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The Reel Issue
– Fly Fishing

In New Zealand, we tend to have fewer but larger trout compared to the US or UK and I find anglers fishing NZ for the first time are not always experienced in dealing with these strong, wild fish.

Personally, I consider any trout over 22 inches in length or above 4 pounds in weight is getting into the realm of “large”. So while smaller fish are plentiful, it’s quite common to catch brown trout and rainbows in the 4 to 8 pound range and wild trout of this size hooked on 3x – 4x – 5x tippet will really test an anglers skills and reactions.

After many years of guiding, two common mistakes I see anglers make after ‘hook-up’ are:

a) A preoccupation with getting the fish on the reel
b) Holding the fish too hard

Holding any fish too hard will simply result in a break-off and I see plenty examples of this each season. Breaking off fish is always disappointing. Often the angler has just busted the biggest trout of his/her career and this just compounds the unhappy state of affairs.

The disappointment and self–recriminations that go with breaking off a big fish ensure people are pretty keen not to repeat the action. Consequently, improved technique in the field tends to happen rather quickly.

That said, the other common “issue” I see is the preoccupation with getting loose line back onto the reel after the strike and this tendency seems to be deeply ingrained in many anglers I meet……no doubt a habit formed by many years fishing for smaller or less powerful fish. Whatever the reason, getting line back on the reel at some stage makes sense, but it in my opinion, this should not be your primary concern after hook-up.

If you have latched onto something sizeable, chances are it will get onto the reel soon enough.

Frequently, anglers put their heads down and try to wind in line in an orderly fashion checking for loops, tangles etc. Nice idea, but as soon as you do this, you have taken your focus away from the fish and how it’s behaving, and that is a mistake. Each trout hooked reacts in a unique way. Some run towards the angler, some jump, others dart for the nearest snag or rip line in searing runs. Whatever the case may be, you cannot respond to a given situation quickly if your focus is your reel. What is happening on the other end of your line is of much greater consequence.

So my advice would be …… Keep your head up and watch what the fish is doing and respond accordingly. If you do this, you’ll be able to figure out if you need to strip line, side strain, feed line, in some cases, lower your rod tip…..and so on.

Most trout are lost in the first few seconds after the strike so being aware of what the fish is doing is much more important than being concerned with getting line back on your reel. .

Of course, doing this won’t guarantee you land every trout you hook, but it might improve your ratio of fish hooked / landed.

Good luck out there and look forward to seeing you at Poronui again this season.

Grant Petherick.

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