Our ridiculous run of silver salmon has just begun to show up in full force, which means alongside four other species of pacific salmon, including voracious chums and feisty pinks, there’s no shortage of practice for fighting big fish.
One thing we see on a regular basis from our first-time anglers upon hooking a hefty salmon, particularly from those who’s fly fishing background stems from small stream trout and/or stillwater fishing, is a bit of confusion at when to (and when not to) reel. Reeling at the wrong time, not reeling at the right time, or holding onto the reel handle at the wrong moment often leads to break offs, broken rods, prolonged fights, etc. Therefore, a basic understanding of when to crank during the fight is important.
While hooking a hot salmon in heavy current might appear to be unpredictably chaotic to the uninitiated, we’ve found that by simplifying the fish-fighting process beforehand has allowed more of our guests to put more fish in the net from the get-go.
So, here’s our simplification of fighting wily fish like Pacific salmon – Once the fish is on the reel, only attempt to move the fish by pulling on the rod, without your hand close-by but NOT on the reel handle. Assuming your drag is set appropriately, in the event you pull too hard with the rod, the reel is allowed to turn, still maintaining pressure against the fish, while all the while protecting you from a break-off. If the reel doesn’t turn, and you are able to successfully move the fish in your direction, then its time to reel in order to take up the slack made by pulling with the rod. This give and take allows your finely engineered reel to do its job while bringing the fish to hand as quickly as possible.
Simply put, when fighting salmon – Move ’em with the rod, and take up the slack with the reel.. That should result in less flies lost, less broken rods, and more fish to hand.