Landing fish in shallow water [Archive] - Fly Fishing Forum

: Landing fish in shallow water

11-06-2008, 01:06 PM
There was a recent discussion on fighting fish but what do you do when you get the fish up to you? I am thinking about shallow flats, wading, a large bonefish or permit and you are by your self. Smaller fish are not a problem but with the larger fish, a 9 foot rod and leader its tough to get that fish where you can grab it.

11-06-2008, 02:59 PM
I guess you can fight it (or beach it if possible) until they are completely out of juice, but you should have a good reason for doing so... It makes the recovery longer and riskier. Why not just grab the leader with your hands and pull it in? I find it very rare to lose fish at that stage, if they break off it usually happens on the first run. Bonefish usually calm down if you manage to turn them upside down, a sudden and firm direction change with the rod often does the trick. Getting their head over water seems to confuse them temporarily as well. Both techniques make perfect sense and appear easily executable from behind a keyboard. ;)

11-07-2008, 07:59 AM
The reason I asked is that the few times I have hooked large fish wading it has really been a struggle landing them. I was lucky enough to hook 2 bonefish that the quide said were 10lb plus within an hour of each other on one trip. The first broke the tippet when the leader was in the guides hands. Maybe a wind knot. I don't know. The second I didn't take a chance on and beached it. So I got a pic of him but its not how I would have prefered to land him. He seemed fine and swam away.

I had very similar experiences with the 2 permit I have hooked while wading. One landed and the other lost with the leader on the rod. Both of those were with a guide trying to tail the fish. I would prefer to have a decent chance of landing the fish without turning them belly up or dragging them up on a beach even if there is one close by.

Maybe thats just one of the things that make large fish special. They are not supposed to be easy.

11-07-2008, 11:55 AM
The first broke the tippet when the leader was in the guides hands. Maybe a wind knot. I don't know.

I'm guessing something was wrong or damaged on this setup, surely you didn't apply anything near the pressure required to snap a fresh tippet did you? I usually go with a nice fat 20lbs tippet (if the bones aren't shy, why not). I guess that allows me some extra margin for error when landing the fish, it certainly puts extra strain on the tackle without the dampening effect of rod and line/leader length, and if the evil fish decide won't cooperate... well, what can you do?

Oh, and you can also declare the fish as caught. With the formalities in order and nothing seemingly on the line, Murphy's law may not apply, and you'll land it. :chuckle:

Looking forward to hearing if anyone has some innovate tips on this, instead of my ramblings from hauling in bonefish fry on 20 lbs wire...

11-07-2008, 03:30 PM
Drill it till it is very close, then pull it towards you and start making a turn with your entire body, so you pull the fish around you. This way the leader will come against your body and if you continue the turn, the fish will come towards you as well. Now you can grab eithe the fish or the leader very close to the fish.
Then strip of some line, so if you loose grip on the fish or leader it get's some slack and doesn't pull immediatly on a bend rod.
Taking pictures is always difficult when your alone, so don't bother about that that much. Just take the fly out of his mouth, you don't need to take the fish out of the water to unhook it. Then support the fish, enjoy the view and watch it swim away.

11-12-2008, 05:57 AM
OK. Here's a trick I learned from a guide in Hawaii for landing big bones while wading without risking a broken rod. It's actually pretty easy but explaining it is tough. Here goes:

When you're near the end of the fight and the fish is pretty close you but you still have at least 10 ft of flyline + leader out of the rod tip, start stripping in line instead of reeling. (It's best to keep a light hand at this point for those last minute bursts.) Once you've stripped in nearly to the leader and you have a good bit of flyline beside you simply let go of the flyline and drop your rod back over your shoulder, pulling the now limp flyline toward you. Grab the flyline with your free hand and immediately drop your rod tip back down in front of you (taking care not to wrap the tip). Put the rod under you arm and now you've got both hands free to leader the fish the last few feet. If the fish dashes off again you simply feed line out till it stops. If it wants it all back simply let go and the fish is back on the reel. All you have to do then is repeat.

The two points in favor of this technique: less chance to break a rod and you don't have to move your feet (which can startle the fish) by chasing the leader.

Now, if it's a very big bonefish then you want to wait for it to "bubble", which almost every bonefish does when it's beat. You simply keep its head up and apply slight back pressure to the fish until it rolls its head out of the water and spits a little bubble. Done. You can now land it. If it's a permit or tarpon or something and you don't have a buddy there to help, use the same stripping technique but try to keep the fish's head pointing toward you once you get your hand on the leader. You may also have to drop your reel in the water to properly land a heavy fish like that, so it's your call: land the fish/soak a reel... I know you'll do the right thing.

Of course, if there's nobody with you a photo is probably out of the question (at least without a tripod and timer, and who carries that with them?). So, you might not have to bother actually landing a big permit or small poon at all. I've definitely had situations where a stubborn fish was going to fight itself to death rather than let me land it (and, yes, I was also using a stupidly light tippet), so I popped it off before it tired too much. I mean, if I can't get a picture what's the point in getting my hands on the thing... I know I caught it, and it's not like I don't have like a million flies with me at all times.

Hope that helps.


11-12-2008, 08:44 AM
I'm guessing something was wrong or damaged on this setup, surely you didn't apply anything near the pressure required to snap a fresh tippet did you? .

I don't think it was the set up. The fish did get close to a mound of conch shells but don't think it got in them. The line was in the guides hand. It appeared to me that when the fish surged that his hand got caught on the loop to loop connectin between the leader and the fly line. I am not going to blame the guide. Chit happens. I know it counts as a caught fish but out of that fight the thing that sticks in my mind the most is the tippet snaping.

Bonehead and Arubaman.
Thanks for the tips. I will be doing some DIY wading next week and will give those methods a try.

11-16-2008, 03:48 AM
Hi Swalt

Strangely enough I have never had this problem with big bonefish.

I have always found that if you can get the fish close then he is pretty tired and relatively easy to unhook.
With smaller bones you can get them close quickly but it is sometimes difficult to get them to hand.
Permit on the other hand seem to come to about 15-20 ft and then will not come close until they are nearly exhausted.

One tip for unhooking bones is to turn them onto their backs, they are then subdued and are very easy to unhook.