Time for more steelhead fishing wisdom from Scott Baker-McGarva, head guide at BC West!
Sometimes when you leave an angler for a bit, you return only to see them struggling with a fish close to shore, (sometimes you need to leave the client to improve their mojo and fish attraction) and many will agree that near shore is where many fish are lost.
One particular manner of losing a fish is what we know as the ‘open mouther’ in my parts. This phenomenon occurs when the fish is immediately downstream of you, and you are pulling from directly above it (already a bad idea). The fish rises to the surface, opens its gaping maw, and thrashes side to side, clearly tossing your fly in the process. What to do?
Well, trying to beach a fish in this manner stacks more factors against you than you realize. One, you are trying to pull the now tired fish upstream, two, often the hook is beginning to wear a hole that with any amount of slack line will result in a lost fish, and three, the moment you think it’s beached and walk towards it, the suddenly slack line can cause #two to happen or the fish, sensing a reduction in pressure, can turn and head for deep water again!
Try to turn the rod and rod angle upstream, and to reel well down to the fish so that you can actually lead it upstream of your position but also to the shore, therefore allowing you to come up behind it and grab its tail. The tension is kept in the line via the arc of the rod, and once tailed, you can lay the rod down to deal with fish. If the fish escapes your grasp, the rod is still right there at hand, avoiding the joys of watching your line skip down the rocks after the panicked fish.