinning handle, unless you would rather brag to your buddies about your bruises and the large fish you lost. Second, as the fish is running, place one or two of your fingers against the line on the reel as the spool spins. This is best done by contacting the line on the backside of the reel, opposite to where it comes off the reel and goes to the butt guide on the rod. If you have a "palming reel," use the palm of your hand rather than your fingers to apply pressure to the palming rim of the spool.

Either way, use increasing pressure on the line and rotating spool to slow the fish. Just don't press so hard that you cause the tippet to snap.

And how do you learn to do that? By losing several fish! Or from practicing on lots of large fish first. See "A WORLD-RECORD CARP?" near the end of this article for a tip on how to get good at controlling large fish, even very large fish.

Caution for Fly fishermen:

If you are using a fly reel with the light tippets normally used with dries or nymph, never try to control the fish by alternately stripping in line to gain on the fish and then letting line slip back out through your finger tips when he runs. Such an approach will nearly always end with a tangle that snaps the tippet. Instead, you want to be able to use the reel drag (as described above) to restrain the fish when he runs. Once the fish is "on the reel," let the reel (plus finger or palm pressure) do the dragging as the fish runs out, while you do the winding as you have opportunity to bring the fish in.

Caution for Spin Fishermen:

If you are using a spinning reel, here is a word of caution about winding in line with a spinning reel. I call it "noisy winding."

The spool on a spinning reel will "give" or turn to release line without very much pull. That is how it should be. The spool needs to yield line just before the line would break. And all spools make a clicking sound when they are releasing line under drag, to alert you to that when it happens.
What I call "noisy winding" occurs when you and the fish get into a tug of war where neither one of you is winning. For example, the fish may be holding in the current and pulling hard enough that you can't budge him. Now suppose you try to "winch" him in by just turning and turning the handle of the spinning reel. If he does not come your way, what do you think the spinning reel does? For each turn of the reel head, the spool will turn once. The spool turns in lockstep with the rotating head, never gaining an inch of line against the stubborn fish.

When this happens, the spool clicks loudly as you crank the handle, warning you that this is happening. The reel complains with what I call "noisy winding." This will twist your monofilament line TERRIBLY! Stop as soon as you hear that sound. Instead, bring the trout toward you by pumping with the rod. Do not "winch" him in with the reel. This brings us to the next Battle Rule, pumping.

BATTLE RULE #3: Pump your rod to draw stubborn fish toward you.

Pumping is a two-step action. First, lower the rod most of the way down to the water, until the rod is nearly pointed at the fish. Wind in line as you are lowering the rod tip. This is step one. Second, begin a lifting motion against the fish and raise the rod all the way up to vertical.

If you are using a spinning reel, stop lifting if the spinning reel drag senses the break-point of the line and begins releasing line.

If you are using a fly reel, only an educated index finger on your rod hand can tell you that your tippet will break if you pull any harder.

Except for a very stubborn fish, the lifting motion will pull the fish closer to you by several feet. Now you want to recover that amount of line. So, once the rod is vertical, simultaneously lower the rod and wind in the line which you just gained.

Repeat the two-step process, moving the fish ever closer to you: Lift to pull the fish toward you. Lower your rod to wind in the line you gained. Lift again. Lower and wind again.

Stop the pumping when:

(1) Your educated index finger warns you that the tippet breakpoint is near (fly fishers) or the reel drag starts giving line (spin fishers).

(2) The fish breaks into another run, stripping out line.

(3) The fish is close enough to you to land him.

When is the best time to pump? At the end of a run when the fish is momentarily tired out. A tired fish will allow pumping. Don't attempt to pump an energetic fish.

By the way, you can also "pump" a fish by making the "lifting" motion sideways in a horizontal plane. This kind of horizontal pumping brings us to the next Battle Rule.

BATTLE RULE #4: Keep the fish off balance.

The most common advice given to battle a fish is, "Keep your rod tip up! You have to keep the fish's head up."

To that, I say, "NO!" And again I say, emphatically, "NO!"

The only time I have my rod tip up is when I am pumping the fish. Otherwise, I am constantly doing everything I can to keep the fish off balance. The fish will tire more quickly when he must fight you off balance. And that means I pull on the fish from constantly changing angles. Only some of them are from the vertical with my rod tip up.

Before you can understand what I mean by "off balance," we need to understand how a fish battles you. Unless you are fishing in a lake, the fish will use the current to help him escape. He will also use the current to hold against the pressure of your bent rod. The fish does not just face nose-first into the current. Instead, the fish turns at an angle to the current so the current deflects off his body to shove him sideways away from you. At the same time, he angles his fins so they catch the current to drive him deeper. This is an easy maneuver for the fish that does not take much energy. If you fight the fish only by lifting up on your rod, you are not fighting the fish. Instead, you are fighting the current. And that gives the fish the advantage. The downward pressure of the current on the fish offsets all of your upward pull.

What you must do is constantly force the fish to change his angle in the current to offset the pull of the rod. Fight the fish with your rod horizontal, not vertical. I say, "Keep your rod tip sideways!" That means that you will pull on the fish from the side, not just from above. That forces him to strain to keep his angle. Suddenly, very briefly, relax the pressure on the fish so he straightens himself out in the current. Then begin pulling sideways again.

If the fish is opposite you in the stream, keep relaxing the pressure, then reasserting it. Then suddenly swing the rod tip up through vertical and down to fight him from your other side. Go back through vertical and down to horizontal on your other side. Keep changing the angle of the line on the fish to force him to constantly re-angle in the current.

If the fish is either directly upstream or downstream from you, it is even better. Then when you flip your rod from low on your left side to low on your right side, the fish must completely switch his body angle in the current to resist the new pull of the line.

This tactic is even more effective in a lake, where the fish has no current to assist him and he must do all the resisting himself.

I once watched a novice fisherman battling a trout in the quiet side-water below a dam in northwest New Mexico. As soon as he hooked the fish, he followed the advice, "Keep your rod tip up." He stuck the butt of his rod into his stomach at his belt line, leaned the rod back to vertical on the fish and proceeded to follow the fish around and around in the slow current. Everywhere the fish went, the angler went. With that rod angle, the fish was the boss. The fisherman never once varied the angle of his rod. He kept it straight up in the air. The fisherman was only able to land the fish after the fish reached the point of total exhaustion. The battle lasted 22 minutes, and that was after I began timing it, when I couldn't believe how long he had already been fighting the fish. This was no monster trout. The poor fish was only 14" long.

That battle lasted 30 or 35 minutes. Properly managed, that battle between the angler and the trout could have lasted only a minute or two.

If you keep a fish off balance during the battle, you should be able to land him in less than three minutes, even a 20" fish. And that is with a 6X (3-lb.) tippet on your fly leader. It should take you even less time with a spinning outfit and 4-lb. monofilament. More about this in the next Battle Rule.

And if you really want to become skilled at handling large fish, go after carp in any pond near your home with either dough balls or nymphs. There you will find dozens of 5 to 15 pound fish. They will teach you all you ever need to know about fish battles! They will most certainly teach you what not to do when you hook a large fish. See the Section titled "A World-record Carp?" near the end of this report.
BATTLE RULE #5: Do not be afraid to apply pressure to the fish.

Now I know what I am about to recommend will raise more than a few objections. When I battle any fish big enough to make a run, I haul back on my rod like you can't believe. My fishing buddy tells me my rod is bent into a full "C" shape. When I fight a fish, the butt end of my rod points at the fish, just like the tip. I fight the fish this way whether my rod is vertical or horizontal, whether I am pumping the fish or throwing him off balance.

If you are using a spinning rod and reel, you should be able to do this without any fear whatsoever, provided your drag is set correctly. And besides the drag on the spinning reel, the nylon monofilament has enormous stretch to it. So put the pressure to the fish.

Now you will NOT be able to do this safely with a fly rig assembled the way most flyfishermen ordinarily do it. Most fly fishermen typically use a stiff, fast-action graphite rod and a stubby 7.5' to 9' commercial, tapered leader with 12" to 18" of tippet at the end. A broomstick has more bend to it than most graphite rods. The popular "fast action" of such rods translates into just plain "stiff action," in my opinion, when you battle a fish. To the contrary, the graphite flyrod I use is soft to medium action, and it bends clear down to the handle. It is soft enough to bend into a "C" when I lean back on a big fish and consequently offers substantial shock-absorbing qualities needed to handle large fish.

Besides the fly rod, there is another reason I can put such pressure on the fish: the leader I use. I prefer much longer tippets. And they provide significant additional stretch. Nylon tippet tretches and stretches and stretches under tension and impact. But standard, commercial tapered leaders typically are mostly thick butt section. Usually one half to two thirds of the length of such leaders is untapered butt material. Only the last two or three feet actually provide the taper and tippet. And, if you're lucky, you may even have as much as a whopping 15" of level tippet at the end, which a lot of fly fishers use up tying on their flies. (TIP: Add your own section of tippet to the main leader. Use it up, instead, tying on your flies.) That kind of leader design is a break-off waiting to happen when a large fish strikes. The leader does little to absorb the shock of a large fish jumping or thrashing.

But with the aid of a flexible rod, a good drag and an educated index finger (which knows when to let the fish run, from lessons learned battling carp, remember), you can apply extraordinary amounts of pressure on the fish, even with 6X or 7X tippet, provided you have adequate tippet length. This means that you land the fish more quickly. And that means he has a better chance of reviving than he would if you have to play him to exhaustion in order to land him.

By the way, that longer (nymphing/dry fly) leader I referred to is 13.5 feet long. It has five feet of butt which uniformly tapers down from 0.020 inches to 0.011 inches (0X). Then it takes another 8.5 feet to taper from 0X to 6X. If I am running two nymphs, I add another 18 inches for the second fly, for a total of 15 feet. That leader is longer in just its final taper beyond 0X (8.5 to 10 feet) than the total length of most commercial leaders. But that additional length gives both superior speed to reach bottom nymphing currents and substantial, added elasticity to buffer against break-offs when I need to apply pressure to the fish. And I have fished that leader using my medium-action, 7.5-foot rod for twenty-five years. Together, they have proven to be formidable weapons in battles with large fish.

To build that leader, see the very end of this article for the leader's formula.

BATTLE RULE #6: Bow to your opponent when he presents himself.

If you wish to land any fish capable of explosive runs, you must learn to bow to your opponent when he displays himself. I am talking about the jump, that exhilarating moment when a trout or bass or pike bursts from the water in aerial acrobatics. When smaller fish jump, they do not train the fly tippet or the spinning line to the break-point, but large fish, those able to surge off in long runs, have mass and muscle to match their energy.

Even a three-pound fish, nearly weightless in water, will easily snap a 3-pound tippet or a 4-pound line when airborne. Imprint this in your mind: YOU MUST DROP ALL ROD PRESSURE ON THE FISH WHEN HE JUMPS. However you happen to be holding the rod at the moment the fish jumps, INSTANTLY swing your rod tip to point your rod straight at the jumping fish. In a single, swift move of your rod tip, give the jumping fish every possible inch of slack line you can. On a giant leap, be prepared even to lean and reach far forward toward the fish to create more slack.

In effect, when your opponent leaps clear of the water to display his prowess, honor him. Bow both your rod and yourself to him in deference.

If there is still not enough slack and the fish comes tight to your reel during the jump, you have one more level of protection against breakoff.

If you are using a spinning reel, the long length of monofilament line will stretch to a surprising extent to protect against breakoff. If that is still not sufficient, a high quality, properly set drag will yield in time.

If you are using a fly reel, the very light drag setting I recommended above (just enough to prevent backlash) will immediately yield line to the jumper. (Be sure to release the pressure on the flyline from your educated index finger during a jump, so the flyline can slip, if needed.)

BATTLE RULE #7: Suckered or tuckered - know the difference to know when to land him.

So how will you know when the fish is ready to call it quits? How can you tell the fish is ready to let you land him?

He will lie over on his side in the water near the surface. Many times, that is so obvious that you can literally skitter the fish on his side across the surface the last few feet to your net or hand. Just lift your rod up and back toward you. When he still has any fight left in him, he will come at you nose-down as you pump him. "Nose-down" means he is still intent on getting back to the bottom. But when he tires, he will turn over on his side. Don't be suckered into trying to land a hot fish. Wait until he shows you when he is tuckered out. Watch for him to turn on his side in concession.

BATTLE RULE #8: Treat your quarry with care and consideration.

Here are tips for handling a fish when you land him.

- Use a net on fish larger than 14". The net will reduce struggling. This may not apply to certain fish which you can lip-land such as bass or tail-land such as salmon.

- Wet your hand before touching the fish. Never grab him with a dry hand. The slippery slim on fish is actually a protective coating of mucus. If it gets wiped off by your dry hand, the fish becomes vulnerable to infection.

- Never grip the fish harshly. That can rupture internal organs. Be ready to drop the fish back into the water or net rather than injure him by squeezing him.

- Support a fish of any size with your hand under his belly. Don't ever hold him by inserting your fingers into his gill covers and lifting him. The gills are too delicate for finger contact.

- Remove the hook, doing as little tissue damage as possible. (Barbless hooks, please, where possible!) If the hook is too deep to reach (extremely rare with artificials like flies or lures), clip off the leader as short as possible. And never, ever, tear a hook free. Whether the hook is barbed or barbless, back the hook out the way it went in. Apply the same measure of consideration you would want if you had the hook impaled in your lip.

Note: Some recent research suggests that there is a better way to clip the leader if you must leave a hook in the throat of a fish. Instead of cutting the leader as short as possible by reaching way down the fish's throat, leave the leader protruding from the fish's mouth by an inch or less. Some biologists now believe that a short-cut, stubby leader waving in the fish's throat prevents food from passing freely when the fish swallows. The longer leader protruding beyond the fish's mouth offers no "pointed end" as an obstacle to the swallowed food.

- Get the fish back in the water quickly. Remember: the fish has just run a "400-yard dash," and now you are forcing him to hold his breath when he is already panting hard. If you wish to take a picture, place the fish in your net and suspend the fish in the water while you make all necessary adjustments to your camera. Please don't just lay the fish out along side your rod on the bank and then fiddle for two minutes getting the picture. The fish may be unable to recover, and, in my opinion, even if he does revive, that is just not fair to the fish.

- When you are ready to release the fish, gently release him. Don't just drop him back in the water. And, for goodness sake, don't throw him back by tossing him through the air. That is the same as your doing a belly flop of the high dive.

Instead, carefully return him to his element. Two things are essential. You must help him get his bearings, and you must make sure he is breathing adequately.

Here is how to do that. While supporting him under his belly as before, hold him nose-first into the current, if you are fishing in a stream. But don't let go. Hold onto him lightly until he regains enough vigor to force himself free of your grip. If he does not seem to be reviving, move the fish forward and back in the water to flush more water over his gills. Never relinquish the fish to the currents or lake until he shows he is ready by struggling to get free. Otherwise, you will see him just tumble head over tail in the current in a stream or go belly up in a lake.

Just as a fish will let you know when he is ready to be landed by turning on his side, he will let you know by his wiggling that he is ready to be released.



First, net the fish correctly. Don't try to scoop the fish up from behind. The fish will lunge forward out of the net when he feels it with his tail. Instead, lower the net until the rim is fully submerged. Then lead the fish headfirst over the net. Then lower your rod tip and then lift the net. The fish will instinctively dive down toward the bottom when you lower the rod and end up nosing right into your waiting net. A scooping, lifting motion will finish the effort.


Second, please refrain from beaching the fish if you can land him any other way. But if you must, then, to beach a fish, lead him into water so shallow he is forced to turn on his side. Then skitter him across the surface, letting his momentum push him up into the final shallows or onto dry land. Even here, leave him in the final shallow rather than beached high and dry. Beaching does the same damage as your dry hand. It scrapes off the protective mucus film. Again, please do not beach any fish, if at all possible.

Killing a Fish.

If you choose to keep fish for a meal, I ask that you kill them in a humane way. I have winced too many times to count as I have watched fishermen take a live fish, insert the point of a knife into the anal orifice and slit the belly of the live fish open up to the gills. I ask that you at least kill the fish first, before you gut it.

To kill a fish, either strike its head with a sharp, heavy, crushing blow, with or against a large rock. Or, better still, on a smaller fish, hold it around the belly and back with one hand and place one or more fingers in its mouth against the roof of its mouth. Then forcefully snap its head sharply backward over its back toward the tail to break its neck. Use enough force to hear the neck bones crack. Note that the neck of larger fish is usually too bulky and strong to break by snapping it.

That, in my opinion, is only fair to the fish. Please don't subject them to unnecessary pain.

A Plea for Barbless Fly Hooks.

I am convinced that both people and fish benefit from reduced injury with barbless hooks. But many people think that barbed hooks are needed when a fish jumps or the line goes slack for any reason. They believe that a barbless hook will fall out if the line goes slack.

My on-stream experience has convinced me that does not happen.

Over the twenty-five years I have fished barbless flyhooks, I can think of no situation where a fish has gotten off when the line has gone slack. It does not happen on jumps. It does not happen if I just relax pressure on the fish.

Numerous times, I have experimented with hooked fish at the point I am about to land them. Just to see what will happen, I lower my rod and watch them. They will swim about for a moment until they catch on that they appear to be free, and then they zip for deeper water. If I give them slack, they go dozen feet or so, out into deeper water where they feel safe, and there they hold in the current. They do not run or try to escape further. When the pressure from my rod is relaxed, they have nothing to excite fear in them. I wait a minute or so to see whether the barbless hook comes free, and then I tug them back in and release them. I do not recall a single time that the fish got free because I gave the fish slack. In my experience, a barbless hook is as secure as a barbed hook.

I will add one more piece of evidence, here, to convince those of you who may still be skeptical. Please be clear that I am speaking now of barbless fly hooks. Treble-hook lures are different matter. Such lures have enough weight that the fish can "throw" them, especially when jumping with a head-shaking motion. But flies, such as dries or nymphs or streamers, work well when fished barbless. To persuade you even more, I want to mention a demonstration I saw once on TV.

A certain fly-casting instructor takes each class of students to his casting pond and begins the lesson with the question, "How many of you think a fish can get off a barbless hook? Let me show you otherwise." The instructor always brings one extra flyrod down to the pond. And before the students start casting practice, the instructor makes a cast or two out into the pond and hooks a trout. Then he announces he will prove that a fish hooked on a barbless fly will not get off. He lays the rod down on the casting pier, and he spends the next hour teaching the students. At the end of the class, he picks up the rod and lands the fish which has been swimming around on the end of the line for the past 60 minutes.
Need I say more?


I recommended above that the best possible way to learn how to battle large fish is to go out and land a lot of large fish. There is nothing better than first-hand experience. But large fish are not all that plentiful for most species like trout, bass or pike, so that you can just go out and practice catching them. But, as I said, the exception is the common carp.
I would like to side with the minority in the opinion usually expressed about carp. For most people, carp are seen as trash fish, principally, I suspect, because they are found so often in the lakes and streams we humans have so terribly polluted. Carp must be trash, because that's where they live. But I suspect there is a contrary reason they are found in waters where all other fish species have died off. They are the final survivors. They hang on when other species die. They get the prize for endurance.

There is also the fact most fishermen are not aware of. Carp are not native to the United States. They were originally imported into the United States from Europe in the mid-nineteenth century because of their fine culinary qualities for which they were renowned in Europe. To quote the Minnesota Historical Society:

"Originating in Asia, carp were cultivated for food in rice paddies and ponds as early as 800-300 BC. Carp are also native to Eastern Europe, where they were considered a tasty and valuable food fish. After carp had been transplanted in England, Izaak Walton lauded the fish as the 'Queen of Rivers' in his classic treatise, 'The Compleat Angler.' "
But we in this country have come to despise the carp, unfairly so, in my opinion.
I myself am indebted to the lowly carp, for I would have had few other fish to catch where I grew up, were it not for the lowly carp. And I learned from the lowly carp how to battle large fish. In the Fox River which flows through Elgin, IL, outside Chicago, I had the choice between 10-inch catfish and monster carp. Some weighed forty pounds, or so said the clerk in the local tackle store.

As a teenage angler, I wanted the big action, so I set out after the carp.
I first went after them with spinning gear using 6-lb. line but then sought to refine my tackle to see just how light I could go. As time passed, I settled on a 7-foot all-white fiberglass Shakespeare Wonderod flyrod, a then USA-made Pflueger Medalist 1494 flyreel, 200 yards of 30-pound dark-green baitcasting line and six feet of 2-lb. blue fluorescent Stren monofilament as the leader. I twisted on a 1/8 ounce Rubbercor sinker 10 inches above a #8 Eagle Claw dry fly hook, model #59 with a down eye. On the hook, I would mold a single pea-size ball of fresh Wonder Bread. Then I would strip off 15 or 20 feet of line, flip the rig into the river, prop it up on a forked stick and wait.

I have to say that there was hardly a day that went by when I didn't hook at least a couple of fish. They usually ranged from two to five pounds. Pedestrians on the nearby bridge used to gather to cheer me on when I would have one of the five-pounders on. But as I said, I wanted monster fish. And once or twice a month I would hook into one of the big guys. I have no idea just how big they really were, because all I could do was hang on as they bolted down stream, ripping off half the line on my reel before snapping the two-pound Stren.

But I was prepared. I had my Langley De-Liar pocket scale ready to measure any monster I was able to land. I kept after the big guys, and they regularly treated me to defeat. But each time, I learned a little more about restraining their explosive runs. By September, 1960, when I said goodbye to the Fox River to come to Colorado to attend the University of Denver, the largest carp I had managed to land on that 2-pound leader and 7-foot flyrod weighed in at 12 pounds. All the bigger guys had won their battles with me.

Then, several years ago, before the IGFA (International Game Fish Association) began restricting access to members only to view their world records for various species of fish, I happened to be scanning their list and came to "Carp." What I saw gave me a sense of teenage accomplishment. The then world record (1990) for largest common carp ever caught on a 2-pound leader was something like 8 pounds!

Don't disdain the common carp. Learn from them. Learn to land them.

I hope you have enjoyed this Special Report. And, each time you go fishing, may you hook at least one fish so large that you must apply all Eight Battle Rules in order to land him.

Don Bryant


Summary of the Eight Battle Rules to Land Large Fish:

BATTLE RULE #1: Expect the fish to run.
BATTLE RULE #2: Get the fish "on the reel," and fight the fish from the reel as soon as
BATTLE RULE #3: Pump your rod to draw stubborn fish toward you.
BATTLE RULE #4: Keep the fish off balance.
BATTLE RULE #5: Do not be afraid to apply pressure to the fish.
BATTLE RULE #6: Bow to your opponent when he presents himself.
BATTLE RULE #7: Suckered or tuckered - know the difference to know when to land him.
BATTLE RULE #8: Treat your quarry with care and consideration.


Measured Taper on 8-foot / 6X Knotless Leader (from one of the world's premier flyline and leader manufacturers):

Level section: 0.020" = 54"
Taper section: 0.020" tapering down to 0.005" = 18"
Level section: 0.005" = 24"

This is not really an 8' tapered leader at all. Only 18" out of the total 96" actually shows a taper. Only 19% (18/96) of this leader does the tapering. In reality, this is an 18" tapered leader, not an 8' tapered leader.
To the contrary, what this "leader" represents is an additional 54" of stiff, transparent, level "flyline," measuring 0.020", attached to 18" of tapered leader reaching 6X, with 24" of level 6X tippet added to the end of the tapered section.
At most, this "leader" has about 30" of stretchable nylon available to battle a large fish. From a practical standpoint, this leader provides little ability to absorb shock. And the ability to absorb shock is further reduced because very little (only 6") of the stretchable portion is stronger than 6X. Nearly all the load placed on this leader for stretching falls to the weakest 6X section.


Special Nymphing Leader Formula
(Designed, in part, for battling large fish. See Battle Rule #5.)

0.020" = 12"
0.018" = 12"
0.016" = 12"
0.013" = 12"
0.011" = 12"
0.009" = 12"
0.007" = 12"
0.006" = 60" (optional up to 84" for certain nymphing situations)
0.005" = 18" (or 7X or 5X in place of the 6X, depending on conditions)
0.005" = 18" (to optional second nymph)

Total leader length: 13.5 feet or 15 feet (optional 15.5 feet to 17 feet).

The extra long tippet sections both accelerate the speed with which a nymph is able to sink and also provide substantial shock-absorbing qualities when battling large fish.
All sections are joined to each other with loop-to-loop connections to allow replacement of damaged or worn sections without disruption of the overall taper. On the contrary, if a blood knot is used, that will consume part of the specified length of the two adjacent sections when the two end knots are retied to the replacement section.
A half-inch cork strike indicator is usually positioned along the 60" section of 5X or 12" section of 4X. Yarn indicators do not hold their positions very well on thin-diameter tippet strands. Yarn tends to slip on thin tippets.
by permission of the author Donald G. Bryant
Article copyright © 2006 by Donald G. Bryant

This writer would also like to make reference to the other articles posted to this blog as an aid to catch BIG fish: 
~ To Catch BIG fish -- Part II -- A Blue Mountains Fly Hatch Chart

~ To Catch BIG fish -- Part III -- Where to go and when

Columbia River Basin river flow rates

No comments:

Post a Comment