Drops suck.  For me, a dropped fish on the swing is more painful and unforgettable than one lost with any other method.  Maybe it’s because only so many fish will run down a swung fly or that the rig, from backing to the big hook dangling on my intruder, should stick and stop a school bus.  Standing in the run with nothing but dejection and disappointment plain sucks.  So, what do we do other than check the rig, take a pull from the flask, and get back at it?  I’ve been asking that question a lot lately after dropping fish after fish last fall.  A few things have come to mind that I think are worth sharing.

First off, try to play some scenarios through your mind of how you plan to land a fish in a particular run before you get into the fight.  Let’s face it, there’s plenty of time to check the lay of the land between casts when swinging.  Use some of that time to consider the best way to get the fish to hand or, at least, how to avoid the things that will put a quick end to the fight and maybe the outing.  Think about that log upstream from you that could make things rough if the fish runs upstream or the hole that will swallow you up if you decide to head down with the fish.  If you are in a boat talk about what the plan is if / when you get one on that can’t be horsed in without pulling anchor.

Second, during the fight try to keep the angle of the rod low, especially when the fish is close, and change directions on the fish from time to time working to keep downstream pressure when possible.  Bob pointed out from that video that I maintained the same upstream pressure on that fish for over 2 minutes (most of that video was chopped off).  In fear of letting the fish take me down and into deeper water I buried my feet, cranked the drag up, and decided to play tug-of-war.

Last, bring a net.  Yes, it’s cool to tail fish and I’ve done that plenty but that last minute of the fight can get pretty dicey if you have to tail it yourself.  A switch rod or a spey can get pretty awkward when you have fish up close.  It took me 2 rods breaking before I realized I needed a different strategy.  Also, fighting the fish until the fight is gone and its floating is no way to treat the fish.  Too much lactic acid in the fish will send it to the turtle buffet even after you see it swim off.  There are some great smaller nets that won’t break the bank.  Get one

Get a game plan, be smart about fighting the fish, and put it in the bag when it’s all over.  I’m convinced I would have brought more to hand last year if I had taken a different approach.  The swing game is rough, give yourself a chance and get the fish back in good shape.

7 responses

  1. Get your rod bent toward the bank..you just pulled that fly from a fish pointing upstream….upstream. Side Pressure. I don’t mind drops at all. It’s all about the pull for me.


    February 5, 2014 at 4:32 pm

    • moserd

      Thanks for checking out the piece and sharing some thoughts. Wish I shared your sentiment on drops.


      February 5, 2014 at 5:45 pm

  2. Its a good piece. Just found the blog today. Will be checking back. I just giggle with every pull. They are all different. Plucks…jiggles…grabs…yanks…loud sudden noises from the reels. They are all awesome. The fights and the grip and grins are largely the same no matter how you hook them and..well I’ve held a few steelhead in my day. I know what they fight like…know what they look like…but when I get one to react to my fly, well that’s everything in my book. Gets me every time. I’m after the grab. Everything else is gravy.


    February 5, 2014 at 8:05 pm

  3. I like this blog. I love michigan. In the video, it looks like you pulled the fly right out of the fish’s mouth..(no kidding eh?) Think about the angle of the hook in the fish’s mouth and consider that even when a fish is hooked, it will reposition facing upstream. The angle you had your rod at was pulling the fly stright upstream and out of the fish’s mouth..(did I say that twice?..) You should have just maintained a high rod tip angle to increase the chance of your fly staying hooked in its upper lip..do we know for sure it’s hooked in the upper lip? No, but given the logistics of setting a hook, it is the likely scenario. Try this grab your fly with your left hand, engulfing the fly as if your hand was a fish’s mouth, then hold the tippit with your right hand(given you have a fly that’s rigged up or whatever) and hold your fly stationary while changing the angle of “rod pressure” with your right hand. Notice the angle that the hook holds in your hand. If you have a “level angle” such as pulling straight upstream it should be noticeable that there is a greater chance to pull the hook out because you are pointing the hook out of the fish’s mouth. If you move your right hand at a high angle the “rod pressure” has now angled the hook in a direction that points into the flesh of the fish’s mouth and not out of the mouth. You lost this fish and maybe others because of the rod angle. Keep a high tip to maintain a set hook instead of trying to pull the fish in with leverage. Believe me or call me a fool, that seems to be the name of the game in online fishing. Until next time!


    February 9, 2014 at 10:03 am

    • moserd

      Thanks for the comment and insight Spencer. We have learned a lot over the past few years taking video. Believe it or not but we’ve even landed a few. I’m posting a fav swing bug if mine this week so be sure to check back.


      February 9, 2014 at 9:44 pm

  4. Just so you know how contagious this is…I have dropped my last 3 steelhead…so thanks for that…I did land a decent brown yesterday so maybe I’m starting to come out of it.


    February 20, 2014 at 9:13 am

    • Do not despair Shaq. The requisite chicken sacrifice was performed in your name today. Expect to land your next steelhead.


      February 20, 2014 at 3:40 pm

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