Friday, March 13, 2009

Fishing the Russian, Part III - Set the Hook

It's not at all uncommon to see fishermen pick up their rod to retrieve their line at the end of a cast only to find that a fish is suddenly, and explosively, on their line. These episodes usually don't last long, as the fish heads for Kenai via the moon and the angler ducks as his fly comes shooting back at him and then stands shaking his head in frustration.

Many anglers are tempted by the repeated experience to believe that the rod lift is what "caught" the fish. In other words, they believe they successfully "snagged the fish in the mouth." Now, I have seen some awfully impressive fishermen on the Russian, but I don't believe any of them could repeatedly dart the fish in the mouth were it not for the line guiding the hook inside. So, it is pointless, and often counter-productive to think you can jerk the line and mystically catch the fish. The reason the fish becomes apparent at the end of the cast is that the line entered the fish's mouth earlier, probably close into shore, and sufficient slack remained in the line such that the hook was not drawn all the way to the fish's mouth. The fish is sitting there flossing itself. Then the fisherman starts to retrieve. The hook limply pokes the fish, who gets pissed, but the fisherman is unaware, thinking the cast is over, and has no chance to properly set the hook.

The fact is, either the line is already in place, or it isn't. If it is, you're golden: you feel carefully for the bump throughout the cast and even when you retrieve, and you set as hard as you can if you feel it. But if the line in not in place and you jerk too early, you may just poke the fish lightly, causing it to start without a solid hook in the mouth. More often and much worse, you will cause the hook to rise through the water and set deeply in a fish's back or tail, which may seem exciting if you've never caught a fish before, but will quickly become frustrating for you (not to mention the fish) as you burn up time, tackle, arm strength and the patience of your neighbor as you try to drag a tail-hook buck upstream. Not a pretty sight. Instead of all that, just let the hook find the fish on its own, then set.

Snagging fish is illegal
When you do bring that snagged fish to bank, do not be tempted. Let it go. The penalties can be severe and the damage to your sportsmanship is even worse.

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