Know Your Fishing Gear Well
Whether you go kayak angling alone or take Alaska fishing trips with guides, you need to know your gear well if you intend to land a big fish. Most importantly, you need to know how much pressure you can put on a fish and how much power is applied by your drag knob clicks.
To find out the point at which drag tension can break the leader, rig your rod as you normally would and lash the tippet onto a sturdy surface. Back up about 30’ and increase drag while pulling on the rod slowly.
Anticipate the Fish’s Moves
The fish you hook is going to move as it pleases; to ensure you land it, you’ll have to anticipate its moves well in advance. Note that a big fish will most definitely try to swim downstream in its state of panic. A fish will also try to swim toward cover in the form of logs or other obstruction.
Since you’re after big fish, it will do you well to know that longer fish are capable of moving their heads a further distance than shorter fish.
Plan Your Attack
Apart from knowing your fish’s moves, you’ll have to plan an exit for yourself and persuade the fish to swim in that direction. Steer your fish in the desired direction by pulling your rod tip around firmly and smoothly. If using a kayak, keep in mind that you’ll experience less drag resistance if your kayak is aligned in the same direction the fish is swimming. Positioning your kayak such that it stays perpendicular to the direction in which the fish is trying to swim will slow the fish down and help you gain advantage.
Be mindful of where you’re fishing - hitting fish near the bottom, especially in a rocky area - can be tricky. If the fish hangs on to the rocks and sticks to the bottom, you won’t be able to do much. Hitting fish mid-water (15’ – 60’ from the surface) can be easy if you keep reeling calmly and steadily. The hook and knots can pose a problem if the fight continues for long, but if you keep the drag just right, you’ll be fine. When near the surface, watch out for sudden changes in tension, and keep drag loosened to the minimum.
Play It Right
Playing the fish right can increase your chances of landing it. Remember to use a light to moderate drag setting so as to not apply force greater than line capacity. If your fish makes hard runs and leaps about a lot, use a loose drag setting. Once the fish begins to lose energy, use the tighter drag setting. In addition to adjusting drag, force the fish to move in different directions so that it loses energy trying to counter your moves.
Your fish will swim downstream and all around your boat if you let it. While you need to keep the drag loose at times, don’t allow the fish to take command of the situation. Lengthening the process might not necessarily tire out the fish and can also create the opportunity for something to go wrong. So fight hard from the very beginning- your arms should hurt and you should be sweating it out trying to land your fish. However, don’t fight harder than the fish.
Keep the tip of the rod as low as possible, except when trying to maneuver around obstacles. Keeping the rod at an angle more than 45° from the butt of the rod will put less pressure on the fish and more on your arms!
Be patient and think about your actions before you do anything. You don’t want a rash decision to negatively affect all your hard work. For example, changing rod angles abruptly to get a fish under control can in fact work the fly loose! So control your reflexes and guide the fish to your desired exit smoothly.
Furthermore, refrain from trying to pull the fish out of the water using the rod. The fish will come to the surface on its own. Lifting it out with the rod can hurt it and also give it the opportunity to shake itself off the hook.
Now that you’ve read these angling tips, you’re probably excited to go on your next fishing trip and land your first big fish. Keep these points in mind and you’re sure to come back with an amazing story to tell!
Photos by Tod Johnson