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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
the fish quit bitin', cause the river's a risin', so I'm gonna do a little writin'... Fighting fish with a doublehander. A more complicated issue than appearances might convey. As a simple lever, a shorter rod is definitely a superior tool for fighting fish. However, on a single handed rod one uses (with the exception of "special rods" designed with a fighting foregrip) one hand on the rod, while on the doublehander a wise angler uses BOTH hands stationed far enough apart to fulcrum the rod during a fight. In my experience this tactic pretty well levels the playing field between single handed rods and doublehanded rods up to 13 1/2' when talking about how much pressure can be applied to the fish and how much strain the angler has to bear during a fight. But when rod length surpasses 14', the ability of an angler to maintain strong pressure on a fish for more than a few minutes diminishes very rapidly. I have seen scores of "manly" flyfishers reduced to whimpering, trembling mounds of spineless flesh after 10 minutes of fighting sea-liced 22 to 32 pound King salmon on 15' 10 weight doublehanded rods. The leverage is definitely against the angler. Personally, I opt for strong 14' 9 weights such as the Sage 9141-4 when pursuing Kings in that size range. If I had my druthers, I would have a 13 1/2' 10 weight specially made just for King salmon flyfishing. The capability to direct STRONG pressure for extended periods of time would be far better accomplished with such a rod... Simple common sense dictates that landing fish with a 14' rod is much trickier than with a 9' rod if one is a responsible enough angler to try and KEEP WILD FISH IN THE WATER. There are 5 more feet of rod to contend with, which makes it that much harder to get close to the fish for tailing. Successful accomplishment of this maneuver can only be learned through trial and error, but here are some things that I have found helpful. Use as heavy of a leader as possible. !5# & 12# are my standards for winter steelheading, the 15# for murky water, and the 12# for clear. Pressure your fish hard and to the limits of the tackle. Maneuver to a "soft" area of current for the landing process. "Command" the fish heavily after the initial runs and jumps are finished - steelhead can be landed and released while they are still quite "green" if one can break the "will" of the fish early in the game. Lead the fish upstream of your position and then use the current coupled with a timely release of extra line to "drop" it back down towards you to tail. It often helps to be kneeling for this operation so that one's looming, towering , hulking figure doesn't spook the fish. If at first you don't succeed, try, try again. You're going to lose a few learning to do this - it's part of the game! ... The added length of doublehanded rods will cause the loss of more fish than a single handed rod simply because of the higher angle of pull on the fish. This can be alleviated by fighting the fish while keeping the rod tip on or close to the surface of the water. If you want to say goodbye, keep your rod high! But if you want to say hello, keep the rod low! Guaranteed to give results!...
 

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I've been fishing for Kings for two years now with a 14' 9 weight and have been suprised with the ease in beating and landing these fish as compared to a 9' single handed rod. Two things to remember when fighting big fish:

Apply pressure with the rod in a horizontal plane rather than vertical. If your rod is bent in a vertical plane you are wasting some of your energy tring to lift the fish out of the water rather than to pull it closer to yourself.

Fight the fish using more of the rods butt rather than its tip. This helps reduce the mechanical advantage (leverage) that the fish has. This technique along with the two handed grip seem to be less tiring to me than a single handed rod.


The only "disadvantage" of the longer rod seems to be when you get the fish in close and are about to land it. Here the longer lod seems a bit awkward. To deal with this I try to tire and land the fish quickly in shallow water. Its more difficult to get close to the fish and tail it.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
King Salmon,
I am wondering about two details. Where you are catching your Kings, and at what time of year. I have not found Kings to be easy to land on any fly tackle, and that includes the "little guys" in the 8 - 12 pound range. The Kings that I am experienced with are commonly referred to as "Springs" as they arrive into the rivers from May until the beginning of July. These fish are most often dime-bright, sporting sea-lice, and one of the toughest of fishes to contend with in freshwater. The locations for pursuing these fish is most often less than a dozen miles from saltwater on rivers in Alaska and Russia's Kamchatka. When these Springs grab a fly there is absolutely no mistake about what just happened, and you had best have your toes dug into the gravel, your jaw set square, and butt cheeks clenched tight, because your about to go on the Pacific version of a Nantucket sleigh ride. My first love is steelhead, but I am also the first to concede that fresh-run Springs will pummel the snot out of the most robust steelhead.
 

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I have always wondered why people talked about how much quicker they were able to land fish with a two-hander.

Long ago, I dont remember where, I read about the whole physics of leverage and such in regards to two-handers and they compare to single-handers when one is disccusing playing fish.

It made total sense...the longer rod allows the fish to exert much more leverage on you, the angler.

...and how did Lee Wulff manage to land all those monster Atlantics on 'midge rods'?? They were short! The fish could not get any leverage on the angler.
 

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Coast2coast Flyfishaholic
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This is a great thread!

Ironically last time I had the pleasure of fishing a day with Ed he put me onto a huge bright native steelhead, you know the kind that flash and light up the depths of the pool as it pirouettes in the glacial green flow, and throbs the 15 footer with bursts of screaming drag that sent chills down my drenched back after a torrential spring cascade mountain downpour. If it wasn't for peanut M&M's and coffee I would have surely been comatose, and there I was battling the apex trout in speyfishing heaven and the world was in harmony...

until it came unbuttoned just at the end, and led to a conversation about fighting fish with the big rods. I've spent a lot of time thinking about this since that fish, and have my opinion on it - but you know what they say about opinions - they're like a**holes we all have one, etc. ;)

Clearly if the battle was fought with arms away from the body the leverage disadvantage for two-handers is huge, silly, unbearable - for instance you'll never see anyone raising a spey rod over their head like a single hander.

But I find it much easier to fight big fish on a two-foot handle than on something without leverage below the reel (like a single hander) until the 'red zone' as King Salmon put it. If you took away the ability to "plant" the lower handle on some body part, then the spey rod would be just about useless for fighting fish. But by adeptly using body parts as a foundation, the rod can become a source of more consistent tension on the line which in my opinion keeps the hook in place and wins the battle.

You have to anhcor it anyway to free up the crank hand when it's time to collect gained line.

When flats guiding for striped bass with single handed rods we're fortunate to have to haul big fish with max rod tension against hard runs and directional changes. I advise my clients to keep the rod bent deep into the blank as possible, keeping the rod low and parallel to the water out to either side as much as possible between drag-burning runs, during which the rod should be pointed toward the fish with the thickest part of the rod doing the work and the drag+palm providing the resistance. Yet it's impossible to keep up the necessary power without (a) levering the fighting butt against the forearm muscles (b) anchoring the fighting butt against the rib cage and pumping sideways while cranking slack gained - even though the rods are short.

With a spey rod, for much of the fight my rod butt is in the junction of my hip and thigh. When the fish's reaction requires some side pressure, which I believe is the best medicine, then I adopt a different butt-plant position up over the top side of my hip bone, or if the rod needs to swing over to the other side I just lay the handle across my chest with the rod parallel to the water and crank / yard away. In any case there is always counter-pressure from below the reel that negates the leverage disadvantages IMHO. The key is to stay one step ahead of the steelhead and change the rod position adeptly to maintain max pressure.

Although it's intuitively obvious that a big stick is harder to leverage, I believe butt-anchor methods negate most of that disadvantage when battling fish.

.02
 

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Plan your battle, too

Heavy tippets are great, if your water/fish will support it. I have found the long rod to be a huge advantage in fighting fish because of the advantage in turning fishes' heads. With any bigger fish, the key to the battle is the ability to turn the fish before it gets too far away (or into the logs). I agree with the landing technique comments above, but would add that planning your landing is important.

This spring in Michigan we've got less water than normal and it's pretty clear. Last Wednesday the fresh steelhead were in a deep hole with a nice seam about 65' out from the casting point. The 9140-4 (green) with Mid-Spey was perfect, but it took 3x flurocarbon tippet to get players. 4/5 hookups came to hand--because there was a fighting/landing plan in place. The solution was to get the fish into the slack water ASAP, back-and-forth until they're tiring, then head up and bring 'em to hand. At 65-75' out, the 14' rod is a real help in turning fish. None of the fights went on more than 5-7 minutes, and none of the fish even needed reviving. All were fresh chrome hens.

Carl
 

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Riveraddict,

Thanks for the refresher on keeping a low rod position when fighting a fish. This is something I have known and practiced but lately have let slip. I did not even think about it till I read your post above.

Now I am kicking myself as I visualize two fish that I said "goodbye" to this winter. Both fish; a large Skykomish brawler and a smaller Sauk fish, came unpinned as I held the rod tip high with the fish holding straight out from me. I had chalked it up to bad karma but now must admit it was more likely bad technique.

st
 

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this may get a reaction but I see it again and again about the fish having an advantage when the angler uses a longer rod. People simplistically say that a 10ft rod for instance will have a longer lever arm than a 9ft rod. This is hogwash! Well, it can be hogwash because rods bend when you play a fish and this alters the length of the lever arm substantially. So, a slower action 10ft rod my actually have a shorter lever arm than a faster 9ft rod.

Of course two-handed rods being so much longer will still have a longer lever arm, but one can apply much more torque to the two-handed rod handle by bracing the butt into one's body or forearm.

When a fish pulls on the line it ends up applying a force to your hand through the rod and also a torque to the fulcrum (your grip) from the lever arm of the rod. This torque is resisted by the your wrist. With a two-handed rod you have the same force (the fish doesn't pull any differently) but the torque is increased due to the longer lever we use. This is no big deal because we're able to brace the rod butt in our body or along our forearm. By bracing the rod in this manner we're able to apply a couple and thereby apply much more torque. The longer handle also allows us to hold our rod hand much further up from the fulcrum thereby applying more torque. I maintain it is easier to fish fish on a two-handed.

And don't use the argument about big game fisherman using shorter rods to decrease the lever arm. That is true they do. But comparing a short big game rod to a longer one is apples to apples - one holds a short big game rod in the same fashion that they hold a longer one. With single or two-heanded fly rods it more apples and kumquats - with a singel handed rod the angler applies the torque using their wrist while with the big stick they apply it via a couple between there upper rod hand and the bracing of the butt.

pescaphile
 

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While checking out what my mischievous friend are up to on this site, I came across a subject I must comment on. That is if Riveraddict doesn't mind my takeing control of my computer (and my identity) for a few words . (this is the real Marlow Bumpus)

Keeping the rod tip low, close to the water, while playing any fish has an added advantage no one has mentioned. With the rod tip high there is less line in the water than with the tip low so a fish can run and jump much easier. Good for the fish not for the fisherman. When the fish jumps it can probably jump higher because it doesn't have to drag all that line through the water. The problem is, unless the fly line is in a streight line between you and the fish, when it comes out of the water the line instantly has a bunch of unwanted slack. That's when I used to loose a lot of fish. That was with a single hander too. As mentioned, the longer the rod the more upword the angle of the pull on the fish, exaggerating the problem. I changed the way I played a fish and found that I my hook to land ratio improved immdiately. Another thing I noticed is that, by reeling slow, the fish would follow the fly much farther. When I got the fish in close, I would raise the rod tip and the fight was back on. Steelhead just don't like to be lifted by the fly. How would you like to be lifted by the fly? Consider 60 ft or more line under water because your tip is right on the water while you are playing the fish. The fish has to drag that line everywhere it goes, whether right, left, up or down. The runs may be shorter and the jumps not as high but I can't tell the difference. One thing I did notice is that more often my pray will jump up stream of me with my line disappearing down stream. That would be a lot of slack. I pass this on to my friends that complain about not being able to land fish with their new two hander. It always works for them. Ed's comment about landing fish is right on. With the fish up stream, it is facing away from you and less apt to be spooked by you. The slack line held in your hand while landing fish has another advantage if you are standing when you land the fish. My knees arn't in good shape and kneeling isn't often an option. I bring the fish in close, up streem of me while holding the rod streight up and release the line as I take a step and grab the leader. If you try this, make sure your drag is set only to avoid free spool. Otherwise you will eventualy break a rod. I always keep my drag set this way but I exclusive apply drag with my reeling hand. That's my right hand for those of you that don't know my left hand is dangerously inept.
 

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This is a good thread, often we see the complaint that it is difficult to land fish on a doublehander - I've never quite seen the problem. First, you hook more fish with the doublehander - that should be enough of an answer! Secondly, with the simple technique that Riveraddict describes - landing a steelhead is easy.

I think the key is to get below the fish as Ed says, I've done it from upstream of the fish, but consistent with his hypothesis, the fish had turned and was facing away from me. Lead the fish towards the beach (with the rod held low), as the fish nears the spot I will pull line off the reel, while maintaining tension with the rod. I will let out as much line as I need to reach the the fish's tail.

This is generally a very smooth operation, so much so that I really had to stop and replay how it works before I could write it here! For years I fished an 18' B&W and found it just as easy to land a fish with it as with the 7136. In fact the only times I've ever had trouble landing a steelhead with a double hander is when I was out on a very long, slightly submerged bar where there was no spot to bring the fish. After some hemming and hawing I finally did it using a technique something like Ed's.
 

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With a longer rod, a fish has more leverage on me, but I also have more leverage on the fish and I'm an awful lot bigger than the fish I catch (at least 10X as big and usually more than 20X as big). If I was fishing for something bigger than me I'd probably worry about the fish having too much leverage. If you've ever played a steelhead with almost no rod (ie a broken one) I think you'd agree that a longer rod works pretty well!

Poul
 
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