March 29th, 2004

Walk Down to Him
By James Castwell


Walk down to him.

Let me start out this way. WALK DOWN TO HIM!

There, I've been wanting to write that for seven years. Time after time I see it on T.V. and on the stream; a guy standing knee-deep facing down-stream, rod bent, slack-jawed and frantic. Somehow he got a fish and now it's downstream from him and he stands trapped in his tracks, cranking his large-arbor reel. What's the matter, Dorf, you too lazy to move a little?

First off, when a fish is downstream from you he isn't using up any energy. The current is doing his work for him. A little wiggle sideways and he can tack and plane wherever he wants to go. Meantime, your fly is wearing a bigger and bigger hole in his lip, time is on his side. And, by the way, if you really want to increase your landing ratio, try to hook as many as possible upstream, not down. The fly has a far better chance of getting into the hinge of the jaw.

Let me quote from a book written about forty years back by Harold Walden 2nd, called The Last Pool. Here a story about a guy who has been swinging big streamers at night on a fair sized stream out east; the fish has just hit it on the swing.

"Now it starts. Now that reverie has left you and you are caught up full in the ecstacy of high strife. There is a moment now when your reel gives out a sound you have never heard it make. Yard after yard of precious line is leaving your guides, entering the water in this mad charge.

Let it go for an instant. Then check, not abruptly but slowly, feeling his weight. You know how much line you have, including your backing; you know the approximate length of line when the strike occurred. The difference is your margin of safety–or part of it. The rest is hidden in the bed of the stream: rocks and roots and snags, a run of rough water below, and if he gets into any of these he is lost.

Then keep him away. Keep him in open water if you can and say a prayer for your tackle as you prepare to turn him. For you've got to turn him now. You can't let him get snagged or reach the end of your line at full speed.

Now apply pressure. Something less than the breaking point usually suffices to turn any but the largest fish.

Does he come around? Is he doesn't, hold him where he is with an even pressure or let him go a little farther if you dare. If he is downstream, WADE DOWN TO HIM, keeping the line tight. But don't try to horse him back; a lost fish will be the almost certain result."

The caps above are mine, but I wanted to make sure you didn't miss that line. The fish will most often hold still if you do not 'gig' him up while you are making your way downstream to get at least alongside of him. Now, pop him a bit, be careful though, he has been resting and will now probably run against the strain of your line. That would likely be upstream at this point.

From here on out you are in command. Play him as you should and when he has wearied of the game, let him drift back into your awaiting net. I have even been known to let up and allow a few feet of slack to happen when I get alongside of a nice fish in a stream. The current will take the line downstream and he has hardly any choice as to which way to run. No real slack develops as the stream keeps the line tight. Sneaky, but I still has a few tricks up my sleeve.

Want another one? Do not be in a big hurry to net your fish. Likely as not you are going to release him anyway, so, relax. If he has any size he will make another run about the time is close enough to read Hodgman and off he goes again. Be ready for it. Keep your rod just above horizontal, short line, in front of you. When he takes off he is on the reel and you are still in control. Net him on the next pass when both of you have settled down somewhat.

Then you both will deserve each other. ~ James Castwell


Till next week, remember . . .

Keepest Thynne Baakast Upeth

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