My mistakes. Line clearing.

Often times the mistakes we make stand out more than the successes. It is an evolutionary driver. If our ancient relatives made a mistake that almost got them killed while looking for tubers out on the plains, well, they needed to hold on to that mistake and learn from it. We function the same way today, even when it comes to fishing.

The first day I caught bonefish in the Bahamas I was with my dad and a guide. Toward the end of the day the guide dropped me off on a flat that had a couple tailing bonefish and he worked with my dad. I was all in favor of this move.

I positioned myself well for a shot at the tailing bones, who were going on about their business rather eagerly. I made the cast (a few, as I recall) and, somehow, the fish ate. I strip set (a minor miracle) and the fish hit its “Warp Speed” button.

What happened next will be ingrained in my memory for a long time. The line flew up and wrapped itself around the reel handle. The fish popped off about 2 seconds after I hooked it. I was left flabbergasted and broken hearted.

There is a proper way to do it and you can bet I do that every time now. One the fish is hooked, your line hand should move the line out and away from your rod until all the slack is taken up and the fish is on the reel.

Go to 2:53.

You ever wrap your line around the reel or rod and lost a fish?


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  1. More ‘mistake’ tags:

    1. “Right foot, mon!” Said the guide in his uninterpretable thick Bahamian accent one second before the fish broke off because my booted right foot was standing on the line!

    I have foot problems so I won’t be standing barefooted on deck. My eyes are now either scanning for fish or my line. Standing on the line, like line wrap is a very common problem.

    2. “Let me set that drag.” The guide set it too high so my next fish broke off.

    We had a few fish spit hooks after starting half hearted first runs so the guide thought it was a loose drag (he also made the unorthodox recommendation to “tarpon set” by three sharp strip strikes). So he tightened it to what I thought was too high. I didn’t hook up until the next day with another guide who agreed the drag was too high. This is probably not a common discussed problem but I think the conventional wisdom is to tighten your drag (for bonefish) to prevent backlash AND release your drag at the end of the day so it doesn’t set or wear your system overnight, especially so in a cork drag system -which my Orvis VO2 is. This was actually two mistakes!

    Thanks for sharing your mistakes. They help me remember mine!

  2. Oh, there will be more. Clearing the line was just the start.

  3. This happened exactly one month ago in Cayo Raton, north of Cancun. My buddy was on the deck: he hooked and released a bone. So it’s my turn. There were plenty fish around, so he just handed me his rod, already rigged. I stand on the deck and ten seconds after he released his fish the guide tells me to cast to a small school of fish approaching. I make my cast and a decent sized bone hits my fly, starts his run and suddenly the tippet snapped right above the fly….. The moral: ALWAYS check your fly, knots and leader after hooking a fish. There’s more frustration on losing a fish for being greedy and anxious than for taking your time to check everything, especially your terminal tackle.

  4. The answer is yes, yes I have… but not on the handle of the reel cause I have that on the correct side 😉 But I have lost several fish to line around the rod handle. Either way same result.

  5. Ahhh… the right hand/left hand thing comes back!

  6. I’ve lost some nice fish to wind knots… for sure. Happens to us all Rodrigo.

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