Rod tip up, or rod tip down?

jrp11948

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While fighting a 24" brownie in Utah last year, the guide kept yelling get the rod up! I had it over my head. Finally landed the fish with sore shoulders. In upstate New York last fall, fighting a 24" steelhead, the guide kept yelling get that rod tip down on the water! Landed the fish with sore forearms. Both time I was nymphing with an indicator.
My group asked the guide why the difference, rod up/rod down? He had no answer for me.
I think the Utah guide wanted to get the indicator out of the water, but the New Yorker didn't.

So what's is the vote here? Up or down?
 

trev

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.... Yes.
Depends?
Mostly I go rod parallel to water and low, but there are times when lift is needed to extract a fish from entanglements. Sometimes I stick the rod right into the water if the critter is a jumper.
I don't favor the over the head point to the sky pose, because I can't see the strain on the rod and I've seen more rods broken in that position than in any other.
 

100954

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Rod tip up. But you generally don’t need to hold the reel above your head. Sometimes you may want put the rod to one side or the other, to turn the fish. We had a young guide once on the Box Canyon of the Henry’s Fork who insisted the rod tip be held under water when fighting a fish. We lost some nice fish that day & I attributed it that method, especially in that current.
 

JoJer

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For big fish, I do use the "point at the sky" pose 'til I get the line and fish on the reel. Then it comes down level and turned opposite to the direction the fish wants to pull. I think I've always been inclined that way because all my flies are barbless and I don't want any slack once the fish hits.
 

sasquatch7

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Tip up but my hands never over chest high . Sometimes you need to lower it to turn a fish and now and then stick the tip in the water for a jumper . Thats my story .
 

silver creek

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While fighting a 24" brownie in Utah last year, the guide kept yelling get the rod up! I had it over my head. Finally landed the fish with sore shoulders. In upstate New York last fall, fighting a 24" steelhead, the guide kept yelling get that rod tip down on the water! Landed the fish with sore forearms. Both time I was nymphing with an indicator.
My group asked the guide why the difference, rod up/rod down? He had no answer for me.
I think the Utah guide wanted to get the indicator out of the water, but the New Yorker didn't.

So what's is the vote here? Up or down?
The right answer is that it is situational.

When the fish is taking out a LOT of line OR there are obstructions in the water that the fish may snag you on, you can raise the rod to keep the line clear of obstructions.

Otherwise, you keep the rod tip DOWN and to the side of you, opposite of the direction the fish wants to go.

"Over the hill" fly fishers like me from the 1970's will remember when French Nylorfi imported by Cortland was the strongest and limpest tippet material. It tested out at just about 2.5 lbs breaking strength for 5X. So modern day 6X is much stronger than the best 5X in the late 1970's.

In the 19670's we landed big fish on weaker tippets than are used now. The key difference was that with weak tippets, it becomes more important to know how to effectively fight big fish. We also knew that 2 lbs of pull is a lot of pressure.

Try lifting a 2 lb weight with a 5 weight rod. Be careful or you may break the fly rod. The point is that most fly fishers rarely put 2 lbs of pressure so the fish must actually fight the entire 2 lb pull.

USE SIDE PRESSURE to maximize the pressure the fish must fight. DO NOT hold the rod high unless you have to clear line. An upward rod angle pulls against the weight of the fish.

I've seen many beginning fishers who do not know how to fight large fish efficiently. This is because they mimic what they see on television shows. Almost all anglers on TV hold the fly rod up at an angle.

It is more effective to fight fish with the rod tip parallel to the water. By parallel I don't mean that you point the rod tip at the fish. Rather, hold the parallel rod to your side, so that the angle of the line to the fish from the rod tip is still the same as if you held the rod up.

Why does this make a difference?

When you hold the rod up, your angle of pull is up and part of the force is going to fight gravity by pulling up against the dead weight of the fish. This portion of the force is wasted and not tiring the fish, nor is it pulling the fish toward you. By holding the rod to your side, parallel to the water or even under water at the level of the fish, all of the pull on the tippet is pulling the fish toward you. As an example, if the angle of pull from the fish is upward at 45 degrees, half of the pull is lifting the dead weight of the fish and only the other half is pulling the fish toward you. If the angle is 45 degrees but parallel to the water, almost all the pull is against the fish and not gravity.

Secondly, with the rod tip held high, you are fighting the fish with the tip of rod. A rod tip CANNOT apply much pressure on the fish. The combination of the high rod tip LIFTING the fish and the MINIMAL pressure of a rod tip means the fish can more easily take line. With the rod to the side, you can TRANSFER the rod pressure to the mid and lower section of the rod to place as much pressure as the tippet will allow.


A fish can dive simply by angling its pectoral fins down. With this little work, the hydraulic pressure of the water is then added to the downward pull of the line. Tarpon fishers will actually place the tip of the rod under water to their side to so that all of the force is pulling on the fish and not lifting the fish.

Fight fish like the guy on the right. Notice that the guy on the left is fighting the fish with his rod tip. The guy on the right is using his whole rod.



There are other advantages to fighting fish with your rod to the side

When you pull to the side, the fish will counteract by pulling against the direction of pull. You can use the instinct of the fish to to bring the fish to you. This technique is called "walking the dog."

Say you are facing the fish and you have the rod to your right. The fish will pull away and to your left. If you now switch the rod to your left side, before the fish can reverse his angle of pull to the right, the fish will swim to the left toward the rod tip. By alternating your pull from the right to the left, and left to right; you confuse the fish and each reversal brings the fish ever closer to you in a zig zag pattern. Basically, it is using the principle of Judo to fight and frustrate the fish. You are using the natural tendency of the fish to pull against line to tire and confuse it.

There are times when you do need to elevate the rod. One is when the fly line needs to clear a snag that is in the water. You must raise the rod to clear it from wrapping abound a boulder, log, etc. The second is when the fish has taken so much line out that the friction of the fly line in the water can break the tippet. Then raise the rod. Some fish like bonefish will have have a blistering first "run" that will take out huge amounts of line. You have to raise the rod tip on these types of fish.

But in most instances the high rod position places you at a disadvantage especially when using a lighter rod than usual. Try the parallel rod technique and you will be surprised at how quickly you can bring the fish to you.

We all know that the water closer to the surface in a river flows faster than the water that is deeper. When we lift the fly rod, we are trying to bring the fish closer to the surface, where the fish can use the faster water flow against us. The only reason to do that is if the bottom contains snags. If this is not the case, placing the rod tip close to to under the water, places the greatest stress directly on the fish.

I tend to keep the rod just above the surface for two reasons. The first is I often don't really know where the underwater snags are and by keeping the tip just above the water allows me to switch sides on the fish.

But in the situation where the fish is taking the line into the brush or near a known snag. I put the tip under the water because if it gets to the snag, I know I've lost the fish.

This brings me to another key element of fighting a big fish. That is to know where it will likely go before you hook it. This is known in the military as situational awareness. Whenever you are fishing where you may hook a large fish, you should know before hand where it will likely head. There are "safe" areas that a fish will head to when it is hooked. Big fish get big because they have likely escaped many times before, and they will do the same move that got them out of trouble before.

So preparedness is key to winning the fight. If you are surprised at how the fish escaped, you were not prepared and that should be a learning experience.

When using extremely light tippets, a "softer rod tip" slower action fly rod will protect the tippet. If you do not have a slow action fly rod, placing elastic material like Rio Shock Gum between the fly line and leader or in the leader between the butt and leader transition will help protect the tippet.





I place this at the end of my post because this will change as advancements are made in polymer chemistry —-> Use the strongest tippet available to you. At this time I believe it is either Trout Hunters or Stroft Tippet Material. Stroft is what my friend Gary Borger uses.

Gary Borger » Blog Archive » Stroft GTM Tippet Material

 

jrp11948

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Thanks for the responses, especially Silver Creek. 3 for “up”, 2 for “down” and 1 for “it depends”. Very interesting guys..
 

myt1

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I've been spending some of my quarantine time watching George Daniel videos on dynamic nymphing.

He is a big advocate of keeping the rod close to the water.

It has to do mainly with being able to guide the fish while you are reeling it in, but it also has something to do with being more gentle to the fish as well.

I always thought there should be a significant upward component to reeling in a fish, particularly with barbless hooks, because it would keep the fish hooked.
 

bonefish41

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My fresh experience is limited to essentially one Michigan river the Pere Marquette. I'll high stick for Browns to keep them out of the wood. Low stick for Steel being advised by both of my guides low stick tends to keep them in their pool and from jumping thrashing on the surface. As for salt low stick for Tarpon, high stick for Permit Bonefish when on backing and until close under 30 feet then low...high attempt to avoid junk on the flat.
 

flav

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I'm in the "it depends" group. Early in the fight when a big fish is running and jumping I usually have the rod tip held high to keep the line clear of the water. Once the fish settles down I use side pressure to keep them off balance to tire them and work them close enough to land.
 

LOC

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Rod tip up to avoid obstacles in the water. I carp fish on a river and if you go rod tip down you're going to get snagged on something if the fish runs upstream.

Rod tip down to put side pressure on a fish and keep him turning when there are no obstacles. I use this tactic all the time in the surf.
 

dillon

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As a lifelong salmo, trout an steelhead angler, I’ve had some he opportunity to play hundreds of big fish. From years of experience, playing a fish, becomes intuitive. The last thing I want to hear is someone shouting at me about how to do it. I’ve also helped many people land fish. I try to keep my mouth shut and let they play the fish on their own. We all learn from every fish we land, and always wonder what went wrong when a fish comes off. I do hold the rod tip verticals when the fish is running, and drop it a bit when it jumps. However, when the fish stops it’s run and it’s time to gain line and pump it in I hold the rod to one side or the other and apply maximum pressure, pulling the fish, then winding line as I point the rod at it, keeping the line tight. I often, change the angle of the rod to turn the fish in different directions as I lead it toward my predetermined landing location. Never, would I hold the rod tip high in the final stages of the fight. Always trying to pull the hook into the fish, rather than away from it. I absolutely love playing big fish and appreciate guides that let me do it my way. A few of them have even complimented me after a steelhead was set free and they had photographed it in the water. Always looking at the fish and not the camera... :)
 

okaloosa

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I do hold the rod tip verticals when the fish is running, and drop it a bit when it jumps. However, when the fish stops it’s run and it’s time to gain line and pump it in I hold the rod to one side or the other and apply maximum pressure, pulling the fish, then winding line as I point the rod at it, keeping the line tight. I often, change the angle of the rod to turn the fish in different directions as I lead it toward my predetermined landing location. Never, would I hold the rod tip high in the final stages of the fight. Always trying to pull the hook into the fish, rather than away from it.
well said!
 

okaloosa

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You're not going to see any rods tip up in this video"


I have done a lot of tarpon and pacific sail fishing and everything he says is true in my experience. But it is important to have a very dependable reel with a great drag that does not bind at all when you put that much pressure on a big fish that has explosive runs. Now if you want to get a tarpon to jump for a photo or just for fun high stick him.....
 

redietz

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But it is important to have a very dependable reel with a great drag that does not bind at all when you put that much pressure on a big fish that has explosive runs.
"Big" is a relative term, though. I was fishing a stream last summer that holds mostly 8 inch wild trout, and was using a tool appropriate for that size fish: a very light 2 weight glass rod. When I unexpectedly hooked a 16 inch fish, I couldn't move it at all with the rod tip up at all, the fish had complete control. I realized that I needed to fight it like it was a big fish. Once I brought the rod tip almost parallel to the water and used the reel and the butt of the rod, the fish was in my net in no time. Not exactly tarpon, but the same principles applied.
 

okaloosa

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"Big" is a relative term, though. I was fishing a stream last summer that holds mostly 8 inch wild trout, and was using a tool appropriate for that size fish: a very light 2 weight glass rod. When I unexpectedly hooked a 16 inch fish, I couldn't move it at all with the rod tip up at all, the fish had complete control. I realized that I needed to fight it like it was a big fish. Once I brought the rod tip almost parallel to the water and used the reel and the butt of the rod, the fish was in my net in no time. Not exactly tarpon, but the same principles applied.
exactly...the only thing I would add is stream/river fishing is actually trickier since currents play such a big factor. I have lost more big browns than I lost sails or tarpon.
I think it is easier to teach someone how to fight a big tarpon in open water than fight a big trout in fast water.
 

tcorfey

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I am in agreement that rod tip up, level or down how and in what direction to apply pressure is situation dependent. The environment where you are fishing, the species of fish you are after, the size of the fish all dictate how to fight the fish. Sometimes while fighting a fish I may use several different methods depending on what is going on.
 
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