Check Your Fly Rig!

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Photo by Louis Cahill

Photo by Louis Cahill

By Justin Pickett

The sun is only a faint glow below the horizon as it prepares to make its ascent into the sky.

I launch my chunky, articulated offering into the twilight.

Slicing through the fog, it lands mere inches from the bank.

Soon, will come the moment of truth.

That split second when man and fish will come to learn their fate.

Strip, strip, strip.

A menacing silhouette emerges from the darkness.

Strip, strip. Flash! Strip, strip. Bam! Big hit!

The hook set is on point. The rod bends abruptly.

The surly Brown shakes his head angrily at the unpleasant sensation of resistance.

It is the moment that I have anticipated all morning. All week.

It is this moment that will haunt me for some time, for my net is empty and my fly is lost.

It happens. Trout, among the many other species of fish, will get the best of us sometimes. No matter what we do right, there are always those fish that just seem to be living right and never make it to our nets. The scenario described above, however, may not have ended the way that it did had I just checked my rig thoroughly before hitting the water.

It was still dark as I gathered all of my gear and transferred it into the Adipose. I didn’t rig my rod before leaving the house like I had planned so, when I got to the parking lot, I rushed through my normal routine of checking through my gear. Instead, I just threw everything together so I could get on the water ASAP. However, of course, hurrying through things tends to bite you in the ass later on, as it did on this particular morning. The bite in the ass being the humiliating loss of a very large brown trout.

That big brown slab shook his head hard after a short sprint downstream. Suddenly, just as he began a second drag-stealing run, my line went slack, my rod kicked back, and my head dropped in disbelief. WTF!!!! Everything seemed to go just right. The hook set. The fight. My drag setting. I made sure my loop knot was solid. It all felt great to me. I was confident I was about to land one of my biggest trout to date. Upon further inspection of my leader, I noticed something odd about where the tippet had snapped. It wasn’t the blood knot, nor was it the loop knot that attached the fly that had failed. The tippet had snapped about half-way into the eighteen inch section of fluoro. How? Was there a wind-knot? Was it frayed or damaged? Did some tippet troll use it to floss his teeth? I don’t, nor will I ever, know because I didn’t take a few extra seconds to check my leader! It’s likely that the tippet was frayed or damaged in some way. I had fished the same rig for bass in the days leading up to that morning float. It was a silly, fundamental mistake that proved costly. Had I taken the time to check, I would have probably noticed if there was anything present compromising the tippet’s integrity and tied on a new piece.

Don’t be like I was on that morning.

I let my excitement get in the way of landing the trout that I was after. Take your time getting ready for the day. Check your reel, rod, leaders, and flies to make sure everything is copacetic. If you have a hard time slowing yourself down when you hit the water, do what I typically do and rig everything the night before. Taking the time to ensure all of your gear is in tip top shape will help prevent the unnecessary “long distance release” and improve your chances of being successful while on the water.

Justin Pickett
Gink & Gasoline
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6 thoughts on “Check Your Fly Rig!

  1. been there, done that. and feel the remorse all day when I know it was my fault. didn’t check leader, hook, secure knots, etc. Simple stuff we all do regularly, but those few occasions are when IT happens, and it is never on a small fish…
    We live, we learn, we vow to not repeat our mistakes. Good read. Thanks for keeping it reel…
    Tight Lines,

  2. I would add that you continue to check your rig throughout the day as you fish, especially if you snag up on anything. I was out last week streamer fishing for the day and was having a good day until I had a hog rocket up out of no where and crush my streamer only to shake it loose almost instantaneously. Not understanding how a bone crushing hit like that didn’t end with at least a fight of some duration I brought my fly in only to see that the point had been crumpled, probably as a result of briefly sticking a rock at some point earlier. The very tip of the hook point was bent up and dull and I was kicking myself for not continuously checking my fly throughout the day.

    • Absolutely Aaron! While checking your rig before hitting the water is essential, constantly checking it throughout the day is vital to your success! Thanks for the comment!

  3. “hurrying through things tends to bite you in the ass later”

    Few truer words have ever been written – and not just in fly fishing!

  4. Missed hooksets on three hogs in a row in Patagonia until I brought my gear in and found that the hook had broken off at about mid-bend. No point on it at all. Heartbreaking.

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