Sunday Classic / 2 Common Mistakes That Break Fly Rods While Fighting Fish

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From the video "Cuba Saltwater Permit Fishing"

From the video “Cuba Saltwater Permit Fishing”

Do you ever talk back to the screen?

I watched a video the other day of a guy fighting a permit down in Cuba. The whole time I kept yelling, “You’re gonna break your F-ing rod!” Sure enough, with the permit at his feet, the rod snapped. The fellow grabbed his leader and landed the fish but the damage was done. It didn’t have to end that way.

So Dude, if you’re reading this, I apologize for calling you out but that fish didn’t break your rod, you did. You made two basic mistakes that I see anglers make all the time, so I’m going to use you as an example. Look at it this way, you’re going to save a lot of fly rods and at least yours didn’t die in vain.

Here are the two most common mistakes that cause rods to break while fighting fish and how to avoid them.

Supporting the butt of the rod.

During a long fight with a big fish you are going to suffer some fatigue. The muscles that apply pressure on the fish will start to burn and you will feel like you need a little help sealing the deal. Too often, the angler’s free hand decides to come to the rescue by supporting the shaft of the rod. This gives you extra leverage, allowing those tired muscles to rest, but it’s tough on your rod.

Fly rods are remarkably strong when used as they are designed to be used. The gradual increase in strength that creates the smooth arc of a bent rod protects the delicate tip and mid. The rod is designed to use the entire nine foot shaft to absorb the shock of violent head shakes and powerful runs. When you support that shaft, you stiffen that taper and, in effect, you are now fighting a fish on a six-foot rod that wasn’t made for the job. Snap!

Luckily, this is one of those rare occasions when you can have your cake and eat it too. You can get the extra leverage you need without putting your rod at risk. Instead of putting that free hand under the shaft of the rod, put it on top of the fighting butt. You will feel instant relief in your rod hand and you are using the rod in the manner it was designed to be used. Problem solved.


Not the good kind of highsticking you do when nymphing for trout. The bad kind that too many anglers do when landing big fish. Especially in saltwater. Saltwater fly rods are designed to cast with their tips and fight fish with their butts. Lifting a heavy fish with the tip of these stiff rods is a sure way to break them.

The remedy is simple. When landing the fish be sure to leave as much fly line as leader outside the tip top. Turn the reel away from you and reach your rod back away from you as you lift. This will allow you to grab the leader without over-stressing your rod. The best approach, which this good fellow in the video passed on, is to stay in the boat and let your guide land the fish. There’s no shame in it. It’s just smart.

You can watch a video of Capt. Bruce Chard demonstrating how to land a fish (HERE).

Enjoy the video of permit fishing in Cuba and next time you’re fighting a big fish, fight smarter, not harder, and take your rod home in four pieces, not five.

Come fish with us in the Bahamas!

Louis Cahill
Gink & Gasoline
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2 thoughts on “Sunday Classic / 2 Common Mistakes That Break Fly Rods While Fighting Fish

  1. Aw man…if I had a dollar for every time I’ve talked back the screen, because I’ve made that mistake…the “Been there, done that, I hope others can learn from my mistake” deal…

    …I’d be able to afford new gear… ;^)

    Clarification: I’m not a purist. I don’t chuck flies all the time.

    Yeah, that’ll get some undies in a bunch, but…

    I’m a fisherman, not a fly fisherman.

    If that offends you, dial 1-800-8355-7663663-946-22737. Completely useless bonus points to the first person to unscramble that.

    But here’s what I’m getting at:

    I’m a musky/pike guy.

    I’ve seen bunches of fishermen blow up really nice rods, fly and gear, because they don’t pay attention to two basic, rudimentary concepts:

    1) Keep your hands on the cork, and
    2) Keep the rod butt at your waist.

    …oh…yeah…lotsa those guys also lost really, really nice fish…

    Just sayin’…

  2. Pingback: Sunday Classic / 2 Common Mistakes That Break Fly Rods While Fighting Fish | Fly Fishing | Gink and Gasoline | How to Fly Fish | Trout Fishing | Fly Tying | Fly Fishing Blog

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