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Reduce Stress, Manage your line

Sean Visintainer - 02/07/16

Fly fishing line management on a skiff boat in Cuba.

Get organized - Saltwater Line Management.

It's winter in the Inland Northwest. Cold, snowy days have us dreaming of warm tropical places like Belize, Mexico, Bahamas and beyond. For many, a saltwater destination can be a trip of a lifetime. So if having the best shot at catching that "fish-of-a-lifetime" on your "trip-of-a-lifetime" means a lot to you... well then you better make every shot count!

There a few simple tricks you can do in line management that will make a HUGE impact in your efficiency on the bow of the boat. Managing your line for less tangles / snags also hopefully reduces your blood pressure especially when dealing with species of fish that are already difficult enough to catch. Let's look at how to up your odds at making clean shots every time in the boat.

Holding the fly line in your hand.
Photo by Michael Visintainer

8 Tips to more efficient saltwater boat fishing.


  1. Clear the deck - Get your shit out of the way. This sounds like a no brainer, but this simple act of taking absolutely everything from the bow of the boat and storing it back by the guide or in a storage area will without a doubt be the biggest thing you can do keep your line from wrapping around some minuscule little buckle on a bag, or water bottle, or whatever inevitably causing a tangle and distracting you from the task at hand... making a clean, quick, precise cast.
  2. Keep the line on the deck. - Your fly line is falling off the deck in the water... sometimes from the wind blowing it... sometimes because you are stripping the line too far to the side and throwing it into the water. As you retrieve be conscious of where your stripping your line.
Test casting fly line.
Test cast - Photo by Michael Visintainer

  1. Make a test cast. - What I mean by this is... you roll up to the flat or mangrove area you are about to fish. Before the guide is all set on the polling platform, quickly strip your line off the reel. Make one false cast to the side (not where the fish are) and then retrieve your line back to your side. What you're essentially doing is stacking up your line sequentially, so when you make your first actual cast to a fish the line shoots off the deck in order of what line is on top of the pile. This will reduce the chance of the line shooting out from the bottom of the pile and tangling.
Holding on to the fly before casting.
Holding - Photo by Michael Visintainer

  1. Hold onto your fly. - This one is kinda major actually. Saltwater fishing is like hunting... lots of down time just scanning the horizon for signs of life. When it's your turn on the bow of the boat, hold onto the fly, or leader directly above the fly. This will keep the fly from dangling in the breeze and snagging other line, or an article of clothing.
  2. Keep 3-10 feet of line out of the rod tip. - Fly rods need line to load. By keep some line out of the rod tip you do two things. One is that you keep your leader / line connection from getting caught up in the tip of the rod. The second is that you now have line out to start loading the rod instantly on your first cast. I like to have a minimum of 3' out of the rod tip, but would rather have 5+ feet so that I can flip the fly out of my hand and go directly into the first false cast with some load on the rod. If you start to have more than 10' of line out it becomes harder to manage without tangling. Keep in mind I am talking about having actual line out of the tip of the rod... not just leader. NOTE - keep your rod horizontal when you standing there with line out. This keeps the line from sliding back into the guides.
  3. Get a line management buddy. - If you are fishing with a partner on the boat and it is extremely windy, have your fishing partner make sure your line is staying on the deck. In the heat of the action this can be a major help. Fishing from the boat is a team effort. If your buddy won't help... find new fishing friends.
Saltwater fly fishing line management and feet placement.
Keeping planted - Photo by Michael Visintainer

  1. The toes know. - If you can, fish barefoot in the boat. Your feet can feel when they are stepping on the line. When you wear your flats boots, or sandals, you cannot feel the line under your feet. Your feet are one of your biggest enemies for line snags. Wearing just socks can help with sun protection for those looking to keep their feet from baking.
  2. Plant your feet. - The more you move your feet and shuffle around on the bow of the boat... the higher the odds of stepping on the line and getting it bunched up. Calm your nerves, take a deep breath, keep your balance, and try to not move your feet all over the place. The only time you should be dancing is when you just landed that fish of a lifetime.

This may sound like a lot, but I guarantee if you follow these simple tips on your next saltwater trip you will be making cleaner, snag free casts from the bow of the boat. And you just may reduce your frustration level at the same time.

Keeping your feet clear of the fly fising line.
Keeping the toes clear. - Photo by Michael Visintainer

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