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Fish On! 

Now What Do I Do? 

by Steve Waak, A&N Outfitters



You have read all the books, watched the video’s and worked your arm into a limp, wet noodle like appendage trying make that perfect 80ft cast.  You’re primed and ready to take a trip to the water to chase your quarry.  Weather it be trout, small mouth bass, largemouth bass, carp, bonefish or permit you will face the same challenge “Fish on, now what do I do”.  


Over the years I have witnessed the panic stricken angler lose their first fish.  The panic quickly turns to a big smile and something to the effect of “that was awesome”.  So the big question becomes what do we do when we have connected with our first fish.


Let me start with an explanation of how the combination of line control and use of the reel work together.  The most important thing to remember is to never lose control of the line. This is accomplished by placing the line immediately into the index finger of your casting hand.  You now have control of the line.  When we are actively fishing we are not using the reel, but rather stripping the line.   This is done to control our drifts, create action or speed our retrieve and of course engage our quarry.  So lets say you have a pile of line at your feet and bam! You’re hooked up with a hard charging fish. Like a freight train the brute instinctively heads down stream and away from you.  You have to give him line or he will surely snap your leader and be just another sad memory.  So you loosen your finger and let go of the line, the pile at your feet springs to life and becomes a twisted, tangled knot, a disaster about to happen.  The knotted mess hits your stripping guide and that’s all she wrote.  Now you are frustrated and thoughts of pitching the rod and reel into the river move fleeting through your head.  With quiet reflection the thought passes and the smile returns.  After untangling the mess you think how in the world do I keep this from happening.  Just as keep the line in your finger while retrieving conversely you keep the line in your finger when letting out.  Using your reel hand to keep tension on the line you give line through the rod hand finger using your reel hand to control the rate of speed you release the line.  This is done until you are able to get the line and fish onto the reel.  It is also important to make sure your line lays in such a way as to keep it clear of sticks, rocks and other potential debris that can tangle you up.  The line may also be kept in your line hand in a series of loops, this method can be very effective but takes a bit of practice to perfect.  Other devices may be use such as stripping basket and stripping pale’s for use on a boat.  These items are very effective but bring with them an additional expense not necessary to the beginning angler.


Now the fight changes to a more conventional battle.  You must keep constant contact with the fish.  You now are able to use the reel as intended by engaging the drag to slow the fish and reeling to retrieve.  Your drag should be adjusted and tweaked according to the size of the fish, tippet and type of hook you are using.  There are many factors to consider at this point.  Suddenly the fish turns and run’s straight at you.  The line goes limp and as fast as you can reel you cannot catch up.  Now must return to your strip retrieve to quickly recover the slack line and the whole process begins again.  Finally you have the scaly beast back on the reel and he is beginning to tire.  Your efforts and cool head prevail and you are able to subdue the fish.  Ah success at last. Be sure to snap a quick photograph to document your first fish.  With a grin and a feeling of confidence you release the fish to fight another day.


The smile widens and the feeling of accomplishment replaces the disappointment of a broken tippet and lost fish.


Congratulations you have now completed the cycle.  From the first practice cast after returning home from the fly shop, with a new outfit in hand.  You have reached the threshold, a turning point in your angling.  It at this point that you become addicted to the pursuit of the game fish of your favor. You will be chasing the pride and accomplishment for the rest of your life.  To tell the truth, I am not sure anything will be more memorable than that first fish.  I will say this in closing every catch will be firmly implanted into your memory.


“FISH ON.  Now you know what to do


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