This was my first year riding the 'yak. It was DEFINITELY a season of education.
Ahhh, young grasshopper,
It was mid-late May, and I was chasing pods of marauding blues off Popponesset and Succonesset. The 5-8 pound fish hammered any fly that dropped within their sight. I had already lost count of the blues released. 2 were bleeding to death on my metal stringer for the smoker. I've been flyfishing the salt for at least 6 years, but always had a net handy to boat a blue. In the 'yak there's no room for a net, and the laws of leverage don't make it much of an option anyway. I learned in a hurry that it's easy to grab them by the back of their neck. It totally immobilizes them. I also learned not to use the cheap nylon stringers for blues. If anyone catches a 10# blue with half a Walmart stringer in it's maw, you can keep it. I now use the metal chain and clip type. I can cut their throat and drop 'em in the drink to bleed. No mess on deck!
The main lesson of that day, though, was how to fight and land big fish in a kayak. I hooked into a nice 36" bass that towed me straight to the surf in front of the spit at Popponesset. The strong on-shore breeze compounded the situation. I almost landed the fish when it ran straight out from the port side of my kayak. Mr. Bass ran about 20 feet, and immediately turned 180 degrees, running straight at the port side of my yak. My rod is now pointing straight off the port side of the 'yak (big mistake). When the blue ran under the 'yak, my rod tip went straight down with me behind it. The water was still too deep to touch, but I kept an elbow on my vessel while still fighting the ornery cuss. Surf kept crashing over me, but I finally landed (can you technically land fish if you are swimming?) the bass, and sent him on his way. The heart of this lesson is to keep your rod tip over the bow of your kayak at all times when fighting fish. The only time this changes is when you hold your rod high to boat an exhausted fish. If the tip is over the bow, the 'yak will always turn to face the fish. If the fish is too small to turn the 'yak, you've got nothing to worry about anyway.