Fishing Methods - Playing Fish
Derek's Fishing Pages
Memorable Fishing Trips
Returning to Fishing
Bait & Groundbait
Presents for Anglers
So you've hooked a big one...
A minor accident left me with a huge dressing on my right hand while NHS wiring held the bones in place to knit, so, unable to fish, I went for a walk along the riverbank.
I watched a youngster lose a middle sized fish. I was on a bridge above the pool with a clear view of the fish and he was poaching. Afterwards I commiserated with him, assured him that it must indeed have been a whopper, gently pointed out that he shouldn't have been fishing there and that trout are out of season. I also gave him the contact details for a local angling club with an active junior section.
He was using a carp rod and line around 10 lb (4kg) bs, yet a trout of about a pound and a half (700g) had been able to take him into a snag, transfer the hook to a twig and escape leaving him to pull for a break.
The fishing rod is a spring. It's job is to absorb the shocks of a fighting fish and to even out the stress applied to the rest of the tackle. To do the job most efficiently the butt of the rod must be held at a right angle to the taut line. Enough tension must be kept in the line that the rod is always bent - the curve of the rod does the rest of the work.
The traditional advice to "Keep the rod up!" is fine in clear water but where there are underwater snags it's perfectly all right to lay the rod over on to one side to steer a fish away from problems or to pull it off balance if it threatens to run. As long as you maintain the right angle between the butt and the line it is doing its work. You might even plunge a rod deep into the water, when a fish has run off under boats, to keep the line clear of barnacle encrusted keels.
If the fish pulls hard enough it may take up the entire spring of the rod and break the line. When this threatens it is time to "give line", to allow the reel to release line under tension, to prevent the break.
If the fish is slow you can backwind, keeping control of every inch given. If the fish is quick, well, that depends on the reel.
There is nothing to prevent you adding manual pressure to the spool of a reel with a pre-set drag in order to add fine control.
The danger with pre-set drags is that they are not intelligent, they cannot know that the fish is within a whisker of a snag and that now is the time to apply every ounce of strain the line will take. More subtle: if a huge fish takes a great deal of line then the spool may be nearly empty - a central drag that was set correctly with a full spool will now be acting over a shorter radius and the pressure it exerts will be greater, perhaps too great.
In the hands of an experienced angler a manual reel tires a fish faster then a pre-set drag.
Nylon monofilament is springy. A long length of nylon does a lot of the shock absorbing work for the rod. As the fish come closer so there is less line to do this an the rod comes more into play. If you use non-stretch braids the rod must do all the work. It can help to include a couple of metres of monofilament next to the hook to even out the worst of the shocks.
A long line may pick up weed or, if the fish changes direction, itself apply enough extra pressure that the hookhold is stressed. Whenever possible hold the rod high to keep as much of the line out of the water as you can.
The youngster I watched from the bridge made several errors. He allowed the fish, which was in fast water, to pull the rod down to point along the line so it couldn't act as a spring. He had set his slipping clutch too light and the fish was able to pull line off the reel too easily and when the fish moved sideways into the sunken bush he didn't use the rod to steer it away.
Unless stated otherwise: Everything in this site refers to fishing in the British Isles and similar northern European waters.