Dealing with banged-up fingers

A common mistake is to curl the finger around the reel handle when a fish makes an escape...

Q: I fly-fish primarily in fresh water, but during several saltwater outings, the whirling reel handle has bloodied my fingers as a fish has tried to escape. Is there anything I can do to prevent this?

A: With most saltwater fish, we don't necessarily "crank" them in with the reel. Instead, we lower the rod and pull the fish toward us with short pumps. As the rod is lowered again, we recover line while being careful not to allow slack to develop.

A common mistake is to curl the finger around the reel handle when a fish makes an escape. As you learned, the spinning handle does the damage! Instead, try holding the handle with the thumb and first two fingers. Because you pull the fish toward you and then lower the rod, the three fingers can easily recover line. Best of all, if the fish suddenly lurches away, the handle easily slips free from the fingertips, keeping them safe.