This is maybe another stupid question but what is the best way to reel fish in when you have a fair amount of slack fly line? I've lost a few fish lately just trying to get the slack out to play the fish with my reel. Seems like its just better to pull line in by hand. Any tips or advice?
Taylor: There are lots of opinions on the best method to reel a fish in, but if your dealing with trout, I normally don't bother trying to get the slack line back on the reel, it is just a recipe for disaster and a possible lost fish, instead I control the fish directly from the line and pull in slack as the fish tires. If I hook into a really large trout (north of 20") and in fast current, then I will let the fish run to chew up the slack line I have out with the idea of getting the fish on the reel as quick as possible, then work the fish from the reel letting the drag do its work. Hope that helps.
Depending on the amount of slack, and for that matter the size of the fish, I'd just let the fish make a run in order to get the slack out in order to get him on the reel. If you have a ton of slack, reel like crazy while also playing the fish on the line. Worst case scenario, you just use the line and strip it in. Takes practice and feel to know what the fish is doing when he's not on the reel. When you feel a couple good head shakes he is probly going to run so give him some slack. Be sure to keep the rod tip up and tension on the line! Keep in mind the more you play the fish the more tired it gets and the longer it takes to recover. Smaller fish just play them on the line and strip it in.
I think Larry & Greg have you pointed to the right track, in the end, practice makes perfect. As the years and number of fish mount you will become skilled at what Greg talked about; working the fish while gaining control of the line. You will find the way believe me, I think we all have been where you are describing and it was the experience that helped us to find the best way.
Location: Lake of the Woods/Rainy River Minnesota Canada border
Re: Reeling in...
Yup. Practice. I don't bother usually with smaller fish. Big ones a lot of the time will run most of the slack out for you. When they don't I will throw the line into the water from my stripping basket, hook the line from the reel over my little finger, the line from my rod over my index finger and start to reel. If the fish runs at me I already have my hand there by the line. It's a matter of getting used to it. By the way, the reason I toss the line out is that if you try and reel it up out of the basket you may end up with a dandy knot in the line because you are reeling in from the bottom of the pile. That knot can cause problems if the fish runs you into the knot. I had that happen once. The fish ran a knot into the stripper, pulled the fly loose and it came flying back out of the water and hit my fishing buddy in the chest. We wear glasses, which is a good idea.
I almost always look for reels that spin freely on the retrieve. When I need to suck up line fast a slap or two at the spool sucks the line in much faster than you can crank it in. The first reel I noticed this on was an old Harris Solitude while steelhead fishing. It's just one of those features you don't notice or miss until it's saved a few good fish for you, then it's hard to do without.
Like Jackster, anytime I have a fish on that I can tell needs to be on the reel I will slap the spool to reel in the line in my bucket. This method is way faster than trying to reel in the slack, takes about 1/3 the time. The reel doesn't need to be a true free spool design, I do it on my Abels with no problem so just about any reel will handle it except for most click/pawl reels. But usually if a fish needs to be on the reel it will let you know, just like others have said it will take up the slack line when it makes a good run. It's not always a good idea to get your fish on the reel if it's not needed but Sometimes you have to get the fish on the reel as fast as possible, it's easy to lose a big fish from hand. I did this about 2 months ago, I was Striper fishing and hooked a salmon we estimated to be around 40lbs. I hooked the fish on my 9wt and she was controlling me but staying under the boat, I didn't get her on the reel fast enough, she made a run, the line jerked when a dry spot went through my hand and she was gone. If I would have had her on the reel it would nave never happened...... The moral of the story; I used to let the fish get themselves on the reel, now if I can feel it's a real good fish I get it on the reel as fast as possible.