Originally Posted by racine
I'm curious why some freshwater guides tell you to hold your rod over your head. I must have missed this lecture in trout 101 but could someone enlighten me as to the logic or rational for this practice and if it is still practical? I for one usually fish with medium-medium/fast rods in the 3,4,5 wt class.
Are you talking about holding the rod over your head while you're waiting for a strike or once you've hooked a fish?
If the former, then I agree with Frank that holding the rod high will get more line off the water and if you're line is cast out across water travelling at different speeds (seams); which is common in freshwater stream fishing, then it will help you to get a good dead drift, if that's your goal, and will also reduce the need for mending.
If the latter, then I think that the rationale for holding the rod vertically (perhaps not over the head) is to maximize the flex in the rod (and therefore maximize the protection of the leader/tippet); as well as to minimize contact with obstructions, as BigCliff says.
The flex point is a simple one. If you hook a fish and try to retrieve it with the rod pointed at the fish or in a horizontal position, then you're putting all of the stain of the fish on the leader/tippet. If you hold the rod vertically, then you're maximizing the flex characteristics of the rod and putting the strain of the fish mostly on the rod itself; very little on the leader/tippet.
If you try to break the end of a leader or a piece of tippet by pulling it between you hands, you'll find that it take a lot of pulling strength to break it when if you apply even pressure and simply increase the pull (which should give you confidence in landing large fish on small diameter tippet). However, if you jerk them apart, they'll break much easier. It's the same with a fish on the line. If the fish is able to jerk the line; meaning that you don't have the rod positioned to absorb the motion of the fish, then he'll break you off. But, if you keep the tension on the fish more or less equal (meaning that you're using the rod flex to maintain that even tension), then you'll seldomly get a break-off; at least in my experience. In this case, think of the flex charasteristics of the rod as a shock absorber; it's protecting the leader/tippet from the shock of the fighting fish.
By the way, if you decide to run the "pull the end of the leader / tippet apart" experiment, be sure that you're wearing a good pair of heavy gloves, otherwise you'll also be running an experiment on the toughness of the skin on the underside of your fingers.