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.