Fly rod position when fighting big fish

There are some aspects of fly rod position that many anglers do not consider when they are playing big fish. I am going to cover just a few of these here, recognizing that there are whole books that can be written on the topic. Hummm. Might be a pretty dull book unless it has a lot of cool photos.

There are two common errors I commonly see when I watch friends playing big fish. The first is keeping their fly rod at a high angle where just the upper 1/3 of the rod is flexed. This creates a situation where only a few ounces of pressure is being exerted on the fish. The tip is the most flexible part of the rod, and a tip bend alone will prolong the process and leave more time for the hook to fall out as a consequence of being under inadequate tension.

Another error that is especially common is for the angler to grab the rod in the middle of the first section above the rod handle. This is a no no as illustrated above. Placing one’s hand above the cork creates a hinge point (my terminology) and can cause the rod to deform and break right there. Placing the hand between cork and first guide is a very natural action, but this can cause many a break.

Fly rods, and Echo Fly Rods specifically, can take a lot of pressure if one keeps hands on the cork. The photos above show our Shop mate Lou doing his best to break an Echo 8 wt, with hands on the handle. He did break it finally, but he was sweating, and even these sturdy rods would be more vulnerable if grabbed between cork and fist guide. So please don’t do it.

What to do? This photo shows the practice of keeping a low rod angle, distributing a lot of pressure applied through the reel drag and the entire rod, with emphasis on the butt section (the most powerful part of the rod). This is the course of action when you want to put the most pressure on a fish, if you hold the reel tight. Ironically, it is also a rod position that comes into play if your fish makes a sudden bolt to the deep and you want to release pressure — in this case, you allow the drag to ease up, and lower the rod to reduce line friction through the guides. Never point your rod straight at Mr. Big, though, because that eliminates any shock absorbing qualities of the rod.

So, now it is time for counterpoint commentary, and it is genuinely welcome. meanwhile, have fun out there.


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7 Responses to Fly rod position when fighting big fish

  1. eric says:

    By the time youi loosen the reel drag that big fish is probably adios
    Keep rod up high and try to flex from but

  2. Ryan Doering says:

    Good tips. Thanks for posting.

  3. parahoppah says:

    Interesting thoughts- but what if you are on a boat and the fish is below you (or some similar situation). It seems the rod angle will often be determined by the fish and where it is. In your pictures, the fish is below the person on the top pic, but away from the person on the second pic. Thanks.

  4. Rob R says:

    So my whole landing style is a combination of two “mistakes?”

  5. Capt Ken says:

    Great article, and an excellent one for people to provide feedback…
    Here is my deflated $0.02USD…
    It is important to note, that when fighting big fish, the rod angle should never be more than 90degrees adjacent to the fish… For example, if the fish is below you (as if you were in a boat), then your rod angle at the butt section should be as close to horizontal to the water as possible… I often tell my guests when they are fighting a fish from the boat, to simply keep the rod tip in the water at all times, trust me, it wont dissolve…
    Another critical note to make here, and one that I believe will minimze the amount of rod breakage, is to make sure that the reel itself is pointed at the fish at all times… this will ensure that you are using the correct spine of the rod when pulling against the fish… just recently I witnessed a rod break, and it was because the reel was off to the side while the angler was pulling hard against a monster bluefish… even though the rod tip was in the water, the butt section of the rod broke because the reel was cocked to the side which caused the spine of the rod to be off which actually put an unnatural bend the rod blank. Think of it as if you are bending the rod “against the grain” so to speak…

  6. Oregon Fly Fishing Blog says:

    Yes, and come to think of it, my personal style, (do as I say, not as I do) is to emulate your style exactly, so we are both bad boys, or good boys, or opinionated boys, or misguided buys or ….

    But we are indeed experts in our own minds.


  7. Rob R says:

    Maybe I should take up tenkara…

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