4 Simple Methods to Master the Art of Unsnagging your Fly

4 Simple Methods to Master the Art of Unsnagging your Fly

You’ve been practicing your flawless dead-drift for months now and you keep a steady eye as your bobber floats perfectly across the water, waiting patiently for it to go under. Your heart skips a beat as the bobber darts under and you confidently set the hook because it may very well be Hog Johnson on the other end. But as quickly as your heart skipped a beat, it sinks just the same as your line becomes a spiritless snag.

As if a tree branch on end of your line wasn’t enough discouragement for the day, you simultaneously lost all your flies in the process of trying to get un-snagged. Now what? Time to spend your precious river time re-rigging only to have the same thing happen around the next bend.

Nymphing with heavy spilt shots can only mean a lot of snags. There were many times where we lost flies in trees and debris hidden in the teal water. When unsnagging attempts do not work sometimes you’re forced to re-rig your entire setup with a fresh batch of flies.

No one likes losing their flies to the river, but it’s a part of fly fishing whether you’re a rookie or an expert.

Your natural instincts will take over and tell you to try and force the snag-free, but this often results in losing your entire rig and even broken rods. As anglers, we become expert problem solvers, so take a deep breath, relax, and make a plan. Next time you get snagged, try the following techniques to hopefully save your flies!

Angle the Snag

Try applying a gentle pressure in the opposite direction of the snag. Often times you can ease the fly free by gently wading upstream, and pulling on your line with rod pointed downstream towards the obstacle its snagged on.

Roll Cast

Using the momentum of a roll cast to dislodge your fly is great in open spaces. It will pull the fly in the opposite direction of the snag.

First, pull out a bit of line from your reel and raise your rod tip up high. Then quickly come down allowing the energy from the rod to create a loop that will roll out across the water to pull the fly from the obstruction. This one takes some practice but when done properly is an effective way to save your flies without spooking any fish!

Get in the Water or Cross the River

This technique works great if the water is shallow and you aren’t worried about spooking trout. Simply approach your snag and work it from a more forgiving angle, or if the water is low reaching down into the water and retrieve your flies.

Downstream Drift

Let out a good amount of line from your reel and let the current take it downstream. Then give a little tug, keeping your rod tip low to the water and pull a few times.

Never Do This

You’re first instinct is to tug and pull, fighting it with your fly rod. Never do this. There’s a good chance you’ll brake your rod. Relax and try a different option.

Gentle Pull

Often times you over shoot your line and it wraps around a branch or some grass. The hook rarely gets lodged into the snag and the fly just hangs there. Slowly retrieve your line only a little to begin unwinding your snag. There’s a good chance it will unspin itself and plop into the water.

Snagged on the Bottom

Pull your line in the opposite direction. For example if your nymphs were drifting downstream, pull upstream.

Underwater Snag (Close)

When the snag won’t come loose. Pull your line in so that your rod becomes submerged underwater. Try and gently use your rod tip to push and pull the fly loose. Be careful not to damage your rod tip.

Wiggle Motion

Sometimes your fly is wedged into tight spaces and a simple wiggle motion of your fly line by moving your rod from side to side is enough.

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