When you’re out fishing and are lucky enough to hook a fish, do you reel or strip the line as you play the fish?

I reel.

Rod & Reel | www.johnkreft.com

There’s no right our wrong answer. Someone may give you a strong opinion, but stick to your guns and pick a strategy which works for you. That’s the beauty of fly fishing. There aren’t a lot of rules.

Sure there are times when one method is better than the other. Like when you hook up on a nice fish and it takes off like a race horse on its first run, then does an about face and comes screamin’ back at you! All the while you are struggling to keep tension on the fish. The only chance you have at keeping the line tight is to strip as fast as you can. Been there! In fact, it happened yesterday. I held my breath and I stripped as fast as I could to remove all the slack in the line…I was lucky.

Generally I try to play ALL fish from the reel, but especially bigger fish…rainbows over 14″, bull trout, and steelhead. I always feel some relief when all the excess line is finally on the reel. I can tell you stories where I’ve had too much line at my feet and it always comes back to haunt me. It usually gets caught on something…the brush, my net, a wading staff, my reel, the rod butt, I step on it, the boat anchor…you get the picture.

I always feel better when the fish in on the reel. That way, if the fish runs again I have a smooth drag to help me fight the fish. Otherwise, all the line I’ve stripped in may or may not smoothly go out through the guides. Oh ya, ever burned your fingers from the line as the fish takes off again? That’s another problem to consider. For me, stripping line always feels like it’s a disaster waiting to happen.

Galvan Reel | www.johnkreft.com

You have many choices for reels these days. And if I were on the market for a new reel, I’d pick one with a large arbor, like my Galvan Torgue T-5. That way, each revolution retrieves about 2 times more line than the older reels that only were available in standard or small arbor.

When you settle on a method that’s best for you, watching somebody do it the opposite way will drive you crazy, but that’s okay because it’s their fly fishing not yours. Remember that.

3 Reels | www.johnkreft.com

Now, go fish!

Hook a lot of fish and find what method works best for you.

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  1. Hi John,

    Love the picture of the reel with the mayfly (green drake I think) on it. Did you take the shot? If so, was it this year? It’s a bit early for green drakes in my country. Are they hatching in yours?

    Regarding the question: I strip unless the fish is large enough to take the line from me; then I use the reel. I usually carry a net and use it for a stripping basket when I’m not using it to land a fish thus avoiding the tangles laying around my feet. Take care & …

    Tight Lines – Al Beatty
    Boise, ID

    1. Al

      Thanks for the comments. The picture you referenced was one of the Fall Drakes…the second time the Green Drakes hatch. It was September last year.


  2. After setting the hook I strip to get the line tight until I can get the fish on the reel ASAP. If it’s a dink I might strip the fish all the way in. If it’s a good fish I want it on the reel for sure.

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