How do you use a fly reel?
Here are some tips that might help inexperienced fly fishers to fight a big fish.
1. Make sure your drag is set properly for the size leader you are fishing.
2. Get the fish on the reel as fast as you can but don't rush and make a mistake. If you have coils on the ground don't take a step until you have the fish on the reel or the line away from your feet.
3. When stripping in line (Streamer Fishing) collect the line in large coils in your line hand. That is, don't strip in line and drop it on the ground. When you make your reach to strip, hold onto the line as you draw back you strip. Now keeping that line in the palm of your hand, reach forward again and take the line between you thumb and forefinger and make another strip, keep that line in the palm of your hand also and reach for another strip. This way the stripped in line will be in coils/loops in your line hand. Now make your next cast and shoot the line from your line hand. With practice the coils will shoot cleanly from you line hand. When you shoot the line from you hand, form a circle with your forefinger and thumb and the line will flow through the circle and shoot through the guides. If you don't form the little circle with your forefinger and thumb, the coils/loops from your line hand may pile up at the first guide and jam.
If you hook up, you can feed the line you are holding in your hand through your forefinger and thumb. This way you can put a little resistance on the line as it feeds from your hand. If you drop the loops don't move your feet until you have the fish on the reel. For big Steelhead and Salmon I like to wear fighting gloves to prevent line burns.
4. If you have line on the ground or water, here is how I get the fish on the reel. I grasp the line going to the rod between my forefinger and rod of my rod hand so I can keep tension on the fish. I take the line coming from the reel and put it over my rod hand little finger so I can control the line feeding onto the reel. So I am doing two things at once. I am controlling the line to the fish feeding slack with tension and I am reeling in line from the ground that I am controlling with my rod hand little finger. It works great with a little practice.
5. If you are fishing with a light tippet never adjust the drag while fighting the fish. You should all ready have the drag set properly and if you start adding more drag you will break off the tippet.
6. If you are not experienced never try to power the fish by palming the spool. The exception is when you are fishing big fish and you are using heavy tippets that will stand you applying too much or erratic pressure to the spool.
7. The most important thing is don't PANIC. Try to stay calm and evaluate your circumstances. Do you have clearance to fight the fish where you stand? Should you move up or down stream? You have to be careful moving down stream. That is where the fish wants to go and if there is fast water or rapids your job just got tougher. I try to discourage fish from moving down stream and if you move down stream you are probably helping the fish. Sometimes you can't stop a big fish from going down stream and that is the time you need the fish on the reel. Trying to move down stream with line dragging behind you is about as good a way to lose a fish that I can think of.
8. Practice your technique on small fish. That is why I always suggest that with all fish, no matter size, they should be fought from the reel. That way you develop your technique, what ever it may be, so when you hook a big fish it is a piece of cake.
9. When fighting big fish don't hold the rod vertical over your head. With the rod vertical you stand a good chance of leaning into the rod and breaking it. If you feel you have to hold the rod over your head like you see in movies, don't hold it vertical. You should never have the butt and tip both pointing in the direction of the fish. Even when you are putting side pressure on a fish don't point the butt toward the direction of the fish.
10. To all the advice above I'll just add in that you should try to only have as much line out as you need to fish the current spot you're casting to. This seems to go without saying, but I'm sure we all will strip lots of line off to deliver a long cast to the far bank and then forget about reeling up the excess. Then we hook a big rainbow 10' away and we're cussin and fussin as we try not to get all that excess line wrapped around something.