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December 06, 2016
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How to Successfully Land & Release Fish

A modern rubber-coated landing net like this is much less likely to harm the fish. It is best to avoid the old-fashioned knotted kind of net.

Being in control of a hooked fish increases the odds for additional hookups by not having the fish zipping all over and spooking other fish. If there are other anglers nearby, it’s just common courtesy not to spook the whole pool. Sometimes, an angler who’s hooked a decent fish will walk downriver trying to “keep up” with the fish. If others are fishing downstream it’s just plain rude, since it will disturb the water they’re fishing, unless it’s truly a gigantic fish, one the size seldom seen in the water you’re fishing. Walking a fish also takes the pressure off. With no pressure, the fish is resting and you lessen your chances of landing it. Lose the fear of losing fish, and you’ll find you’ll do less fish walking.

So we got some of the quirks out of the way, the fish is reasonably beat, but not beat to death, and now it’s in the net. Keep the fish in the net and in the water while you remove the fly. Barbless hooks make that easier and put less stress on an already stressed fish. Keep the fish in the water until it’s recovered enough to swim away on its own. If it needs a little “push” it’s not ready yet.

If you want a picture and you’re alone, take the picture with the fish in the water. Bank shots in the grass are the kiss of death. If you’re with someone else, keep the fish in the water and net while your buddy gets ready, focused and framed. Then on the count of two, quickly lift the fish, supporting it by the tail and under the pectoral fins, take the shot and put the fish back in the water. This process should take no more than two or three seconds. The shot you get is the shot you get. With some luck, the picture came out fine. With time and experience, the pictures come out fine more and more often.

[Capt. Joe Demalderis is a partner in Cross Current Guide Service & Outfitters with offices in Milford, PA & Hancock, NY. In 2010, he was the 2010 Orvis Endorsed Fly Fishing Guide of the Year.]