How To Fish Stillwaters

April 19th, 2004

Stillwaters, lakes, ponds and reservoirs are the most underutilized fisheries in the North America. Why? Because the average fly fisher doesn't know how to fish them, or where to start. Stay tuned, you too can master stillwaters! ~ LadyFisher

Float Tube Magic
Float Tube Fly Fishing Strategies, Part 7

By Patricia C. Pothier

Playing, Landing and Releasing Fish

What a wonderful feeling when a big fish takes your fly. In dry fly fishing, you can see when you have a strike as a fish takes your fly from the water surface, but in fishing with sinking lines you may not have any visual and little or no tactile warning. Since trout often take the fly softly and so far away from your rod, the first sign that you have a strike is a strong pull on your line as a trout either dives deep, takes off at a run across the lake or leaps into the air trying to throw the hook from its mouth. Since fish occasionally hit at the end of a long cast, you may wonder if a rising fish in the distance is really yours. At any sign of a fish on your line, lift the rod tip up to set the hook and then raise it high overhead to keep pressure off the leader. Through this action you can avoid having your leader broken by the strain of fighting a big fish and you are also able to keep slack out of the line. At the same time quickly reel in any slack line. You want to keep a steady pressure on the fish, but not so much that the fish breaks the leader or straightens the hook. Don't hurry the fish, let it run when it tugs, but keep a taut line. Let line off the reel when the fish surges and reel line in when the fish stops or slows down. Let the fish tire itself.

Sometimes, instead of running away from you, a trout will speed toward your tube. In this case, you must strip in line as fast as possible onto the stripping apron and then take it up with the reel as soon as possible, so that you can continue playing the fish from the tension that you put on the line with your reel. If you handle the fish efficiently during the play and through the release, there is a 95 percent chance that it will survive when you release it. Recent studies indicate that there is a direct ratio of survival to the amount of time the fish is out of water (Trout Unlimited, 1994).

When the trout is tired and you are able to reel it right next to the tube, hold the rod up with your dominant hand, reach for the net with your dipping hand and by moving the rod, try to get the fish to swim into the net. Once the fish is in the net, you can lay your rod across the tube, secured with velcro straps and you are ready to remove the hook. Try to keep the fish in water as much as possible and use wet hands if you must touch it. This avoids damaging the mucous film that covers the trout's body. Gently grip the fish by the tail or jaw with one hand, being careful not to squeeze it or touch the fragile gills, while removing the hook with the other. Needle nose forceps attached to the tube near your hand, can help you more readily remove deeply hooked flies. If the hook is too hard to remove, cut the leader and nature will heal what is left. After the hook is out and while the fish is still in the net, is the time to weigh and measure your fish using the scale from your tube pocket and a marking measure which is on the front of most tube aprons. If you choose to take photographs before releasing your fish, set up the photo before removing the fish from the water. Again, gently support its body just above the water, being careful to keep your fingers away from its gills. Occasionally, you may get a trophy fish that is appropriate for mounting, but at the same time you feel reluctant to kill such a marvelous trout. If you thoroughly photograph, measure and weigh your fish, a taxidermist can reconstruct your treasured catch.

To release the fish, hold it firmly by the tail so that the fish's back is upright in the water and provide gentle support under the fish just behind the head. Move the fish back and forth to help the gills begin pumping oxygen and to help the fish rest and regain its strength. If the fish turns "belly up" when you release it, retrieve it and continue to support it until it can swim away on its own strength. ~ PCP

Credits: Excerpt from Float Tube Magic By Patricia C. Potheir, published by Frank Amato Publications. We appreciate use permission.

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