3 Bad Habits That Lose Big Fish

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Photos by Louis Cahill

Photos by Louis Cahill

By Louis Cahill

Tired of hooking big fish just to lose them in the fight?

This came up the other day when I was fishing with a buddy. Like too many anglers, he’d been losing big fish, one after the next, over the same simple mistakes. It was a ‘face-palm’ moment when I pointed it out. In part because he actually knew better than to do any of these three things, and did them any way.

I’m not ragging on my buddy. I’ve seen plenty of anglers make these same mistakes and suffer the consequences. Simple habits you can get away with on the average fish become huge disasters when you hook a trophy. Have a look at this list and make sure you you’re not making the same mistakes.

3 Bad Habits That Lead To Lost Fish

Ignoring wind knots

DSCF8790How many times have you felt a wind knot in your leader and thought, I’ll fix it next time? Maybe the fishing was hot and you didn’t want to miss any action. How many times did ignoring that wind knot result in breaking off a nice fish? The only time to fix wind knots is NOW. As soon as you find them, and it’s a good idea to check your leader often. If you find wind knots, chafing, nicks, or anything other than a perfect leader, fix it right away. You never know if the next fish to eat your fly will be a trophy.

A sloppy reel

edit-5724Ever look down at your reel and see a sloppy mess of fly line poorly stacked on the reel? I know I have. Maybe things got hectic fighting the last fish or you just spooled up a bunch of slack line in a hurry when you saw a fish rising in the next pool. That sloppy reel is an invitation for disaster. Poorly spooled line can easily bind or knot when a strong fish starts ripping it off of the reel. When you see a bird’s nest in the making, stop, strip it all off of the reel and stack it neatly. It’s time well spent.

The statuesque angler

_DSF1356-Edit-2Like Fred McDowell said, “When the lord gets ready, you got to move.” I’ve seen too many anglers stand in one spot and watch bad things happen during a fight. When a big fish starts to run, you have to go with him. Especially if that run is downstream, or toward structure. If you are not able to maintain a ninety degree connection to the fish, or use side pressure against him, you’ve got to move. And sometimes you’ve got to move fast.

I remember a time when I was on a photo shoot and the angler hooked a huge trout, which tore off downstream. It was a rough wade and the angler wasn’t confident about moving downstream in a hurry. I put down the camera and we locked arms and chased the fish together. Stay light on your feet like a boxer. They call it fighting a fish for a reason.

Fly fishing is a craft as much as a sport, and attention to detail is key to success. If you find that you are making any of these mistakes, make today the day to start good new habits. When that trophy fish eats our fly, you’ll be ready for success.

Louis Cahill
Gink & Gasoline
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6 thoughts on “3 Bad Habits That Lose Big Fish

  1. If you really want to anger the Fishing Gods, just ignore that leader fray or poorly tied knot that you’re too tired to fix. The Fishing Gods always make you pay for being lazy.

  2. I agree with your top 3. The next is not rigging properly in the first place: careful, proper, competent knots and sufficient tippet strength. I am back living in Florida and returned to the salt. These factors are universal.

  3. How about untested tippet to fly knots? Pulling in your line after a lost fish and seeing just a curlicue of monofilament where your fly once was. Bummer.

    • I’m still haunted by a monster rainbow I lost because of this last season. Easily the biggest trout I’d ever even cast at. I remember thinking to myself that I should double check the knot, but I was to eager to have a go at it so ignored my own advice. Sure enough, right as I was about to get it in the net it popped & I was left with a nice wee curly slap in the face on the end of my tippet. To make things worse, my mate got it all on video, so I’ve had to relive the moment several times.

      Since then I’ve always double checked my knots.

  4. That third point is a huge mistake I often make….. I have lost several really good fish trying to yank them back up current to me. I’ve taken to trying to get and stay parallel to fish. Not as easy as it sounds, but the results are worth it. Along with that, especially if you are fishing with friends, admit when you need help landing a fish. There’s no shame in admitting that you need a hand netting a really good fish.

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