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The Fight........

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Blogs are a neat concept, I think so because this is a online space where I can air some thoughts without provoking a heated debate. If you are here then you had to choose to click so here's something I've wanted to write for years.

I'm not sure how long ago it was but there was a point where I graduated from enjoying the feel of a fish struggling on my line to catching a fish. I can remember when I was still in the single digit age group when I reeled in this little chub and actually cast it back into the water so I could feel what catching a fish on a rod felt like. I had fished for 2 years using a throw line and rod fishing was something new back then.

I can't say definitely when I changed but I believe it had to do with fish coming off the hook. It seemed the longer the fish was struggling the higher the risk of it coming off. At some early point I became way more interested in getting trout into a net or my hand than I was in telling a story about fighting a fish. That desire was the impetus for my finding the fastest way to catch that hooked fish with as little fuss as could be. Honestly many of the largest fish I've ever caught were brought to either a net or to a shoreline with very little in the way of theatrics.

I guess I'm looking for replies here, do you think the same way that I do?

I've had people fishing with me who (I thought) unnecessarily prolonged the landing of a salmon. It's a fine line if you are a fish guide and a client has the fish of their day or week on the hook. If you try to rush them and it comes loose you're gonna be the goat. If they play around allowing the fish to make additional runs when you firmly believe that it is ready for the net and they lose the fish you may do best not to say what you think. I've had a few guys who were bad about this over working fish. I've tried to encourage them to lead fish to the net only to be told "It isn't ready yet". That's where this reaches the point when I could be mistaken for someone speaking out of place but...ÖÖ..

I wasn't born here in Alaska but have fished here for 15 full seasons and been a full time resident for 14 of those seasons. I fished Great Lakes rivers for large fish as well as other venues before relocating to here but these years here afforded me the chance to catch many, many big fish all year long. With that kind of opportunity year after year you can be nonplused when someone who fishes for big game once or twice a year tells you when fish are ready for the net.

I've met so many people who are focused on "the fight" that I've began to believe it is almost an epidemic thing. I've told a few people that if they want a really truly good fight I'd be happy to take them down to the Knik Bar on a Friday or Saturday night where they could hurl out a few choice insults which will certainly follow up with a real fight. This business of 'fighting fish' I believe would be much more appropriately captioned as 'Playing' the fish. I also think that anglers should always focus on playing the fish they hook as quickly and effectively as possible.

I could go on and on but I've probably said more than I should have.

Your thoughts are welcome on this topic.


  1. karstopo's Avatar
    Interesting subject. Iíve never fished for salmon.

    In general, I mostly donít like going after species of fish that have too much stamina. A jack crevalle would be an example. Thereís a lot of 15-20 pound type of fish near where I live. They are aggressive takers of flies. The initial run is fun. Having a fish peel off a ton of line and take half your backing all in one run is exciting, but then the work of getting the line back begins and I donít enjoy that aspect of the fight.

    Largemouth bass donít run much if any and tire themselves out with head thrashing and leaps. Thereís no fragile tippet to worry about. The game seems to be endure and enjoy a few leaps and then bring that fish in. Juvenile Tarpon seem to be similar to this, leap, leap, leap, bring it in.

    Redfish potentially have the size and power to bust a tippet. They are also known to run, especially when the water is shallow. They are also blessed with mouths that really hold hooks well and well deserve the nickname ďrubber lipsĒ

    I donít like prolonging the fight with redfish as bad things tend to happen when I do. I tend to fish around razor sharp oyster reef. Prolonged fights and inadequate pressure on the Fish makes it more likely that the fish will contact the reef and part the tippet.

    Iíve come to know how much a particular hook can take or a particular tippet can handle before snapping in two. I know these things because Iíve bent open hooks on Fish and inadvertently put too much pressure on a fish and busted a tippet. I try to go into the situation with the right tippet and hook to fit the fish and conditions.

    Losing fish by putting a lot of pressure on it doesnít bother me so much. Iíve deliberately broken off a few fish realizing thereís no reasonable chance of landing the fish in a timely way with the set up I using at that moment. I donít care at all for the tippet class game. Iím using the biggest tippet I can get away with. I like and do stay at 20# or under, but thereís never, never say never, a time Iím going after redfish with anything under 12#.

    Sure, itís a feat to land a big fish on tiny tippet, but that doesnít interest me in the least. Itís potentially not good for fish in general and why handicap yourself with an artificially weak tippet if it isnít necessary? Streamer fishing appeals to me as thereís no need for tiny, fragile tippets.

    I never liked how the pro bass guys ripped the bass across the surface of the water to get the fish in at a record pace, but then I donít like prolonged or long fights with fish either. I have zero interest in going after a Marlin with fly tackle or any tackle for that matter. I did a Marlin trip once a long time ago, jump one at about 250 pounds and was happy that it got off.

    Hunting fish is fun. Reading water is fun. Fighting fish is fun to a point. At some point, it becomes a chore and not fun, at least in my experience. When it gets to that point, Iím for ending it as quickly as possible.
  2. Ard's Avatar
    I agree fully with you, Chum Salmon are a perfect example of a fish that can become no pleasure after just one of them. What prompted my writing this was a couple guys who low holed me about 3 1/2 weeks ago. I was searching for steelhead and whenever I saw one of those spawning silvers start chasing the fly I would just rip it back to avoid the hassle of hooking one. The guys who encroached were (I believe) targeting them based on what I witnessed...........................
  3. spm's Avatar
    I agree that a prolonged fight does nothing for the fish or the fisherman, and try to end it as quickly as possible. I agree with karstopo in that I enjoy being on the water. I enjoy fooling the fish into taking my fly. I enjoy hooking. And I enjoy fighting the fish, but since I rarely keep any, I try to release it as quickly as possible. This also gives me more time to move onto the next fish. Unfortunately, I don't think I have ever caught so many fish, it was a chore so, sadly, I'll have to take karstopo's word on that.

    I think I mentioned this before. I fished with jgentile from this forum, once and he talked about the four stages of a fisherman:
    Stage 1. I want to catch a fish
    Stage 2. I want to catch a lot of fish
    stage 3. I want to catch a big fish
    Stage 4. I just want to go fishing
    I guess I am at stage 4. While I don't like being skunked, I like being out there, which now that I think about it, is what my father used to tell me when we were fishing and weren't catching anything, but I suspect he was trying to lift my spirits.

    Now, as to your customers who don't want to listen to their guide; they're stupid! When I fish with a guide, I start out by telling him I want him to coach me as much as he thinks I need it. When I fish with friends who are better fishermen than I am, which is most of them, I listen to them, too. Never too old or experienced to learn from someone else.

    I'm not sure if I stayed on topic, here or if I started rambling. Regardless, I enjoy your thoughts on these blogs, Ard.