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  1. Default Getting fish to the reel/drag

    So there I was... the 3rd fly fishing trip I have ever been on. Myself and friend were fishing the South Platte River in Colorado in Cheesman Canyon. We spot a nice sized rainbow in a pool. Probably around 20 inches. I had a size 18 parachute adams on and casted over the fish about 10 times with no luck. Then on my next cast the huge fish rose up and took the fly, fish on! I made a solid hookset on the fish and was trying to get the fish to the reel when all of a sudden, snap, my tippet broke and the fish was gone. This was the first trout I have ever had on that was over 12 inches. Basically what I am asking is what is the best way to get the fish to the reel so that the drag can take over? I wanted to keep enough tension on the fish that it would not get off and apparently I had too much because the tippet snapped but when he went on a quick burst after being hooked it was very hard for me to properly regulate the line with just my hand. In conclusion, I guess what I am asking is what is the best way or best technique to get larger fish to the reel before they break your line? Also, does this sort of thing happen somewhat often or am I just terrible because a 5x tippet is only equivalent to about 4-5 pounds of strength and just seems so delicate to what I am used to. Plus, how heavy do you guys set your drag? It seems like you almost have to have it set at practically nothing to accommodate such light tippet material.

  2. #2

    Default Re: Getting fish to the reel/drag

    Quote Originally Posted by fishinfrenzy View Post
    SNIP<<<In conclusion, I guess what I am asking is what is the best way or best technique to get larger fish to the reel before they break your line? Also, does this sort of thing happen somewhat often or am I just terrible because a 5x tippet is only equivalent to about 4-5 pounds of strength and just seems so delicate to what I am used to. Plus, how heavy do you guys set your drag? It seems like you almost have to have it set at practically nothing to accommodate such light tippet material.
    First FF, that's tough luck that's hard to swallow!!! There'll be lots more though.

    While I'm a fair to middlin' noob at Fly Fishing, I've been spinning for more years than I'd like to admit, and I think the drag issue carries from one to the other fairly well.

    Setting the drag is kind of a feel thing for me. I purposely keep mine fairly light to accomodate experiences such as yours. I think you'd be suprised how much strain a 5X tippet in good shape, with good knots, can take. If you can comfortably strip line off the reel, your drag is probably set on the light side (which is bviously better than the heavy side).

    Try this:

    Strip out ~ 20 ft of line, and set your hook into a piece of wood (on your deck, in the garage or somewhere) and pull the rod 'till the drag slips. Tighten it a click or 2 at a time and pull again each time 'till the tippet breaks. Now strip line off the reel again with your hand and notice how hard it is to pull. In order to comfortably strip off line, you'll probably have to loosen off the drag by a few clicks.

    When I did the above, I easily found my "comfort" zone with the fly reel, with a drag slip that's well below the breaking point of the tippet to accomodate for a damaged tippet or a weak knot.

    Just out of curiosity, how much line did you have stripped off when the fish hit? I try to keep a bare minimum so when that big one hits, I don't have 15 or 20 ft of line at my feet to contend with.

    Good luck.


  3. #3
    Join Date
    Nov 2007
    Southeast Pennsylvania

    Default Re: Getting fish to the reel/drag

    Setting drag: I set the drag so that line can be stripped comfortably. You'll be spending more time stripping line than playing fish off the drag (unfortunately ). You don't want it so loose that a good run will cause the spool to over-run, and create a tangled mess of line around the spool. Trout
    will run fast enough to cause that, and even a quick tug while stripping line will cause that to happen with a loose drag. I've tightened the drag on my Ross reels without a problem, although some people don't like doing that.

    Getting them on the reel: It depends on how much line you have out. If you have 5 feet of line, fiddling with the reel handle on the initial burst might cause a light tippet to break. I let line run through my fingers while keeping an appropriate amount of tension. With lots of line out, I do a combination of letting line out while reeling in the rest. Letting the line slip through your fingers keeps the fish from breaking off, and spinning the spool get the line back on quickly. I use the largest arbor possible now, and getting line back on the spool takes seconds.

    Light tippet: I never really used light tippet a lot until the past year. I've gone to much smaller flies for trout (#18 most common), and 6X tippet. One day
    this past May, I caught 7-8 really nice browns and rainbows on a #18 BWO, and caught a few small smallmouth all on the same fly. I had considered re-tying the knot, but the action was too hot to spend 30 seconds. The last fish I caught that afternoon was a REALLY nice rainbow, and he broke the much abused tippet inches from the net. It's amazing that the tippet hadn't snapped before that, and I've always been one to re-tie every few fish. It's also a good idea to give the fly a tug after tying it on, to test the knot's strength.

  4. Default Re: Getting fish to the reel/drag

    Thank you for the advice. There were some good tips in there that I will definitely have to try. I probably had around 5ft or more of excess line after stripping it back in. It seems that I will just have to try to practice letting the line slip through my fingers and getting the fish to the reel which is definitely not a skill I have used. I am used to flipping and pitching jigs for bass in heavy reeds and mats with 30-60 lb. braided line so I am not really used to this light tippet stuff just quite yet

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Sep 2009
    Saskatchewan, Canada

    Default Re: Getting fish to the reel/drag

    If you ever happen to cast a big jumbled pile of leader/tippet, make sure to check on it and take away any small overhand knots you find. unneeded knots are often the weak points in lines so try to get them off before they get too tight, especially if its on the tippet which is the weakest point to begin with.
    You also don't NEED to use the reel, you can keep on stripping and land the fish that way, especially if you sight fished it right close, but of course its always exciting having the reel scream.
    I too am used to braided lines and i this is my first full year of fly fishing so i've been scared of broken tippets. thankfully it hasn't happened on a fish yet, though it has happened on plenty of branches.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Mar 2009
    south florida

    Default Re: Getting fish to the reel/drag

    I never get fish on the reel. They are the ones responsible for that.

    The way I see it, my job is to get the line back onto the reel - in other words, retrieve all the backing to get the fight in closer where I have the advantage.

    Perhaps in a twisty river with pucker-brush everywhere with a large fish that you have to chase down, it may be necessary to have all line in order to even move.Then I suppose, just very carefully.

    As for setting drags, just don't go too tight.

    To give you an example of actual poundage, I set my drag for tarpon using the following method. I strip line off the reel to where the running line is nice and uniform, or until I hit the backing. I tie it to a 5 lb. dumbell and hold it (reel and weight - no rod attached) at head height. I then adust the drag to where the dumbell will fall to the floor in 4 seconds. Then I back off three clicks on my drag knob.

    My guess it that I have about 3 1/2 lbs of drag. And I am using straight 60lb leader. When fighting the fish after he quits his wild panicked jumping and running, I tighten it back up three clicks until he is next to the boat, where I back it back off again and palm when necessary.

    The reason is not so much being afraid of breaking my line, but of pulling, bending or breaking the hook with sudden shocks when there is not much line out.

    That would also be my concern when fishing 4x or stronger leaders. The typical figures I see with salt water fishing is 15-20 percent of class tippet strength. So 20 lb tippet, between 3 and 4 lbs. I would say, you would be in ounces if you were to do it that way.

    The other suggestions are good ones. I don't think drag is a big issue with freshwater fish so long as it isn't too tight.


  7. #7

    Default Re: Getting fish to the reel/drag

    To get the fish on the reel I slap the spool to get it spinning. A free-wheeling spool on the retrieve is one of the major considerations I have when selecting a reel for larger fish.
    Ross's are usually good at that though my early Ross R had the same amount of drag both out-going and in-coming! One of the learning curves a good reel maker must go through I reckon.
    Even on smaller reels I look for a good spinning spool when taking up line. Sometimes, like on my favorite tailwater, you have to max the breaking strength of the leader and a good, smooth drag system has allowed me to land more of the bigger fish I've hooked than when I relied on the inconsistant squeezing the line on the grip.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jun 2010

    Default Re: Getting fish to the reel/drag

    Fishinfrenzy with a 5 or 6X tippet you are looking at a strike setting of about 1/2lb max. But with say 75ft of line out your drag is at about 1lb. The tippet should not break under a steady pull. Between the flex in your rod and breaking strength of the tippet you should be fine. A 20" Trout weights what a pound? Not sure never caught one yet. As stated previously you may have had a weak knot or damaged tippet. Did you look to see were the break was? That will give you some insight. I would think that with a small fish one would be able to control it by holding the fly line and gently pull it in. Or if you are fighting on the reel palming should be just fine.
    If you want to pre set your drag, attach a say 1lb. weight to your line spool out say 50 to 75 foot of line and adjust your drag until you can just reel in the weight and you should be fine.
    That is my nickles worth of advice. I am sure that the more experienced fly guys have a better idea.
    Hey just remember you can't land them all.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Apr 2010
    Rosthern, SK

    Default Re: Getting fish to the reel/drag

    It is a skill to get the line back on the reel for bigger fish, and one which definitely is worth some attention and is something that I am concentrating on. I find that early on in the fight there are more accrobatics, especially from rainbows and so when I hook one I first wanna make sure he gets some of his dancing out the way before I get him on the reel. I learnt this lesson especially well the other night when I set the hook on a beauty and he had jumped a couple times and while I was spinning the spool to get him on the reel he jumped and spat the fly at me. Next fish I hooked I waited til I had her in control and took the line up while I was able to maintain constant pressure on her... she did help by going on a tearing run as well which was nice... but the important things are to keep good tension on the fish while taking up the excess line, and most importantly keep your eye on what the fish is doing, not on your reel and stop spinning the spool if the fish gets frisky. Any fish that is large enough to warrant you fighting it on the reel will probably give you enough time to do just that, just pickthe right time.

    And when it comes to setting the drag on a reel I saw on a TV show some years ago some guys that were fishing marlin and were pre setting their drags. They set their rod in a holder and attached their scale to the end of the line/leader and pulled. The reading on the scale was their drag reading and so they just adjusted the drag until it was where they wanted it to be. I always thought that was a great idea, but I have never tried it cos, well I tend to have my drag set on the lighter side of things and can often make the fine adjustments while fighting a fish.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Nov 2009
    White City (tad north of Medford) Oar-E-Gone

    Default Re: Getting fish to the reel/drag

    Simple answer that I've used for years was the drag is set at (as closely as reasonable) at 40% to 50% of the breaking strength of your tippet. 6# leader = 2 to 3# of drag. Good reason for this: as you raise your rod tip the guides provide extra 'drag' due to line friction.
    When wealth is lost, nothing is lost; when health is lost, something is lost; when character is lost, all is lost. - Billy Graham"

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