“Keep the rod up” is good, basic instruction but is often the worst advice you can give to someone hooked into a heavier fish. When fighting bigger fish, or to get the fish in fast and fresh you want to utilise the rod butt, and keeping the rod up isn’t the way to do this. The rod tip provides the shock absorption to protect smaller flies and lighter tippet but the thicker, more powerful butt section is where it’s at when you need to play ‘em like a boss.
Sure, for lifting the fish to the net, or keeping the line clear of rocks and obstructions a high rod can be beneficial but to play a fish with the rod held high to the sky will often result in a long, drawn out battle.
Try this. Tie your leader to a fence post, vehicle, a kid playing Minecraft (they’re immovable aren’t they?) or other heavy object. Now raise the rod tip, high and feel the power of the rod as it flexes. Hold it there. Now look at the rod: most of that flex is occurring in the tip I bet with the butt pretty much straight. Now maintaining the bend, tip the rod out to the side 90 degrees and pull in a strip of line. Now you’ll feel the real power as the bend descends deeper and the butt section comes into play.
By keeping the rod bent on a lower, more horizontal plane, all the energy is pulling the fish towards you, not lifting him. You’ll often get him in closer, quicker. What you want to achieve is a full, perfect curve in the blank. Not pulling this curve deep enough is wasted energy and likely, a lost fish, however don’t pull the rod too far back / point the butt at the fish...’point loading’ is one of the top causes of rod breakages out there.
A note on point loading:
‘But it broke while playing a fish??!!’
‘I was just holding the rod and threading it up’
‘I was only pulling line out and it snapped above the top ferrule’
Will often result in a knowing look and a sympathetic sigh when you return your rod to the store. You bent your rod unnaturally, beyond the natural curve and placed all that pressure on a singular point. Of course it ended in tears.
Another tip is to get out into the water and crouch down low. You’re already in position if the fish comes within netting reach, or close enough to tail and by making yourself small, and essentially hiding, this will probably happen a lot sooner than if you were standing tall on the bank waving your rod around like the gigantic beast you are... a long handled, extendable net will also give you shots at securing fish earlier in the fight than your typical, short handled net. And we all know it’s good to keep them fresh.
Finally, don’t be afraid to play with rod angles as soon as the fish succumbs to the pull of your rod, change the angle. Higher, lower, around to the left then back to the right. Even with the fight is young, you’ll be amazed at how much control you can get over the fish early on, and by effectively ‘steering’ him, how easily and quickly you can get him in close and contain the fight into quite a small area.
Play fish more effectively and you’ll simply catch more. And that’s a fact!