Fishtales Outfitting guide, and guest blogger Joe Willauer is a veteran fly fishing guide from Twin Bridges, Montana. A true technique nerd and teacher, he enjoys writing about ways to help anglers improve their game on his blog Evolution Anglers. After a dozen years of guiding trout and steelhead throughout the west he decided it was time to put his degree to use and works for a non-profit out of Butte and guides about 40 days a summer on the famous rivers around Twin Bridges. When he’s not fishing he’s hanging out with his beautiful wife and two kids taking advantage of living in the best part of the greatest state in the union.
The number of videos and blog posts available online that teach “best tricks to catch more trout” are numerous. Everything from knots to gear to re-naming mends that have been around forever, if you want tips on how to do something related to catching trout, you can find it. The technique I’m talking about today is probably the most underrated skill for catching trout, and I have yet to see it talked about anywhere online, and that is knowing how hard you can pull on a fish.
As a guide, you become a broken record about many things, and one of the many guidisms I spit out a lot throughout the summer is “the guys who pull the hardest land the most fish”. I think any trout guide worth a shit would echo this same sentiment. It takes a mentality shift to get there, which can only come from experience and confidence, but it is absolutely the truth. One you firmly know how strong your tippet is you can pull much harder on fish than you thing. The reminder I constantly use is to think about how hard you have to point and pull when you chuck your rig into a tree. It takes a wrap of fly line around your hand to break off the line, with a straight line, on anything heavier than 3x. That is a lot of pressure! If you were to try to break 3x with a bent rod you would likely break your rod first. Take that mentality to fighting fish, and you will be surprised at how many more hit the net.
The mentality shift for this approach to fighting fish is the biggest challenge. I have been very fortunate to do a lot of trout fishing in my 32 years. This allows me now to truly not care if I put my fingers on a fish once it is hooked. Close to the net? Good enough for me unless it’s the size of my arm. That being said, when you fight them hard, you end up landing more of them anyways, but when the average 16″ brown falls off because I’m pulling too hard, so be it.
Aside from the obvious benefit of landing more trout that comes along with fighting fish hard and knowing how to pull on them, there is a much more important benefit: It’s better for the fish! Hot water, cold water, summer, winter, the quicker you get a fish in and out the higher it’s chance of survival is. Be sure to fish strong tippet, don’t pull on them like a wimp, and get them in and on their way quickly. You’ll be happier for it, and so will the fish!
For more information on Montana fly fishing, fishing reports, tips tricks and tactics visit Fishtales Outfitting.