Steelhead - hookup/landed ratio

Discussion in 'Steelhead' started by Wayne Kohan, Jan 2, 2007.

  1. The first step in getting help is to admit you need help. I have hooked up with 13 steelhead this year, and have touched just three of them. A couple more of them were at my feet when I pulled the hook out of their mouth, and I was going to release them anyway. But the majority of fish lost were lost when they jumped. By the way, 6 fish were hooked by swinging with a spey rod, and the other 7 were hooked nymphing below an indicator. And by hooked, I mean that all of them were on for at least 30 seconds, and they took line off my reel. I did not lose any flies to the fish, so the tippet or know wasn't the problem. The hooked pulled out each time. I fish exclusively barbless flies.

    So since the aerial seems to be my weakest point, what is one supposed to do when a fish jumps? Give line, or keep tight? When I fight the fish, I try to keep my rod tip pointed back to keep a good bend in the tip of the rod for tippet protection. When the fish runs, I tend to point my rod at the fish to allow the drag of the reel to tire the fish.

    So, what can I do to land these fish? Yesterday I was out at Ringold swinging a fly and had one hookup. I honestly though I was hung on a rock and gave three hard pulls to loosen my fly, when on the third hard pull I felt a head shake and line started peeling off my reel. When he stopped, I started reeling in line and almost immediately he jumped and spit the fly. I saw the splash but didn't get a good look at the fish, but I think he was a big one (aren't they all when they get away?)

    Anyway, give up your secrets on landing these things. Please!!!

  2. Here's my .02...
    One way to get better at fighting big fish is to fish for more plentiful fish, such as coho and/or chum. All things considered, once one learns how to handle these fish, you'll be more than ready to tackle steelhead. Of course at this point in the year, the coho and chum are all but done but keep them in mind for next season.

    All that said, one error that I see often is playing the fish too hard and consequently having the fish break the tippet - and/or playing it too softly and allowing the fish to either become too tired and/or having the hook pop out. The longer that the fish is fighting, the more likely it is to have the hook come out. Make sure your rod isn't bouncing when you're excited and fighting the fish.

    Secondly, I would never point the rod at the fish unless you intend to break it off. Conversely, don't lift the fish out of the water by having your rod tip too high. When the fish is in the water, it is bouyant. When it's out of the water, it is not and and when a fish bucks, the real weight of the fish can often cause slack and can pop the hook out. I think you're better holding the rod to the side, this will apply the same leverage but not lift the fish out of the water.

    When using a two-hander, you'll need to bend the rod more deeply to apply the same amount of force that a single-hander does. In the case of the long two-handed rod, the fish is applying more energy on you than you are on the fish because of the length of the lever you're using.

    Another reason that people loose fish is not having constant tension. The rod should act as a shock absorber when the fish is bucking away. When the fish runs at you or away from you, you may need to strip line or release line to work the fish. It only takes an inch or two of slack in the system for the hook to release.

    Just like anything else, the more you do it the better you'll get. You should be able to attain a hook/land ratio in the 80-90% range.

  3. Wayne,
    Glad to hear your are at least hooking up. One tactic I learned up in Alaska is to lower your rod tip to the water level as soon as you see the fish heading for a jump posture. This seems to help keep tension on the fly when the fish jumps.

    If you are still shaking them off, you could try a smaller hook. :hmmm:
  4. I find that on the lean trips you hookup and lose them more often and it sticks in your mind a lot more when one comes off. When you catch a couple of them in a trip you seem to forget the ones that got away.

    The more you feel like you need one the more they seem to get off. My first trip of the winter I lost both of the ones I hooked in to. I didnt horse them or anything I lost one because it ran straight at me and then turn and left a nice 4' belly in the line and came unhooked which is fair I was outplayed.

    The other one I never really had time to play it I got the take and then it exploded into cartwheel and a tail walk and I actually saw my fly fling out of its mouth.
  5. Good info and good question. You certainly don't want to lose tension, that's where you're losing the fish, and at the same time, if you apply to much, you will break the fish off. In my experience..... having the drag set properly from the get go is paramount. When the fish jumps, I raise my rod almost flat and level to the fish's location and give my rod to the fishes resistance, in other words- dropping, pointing, or following. The key here is that the tip is not verticle and above the butt section, so the fish is in close contact with the reel and drag creating immediate touch to the fish when it explodes and head shakes. My 2 cents.
  6. Be happy, my streak was at 1 for 39 for a while.... Biggest difference, for me on my newfound success....

    Focus on how much tension the rod is putting on the fish, DO NOT focus on the reel (Thanks Steve Buckner!)

    Do the hook set *downstream* not upstream. Gets the hook in there better (thanks Ibn!)

    Don't be afraid to put the wood to the fish and get them tired as quickly as possible (thanks Steelie Mike!).
  7. I have been wondering about this. I have had decent success with the few steelhead I have hooked. It seems that the times I have lost fish it has been because they jumped, I had my rod tip up, and they 'used' my rod tip to create slack in the line. Intuitively, it makes sense to me to find a happy medium between using the reel and rod; keeping the rod in play, but maybe giving a little when the fish loads the rod real hard so that he can't load and unload the rod quick to gain slack.
  8. Wtf??? They are no tarpon.

    Always set downstream and play the fish with you're rod positioned down stream or across stream from the fish if you can. When the fish gets close do not raise the rod, a sharp angle change can often pop the hook out.

    Side pressure rocks, pull the fish across the current, not up through it.

    Putting the wood on a fish can be bad or good, I lost the last fish that i got a grab from on the set but have gone 20/21 before that, I think putting the wood to a fish is very important towards the end of the fight. That said, while the steelie is doing its thing, let it be unless it is a matter of loosing the fish in a log jam or something. Then when it stops, rear back like Bill Dance!


    But not really, just increase the pressure and start to reel. No sudden movements on your part except getting into a good position to land a fish. If the steelie is hauling ass downstream I sometimes run after it unless I am in a place where I am immobilized. On a large river I think holding your ground can give you the upper hand but on small stuff, that fish gets around one bend and its broken off/free.

    Try to find a shallow bar to bring a steelhead onto, so you can establish if it is wild or hatchery, and how to deal with it once landed. Soft nets can be nice on smaller fish but a huge steelhead can defeat most nets I would like to carry with me while wade fishing.

  9. I always said, I was good at hooking up, bad at landing... I had several bad habits, and I've been slowly eroding them away... :) Unlike you, I don't get to hit big batches of steel all the time, so I'd get so excited, I'd pop a cork!

    -- Cheers
    -- James
  10. 3/1
    Remember the day Reagan got shot? Didn't think so:rolleyes: At any rate, I was fishing the Anchor (AK) that day and hooked seven steelhead. None of them ever came in. That's my worst.
  11. If I'm serious about landing a steelhead, I always try to keep the fish basically out in front of me rather than downstream. In my experience, if you let a fish stay downstream of you for any length of time you're almost ensure it will fall off (or your line will break).

    The other factor is to fight the fish hard and get him in (which means using appropriately sized gear). Time is not your friend when fighting steelhead insofar as the hook eventually will wear a larger and larger hole in the fish's mouth. If you're going barbless this is even a greater issue.

    As far as the jumping fish problem, I used to fish extensively with straight mono, and I've noticed that I lose more jumping fish with fly line. My theory is that the fish dragging that line up and out of the water creates tension that effectively allows the fish to pull the hook out of its mouth. With straight mono that tension is reduced significantly. So keep your rod tip and keep that fly line out of the water as much as possible when the fishing is doing its thing.
  12. While I do no steelheading, I TARGET fish that are similar in size to a smallish steelhead, and I do not go after them armed to be disapointed. Meaning at the lightest 12 lb tippet, which means in all likelyhood unless I hook a true hawg, I can control the fight even if the fish is 6 or 7 pounds and is mid river in the upper madison. Like zen said, side pressure is your best friend, if you can get them turned towards you then keep the pressure and keep them turned until they are at your feet. When landing fish like that, you dont necesarily need a net unless your in a boat, you need to be quick to grab their tail, if you can control the tail you can control the fish.
  13. Nice info Andy.
    James is gonna need a lot of help though. he breaks fish off like its going out of style.
  14. Has anyone read Lefty's Fly Fishing in Saltwater? I'm sure many of you have. It's all in there. He recommends dropping your rod tip to the water to take the tensoin off, but not throw slack. Man, it works. I've not faught many steelhead, but have landed more than enough >16 lb silvers in Kodiak sweet and saltwater. If a fish will jump, it's a silver, and giving the fish room to thrash without giving him too much slack is the way to go from what I've dealt with. I fish 100% barbless, and always have. I lost alot of my early catches, but after learning to drop the tip, the problem has been all but alleviated.

  15. Wayne -
    First I don't think the barbless hooks are a problem. I have been using barbless for more than 30 years and consistently land more than 80% of the fish hooked.

    I would suggest that you take a look at the hooks you are using. I have better luck with finer wires rather than heavy wire and long points rather than short points. It seems to be that the finer wires penetrate more easily and I can't tell you how many times that I have re-hooked a fish (see the hook on the left side and after jump have it hooked on the right). My current favorite hook is a Daiichi # 2451.

    As the others point out how you take the fight to the fish also makes a big difference. Steve's suggestion to "practice" with other large fish is an excellent one. I really like to "fight" the fish with the rod held high - the flex in the rule keeps pressure on the fish and takes up any slack as well as cushions any sudden lunges on the fish's part. Once I stick the fish I like to fish a relatively light drag and allow the fish to run - Have found that once the fish has turned and run a short distance I have good hook set and rarely lose a fish even on jumps (those fish that jump immediately are other story). Even with light pressure the fish usually stop relatively quickly. Once the fish stops I take the fight to the fish with lots of pressure (including side pressure) however I'm always alert to release pressure when the fish turns to go. By alternating the pressure and allowing the fish to run I find that I typcially "break" the fish's spirit to fight rather the exhausting. The result is the fish are not over played and easily released, can be landed in surprising short times, and on some pretty light tackle. I would not worry about "bowing" to the fish on the jumps rather focus on keeping the rod up and not to apply too much pressure during the runs and jumps. If you do so the rod will take care of most of your problems.

    The good news is what you really need is practice - in other words fish more.

    Tight lines
  16. I'm one for one. And that one was many months ago. :confused: I think I'd rather be one for twelve and at least know I knew how to get into fish. Then I could worry about landing them. :hmmm:
  17. side pressure with the rod low to the water. I dont point with rod at the fish, because its supposed to be exerting the pressure. Like zen said, pulling fish up through the water column is a quick way to loose tension and therefore loose the fish, so if you are fighting a fish with the rod tip really reduces the chance of landing it. Finally when they jump keep some tension, they are usually shaking their heads mid air so if you keep tension with the rod tip low you're likely to keep the fish on the hook. But hell what do I know, I'm o-1 this winterseason myself, but it was hooked in real slow water so I never really had it on good.
  18. Thanks all for the comments. Last year I broke many of them off when I got them close to shore, but I learned it was because I would point the rod at the fish to pull it in and the line would break. I'm better this year as I've not broken any off.

    It sounds like I just need to keep the pressure and tension on them. Sometimes I don't seem to recognize that they are coming at me quick enough to pick up the slack.

    I really like Curt's idea - I think I need to practice more. Could you all e-mail my wife and let her know?:D

  19. I think that it is just like a slump for a baseball player, people think to damn much and it gets in the way being sucessful. At least that is my experience. an 'over-thinker' as Colin Cowherd would put it.
  20. My percentage landed was real low when nymphing eggs. I could see that I had them hooked right in the end of upper jaw. Not very soft there. I'm going to try the downstream sweep to set the hook that Zen talked about in his article. And I switched to Gamy glo bug hooks. But now I can't get a bite to try out these new ideas.

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