Fact: the faster you land a fish, the better the odds of survival.
Here are five tips to help you turn a 15-round heavyweight boxing natch into a shorter, tougher MMA fight… and win more often than not.
— Use 5X or stronger tippet. I know, there are times when you really feel fine 7X tippet is the crucial factor for tricking that extra finicky trout. But honestly, I’ve never seen 7X fool any fish that a really good drag-free drift with 4X or 5X couldn’t fool better.
— Side-pressure the fish and fight with the line, not just the tip of the rod. I know, you were told since you first started fishing, “keep that tip up!” But try this. Have a friend hold the fly line and pull on him/her with the rod. With a high tip, they barely budge. But with the rod tilted to the side, you can pull that person off balance pretty easily, even with a 4X leader.
— Heads up game over. When the fish breaks the surface with its head, it loses leverage. Don’t let it nose back toward the bottom. If you keep steady pressure and its head above the water, you can virtually skate them right into the net.
— Speaking of nets… I have really learned to favor a longer handle net. Not quite boat net length in size—I still like to tuck them in my wading belt. But an extra foot or so on the handle really ups the odds of netting the fish quickly, especially when I’m by myself.
— Have your drag set right, before you cast. This is another one you hear often: “Get it on the reel!” as the line peels off. That’s great, but if you’re fishing a reel with a disc drag, and that drag is too loose, you’re going to hurt your odds more than help them. I like to sit down and hold the line in one hand, then let the reel slowly drop toward my lap (not over the ground where the reel can be damaged if it falls too fast). If the reel doesn’t drop, your drag is too tight. If it free-falls, it’s too loose. A medium, steady drop is just about right for most trout fishing situations.