Lift a Fish to Land It, Use Your Forearm for Leverage

The key to landing fish quickly is knowing how to get their heads above the water's surface. Fish have all the leverage when they're fighting nose-down. You have all the leverage when their noses point up, and you can usually skate a fish right into the net, or land it by hand. The key to making this all happen quickly, which is of mutual benefit for the fish and the angler, is knowing how to "lift" fish.

It's often tricky, especially with large fish. Go ahead and try to pick a 10-pound dumbbell off the floor with a fly rod, fly line and 12-pound test leader. It's almost impossible if you hold the grip normally, gently lift the rod, and expect the flexed graphite tip of the rod to make it happen. When lifting heavy fish, you want to focus the stress into the line itself (trust me, 12-pound Maxima is harder to break than you think) and the butt section of the fly rod. To get that done, you want to grip slightly higher on the cork, bring the reel seat flush against your forearm, and then lift with your arm and shoulder, not just your wrist. This dramatically reinforces the leverage you have on the fish.

Here is a photo my friend J.P. Lipton of "Roughfisher" (you should check out his website, which is dedicated to catching "rough" species like carp on flies) getting ready to land a 20-pound carp on an eight-weight. The butt of the rod is about to snug up against his forearm, and soon after, he steers the fish right to the net.

Your landing efficiency will improve dramatically if you remember to use your forearm when lifting fish -- especially heavy ones.