Landing and Releasing Trout

FLY FISHING TACTICS – Landing and Releasing Fish

Once a trout is hooked that’s when the real fun begins. Game fish will do just about anything to avoid being caught once they have been hooked. Most of the time they will do one of three things.

  • They will swim away from you, which is known as running away from pressure.
  • Trout will swim directly toward you, which is known as coming to the pressure.
  • They will hold their ground in the current.

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Successfully Fighting Fish

If a fisherman wants to be successful, they will need to be able to react to all three. Once a trout is hooked the fisherman must get the fish on the reel. What this means is getting all of the loose fly line back on the reel so you can concentrate on playing the fish. This is important for two reasons.

First, if the loose line becomes knotted while the trout makes a run the leader will break. Secondly, with the line on the reel you will be able to use the reels drag system to fight the fish.

The majority of the time a hooked trout will swim away from the pressure. This can be very beneficial because the fish will run with all the loose fly line and put itself on the reel. It is important to keep the fly rod high and let the trout take the line.

Guide Tip: That long fly rod has a flexible tip section designed to absorb the shock of a trout’s run, BUT you’ve got to have a bend in that rod to make it work.

Fisherman must be careful not to hit the handle of the reel when a fish is taking line. This can often result in the fish snapping the leader. The fisherman must then use the rod and the drag to apply pressure to the trout. The amount of pressure will depend on the size of the trout and the strength of your leader.

A good rule of thumb is if a fish wants line, give it to him.

Keeping the Pressure on During the Fight

When the trout is finished making a run that is when you want to recover line. Fisherman should also remember that by keeping the rod high the fish will be working harder and will tire faster. Changing the direction of the rod it will help to keep the fish off balance.

Another way a trout is lost is by letting up on the pressure.  If the trout is coming toward you, remember you’ve got a long fly rod in your hand, get up in the air and make sure you’re reeling in any slack line.

Some folks will strip line in when the run is at you, this really depends on the size of the fish, current and skill.  With some experience you’ll be able to gauge when the fish needs to be on the reel. 

A gift to another fisherman
A gift to another fisherman

Still another alternative is for a hooked trout is to stay put in the current and shake his head. In this type of situation, the fish doesn’t really know he is hooked. The fisherman’s responsibility is to keep the pressure on the fish and get him to run either toward the pressure or away from the pressure. Once this occurs the fisherman will be in a familiar circumstance.

Some trout will use the air to try to toss the hook.  When a trout jumps and lands on a tight line disaster often occurs. If they do take to the air, remember to bow your rod to the trout.

By dropping your rod tip, the leader gains some slack reducing the strain on the leader. The slack line also gives the fish a place to land other than your leader. Once the fish’s aerial show is over immediately raise your rod tip and continue to battle the fish.

When to Grab the Net

Hooked fish can be very unpredictable, but if the fisherman stays calm and uses his head he should come out on top. It is essential to keep a tight line on the fish at all times. This enables your rod and reel’s drag system to tire out the fish.

Once the fish has been played out the fisherman must get prepared to land the fish. They should expect at least one more good run from the fish when it first sees the fisherman. Most fishermen use nets to land fish.

Guide Tip: I don’t push my ethos onto others about catch and release.  For me, a walleye dinner is described as the “steak of the lake” in my household.  I love trout fishing more because of where I find trout.  But to eat I don’t particularly like their taste.

When netting a fish, the fisherman should place the net in the water and guide the fish headfirst into the net. This can be accomplished by raising your arm and rod until the fish is over the net. Most fisherman prefer the net simply because it keeps thing easy. The net enables the fisherman a way to remove the hook without taking the fish out of the water.

Out of the Net and Into…

This is essential when a fisherman is releasing the fish. When releasing a fish, the fisherman must remember to handle the fish as little as possible. If they do have to handle the fish it should be either in the water or with wet hands. Once the hook is removed the fisherman can prepare to release the fish.

If the fish is hooked deep in the mouth or throat the fisherman should cut the leader instead of trying to remove the hook. In doing so the leader should be cut as close to the eye of the fly as possible. The hook will rust out or dislodge from the fish’s mouth in a few days.

How and When to Let it Go

When releasing a fish, the fisherman should place the fish back in the water facing upstream. This enables the oxygenated water to run through the fish’s gills to help revive it. The fisherman should continue this until the fish swims out of his hands.  My favorite tactic is to contain the fish in the net facing up stream. 

Brown Trout Landing and Releasing
Brown Trout Landing and Releasing

Picture Time

With the fish in the net and recovering, plan out your picture to get a good shot the first time.  Is the background clear, can you easily raise and lower the fish?  If I’m with a buddy, I’ll ask him to frame the shot before I handle the fish.  Then when everything is ready, I’ll lift supporting the fish (NO SQUEEZING) above the net and SNAP. 

Do a quick review and if it looks good, double check the fish is active and release with the head facing up stream.

One More Cast

Hopefully this information will help to get more fish into you net. Remember that the fish, the land and the water is a cherished resource.  If you catch and keep – that’s cool.  If you catch and release – great.  But remember to do your part during your outing.  Pick up a bit of trash, be respectful of private property and help the conservation groups by volunteering.  Those fish we love, need to be loved, which means helping when you can.

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