Landing fish

Almost there. Photo: Craig Kopczyk.

A while back we ran a post on the top 5 mistakes made fighting big fish, where we highlighted some of the most common mistakes we see at our lodges in Alaska and British Columbia when fighting big fish like steelhead and salmon.

However, fighting fish well does not always put the fish in the net. In fact, we see a huge percentage of big fish lost only a few rod length’s away, even after a well fought battle!

So, today we’re talking about those precious moments between tiring your fish and putting him in net with 6 tips for landing big fish.

6 Tips for Landing Big Fish

You stood your ground, put the heat on, and fought your fish like a champ. Now you can see your quarry and it’s time to start thinking about putting the mesh on him. Whether you’re fighting the fish or wielding the net, consider these tips in order to seal the deal.

  1. Keep your leader out of the guides. Whenever landing fish, it’s never a good idea to reel past your leader to fly line connection (or your sink tip to fly line if using a spey rig). A bulky connection can hang up in the rod guides on an unexpected run, potentially causing a break off.
  2. Find good landing water. After you hook up and are under control, look for soft water nearby to land your fish. Once you find good landing water, stand your ground! Try not to stroll down river unless you absolutely have to.
  3. Get the fish upstream. When working with a net man, the angler should work to get the fish upstream or in front of himself. The net man should be positioned downstream of the angler. This position gives the angler maximum control of the fish with minimal strain on the leader.
  4. Get his head up. Once the fish is in line to slightly upstream of you, make a big, slow lift of the rod, raising the fish’s head up. Continue the lift in an overhead arcing motion to direct the fish’s head towards the net man. Fish can’t swim backwards, and doing so allows the fish to move only in an upward direction while the net man makes his approach.
  5. Be patient. When netting fish, it’s important to wait for the right moment. Make sure the head is up and the fish is in a direction allowing you to net the head, not the tail. Jumping the gun often leads to a miss, or even worse, hitting the leader with the rim of the net.
  6. Don’t ‘Scoop’ the Net. A common mistake when netting big fish for the first time is attempting to net the fish by ‘scooping’ the basket through the water. Big fish have a lot of surface area, as do nets big enough to hold them. That means they move a lot in the current. Sticking a big net in the water and trying to ‘scoop’ up the fish by lifting it through the water column is a great way to miss completely. Instead, net your fish by quickly stabbing the basket underneath the fish, applying downward pressure on the net handle (to raise the front of the basket), and pulling the basket backwards, all in one swift motion.

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