How to Palm a Fly Reel

Two tips for mastering the art of the palm.

Even if your fly reel has a solid drag, knowing how to palm the reel comes in handy for fighting a big fish. A little extra pressure can thwart a spool overrun on a redfish or stop a steelhead from reaching a logjam. Of course, palming takes some practice and skill, but if you remember these tips, you’ll master the art of the palm faster.

Soft Touch
No matter how fast a fish is running, never grab the reel forcefully. Instead, lightly touch the edge of the spool rim to the top of your palm at the base of your fingers. Now you can brake or let off the spool by gently increasing or decreasing the pressure against the reel.

Talk to the Hand
Proper palming has a lot to do with anticipating a fish's next move, so your hands need to work together. The first place you'll feel a fish surge or change direction is in the rod tip. It may be only a split second until that force is felt on the reel. The information received by your rod hand should signal to your palming hand to loosen or tighten its grip. Sounds complicated, but palm enough fast-moving fish and it becomes second nature.

Photograph by Travis Rathbone