February 17, 2016
Around outboards and trolling motors, careful handling of fly rods is advised.
Fly rods and motors do not get along. I state this not to spotlight some aesthetic disconnect from the quiet roots of our sport, but rather to relate a practical truth.
If you fly fish on a power boat, eventually you will run into trouble at the power end of the boat.
What can you do?
In the hands of most anglers, fly rods—with the exception of heavy tarpon or bluewater sticks—at first seem to lack the backbone of conventional outfits. Whereas you might feel confident wrestling a big fish your way with a plug or jig rod, the limber, thin fly rod may convey a sense of inadequacy.
If a fish you are fighting suddenly moves toward the engine, there's not much use trying to turn it with the rod. A better approach is to follow the fish with the rod, creating safe angles to avoid sharp bends or contact with sharp edges. Use full length of the fly rod to your advantage: Put as much of the rod into the water as you can, pushing the tip, and thereby the line, as deep as possible. You'll need to hold the rod out over the gunnel while doing this.
The objective here is to enable the fish and the line to pass safely beneath the lower unit. Don't immediately try to “walk” the fish around to safety. Instead, hold on to see if the fish changes direction under modest drag and/or palm pressure. Just don't get too aggressive. If the run continues on the opposite side of the boat, keep the rodtip deep and the pressure light while carefully making your way around the engine or toward the bow, wherever is more convenient. If the fish surfaces or jumps opposite you, it's imperative that you let up on the pressure to keep the rod from breaking. The angle here, obviously, can become too great—much like the common and often fatal mistake of “high-sticking” a fish at boatside.
Trolling motors create special hazards. Unless you need it to follow a fish or direct the boat away from some obstruction, it's usually wise to pull in the motor when you're fighting a big fish. (Tilting the outboard, of course, only elongates the potential danger zone at the transom; better, there, to leave the engine down.)
I thought I'd run into every conceivable way to break a flyrod until the night I mindlessly spun my troller over a bunch of line I'd left in the water after stripping in. It was very late and I'd become frustrated at a group of uncooperative snook.
As I angrily buzzed away from the dock, line suddenly raced out of my rodtip. Before I could react, the line tightened at the reel and about 6 feet of high modulus graphite followed the remainder into the prop of the trolling motor. I'd seen my share of flyrods hacked by ceiling fans, car doors, crab claws (long story) and other moving edges, but the results of this interaction were astonishing. The rod disintegrated.
There are slow fishing trips and there are bad fishing trips. In my book, the needless destruction of a $600 rod qualifies as a bad trip. FS
If You Do Break a Flyrod . . .
And you probably will, so might as well buy a rod that comes with a warranty. Orvis, for instance, famously offers a 25-year guarantee on many of its rods. You break it, you simply call Orvis and they'll send you a repair authorization number and a shipping address. You send the rod and a check for $30, and your stick will be repaired or replaced, no questions asked.
Other companies have similar programs: Temple Fork Outfitters' “No Fault Warranty” covers most events at $30 a pop, save “flagrant abuse.” G. Loomis once had the most liberal warranty service in the industry, but now limits coverage to workmanship or material “nonconformities” for the lifetime of the original owner. The owner pays for repair or replacement arising from accidental breakage. Fenwick promises a “sweet deal on a replacement rod.”
First published Florida Sportsman Magazine November 2016