Unhang My Fly You Villain Stump!

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By Justin Pickett

One of the unavoidable happenings in fly fishing is the oh-so-wonderful snag.

Overhead limbs, rocks, submerged timber, rhodo, your net man… you name it, it’s out there just waiting to snatch your fly from the air. A lot of the time it’s game over for your rig. You just have to break it off and move on after a short grieving period. There are, however, certain scenarios where one simple trick can save your flie(s) from being lost to the Water Nymphs. It’s by no means 100% effective, but it’s easy and worth a few tries before snapping your tippet.

First thing, if you’ve discerned that your fly is hung up on something solid on the bottom, or you’ve laid your flies across a log, or any other obstacle, sit tight for a second. Don’t set the hook into it any further! Before you going tugging on your rod like you’re Magnus Ver Magnusson, do this….

Strip in the majority of your line, leaving it just taught enough to lift your fly line above the water. Once the fly line is ABOVE the water, bring your fly rod tip to 12 o’clock like you would to make a roll cast. You may need to slip a little more line as you position your rod correctly. Once you’ve gotten everything situated, execute a firm roll cast straight at your fly. The loop created by the cast will transfer momentum past the fly, opposite of the direction that it was snagged, potentially releasing the hook from the snag. Didn’t work the first time? Try again, but this time be more abrupt and forceful with your roll cast. I typically give it three or four attempts before I either 1) wade across the water to get my flies (if it’s possible and safe to do and I don’t plan on fishing that run any longer) or 2) pull on my tippet to either free the flies, or break them off.

Like I said, it doesn’t always work, but it’s simple and doesn’t require you to disturb the run you’re trying to fish. It’s at least worth a shot before progressing to the drastic measures that we sometimes embark on in order to save our precious flies!


Louis Cahill
Gink & Gasoline
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6 thoughts on “Unhang My Fly You Villain Stump!

  1. Or, look at a lost fly as a chance to add your latest “can’t miss” creation to the other 700 flies in the box. Finally, an open space!

  2. Thanks for the reminder/tip. I’ve successfully executed this a few times, seemed like a logical thing to do, and it it actually worked

  3. If that doesn’t work I then pull the line tight, walk upstream of the snag and pull it from the opposite direction. Flies come free at least 75% of the time iI’d say!

  4. Great tip! This has worked for me on numerous occasions. Of course my percentage success stll favors of the rock/log.

    A variation on this technique, if you’re snagged downstream, is to roll cast line beyond your fly. Pay out some line and allow it to get below the snag. Once the current is exerting tension on your line below the fly, keep your rod low to the water and sharply pull back as if you were setting the hook. This will occasionally pull the fly off the snag downstream of its position.

    Of course all of this is predicated on your having worked the pool or run. If I get snagged on my first cast, then I generally break off the fly with the least amount of disturbance I can muster…..

  5. All the tips have been great! I agree they work a large percentage of the time. I lose a lot fewer flies than when I first started fly fishing.
    Keep in mind, if you have no other option but to break off, point the rod tip at the fly to keep the rod tip straight, then pull back the fly line to break off. Early in my fly fishing days, I tried using the bending force of the rod to break off a snag and instead broke off the top section of my rod.

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