Landing a big fish on ultralight tackle is an experience unrivaled in the great outdoors. Any fisherman can catch a monster fish on 2-pound line with a 5-foot rod, but being able to successfully land the fish is the true challenge. It requires finesse and total mastery of your angling skills. Anything less and the fish will snap the line, leaving you with one more story about “the one that got away”.
So what is the point of using ultralight rods and tackle? There are many benefits to using ultralight gear, especially if you are chasing after finicky species like trout. Ultralight rods allow the angler to feel every bite and nibble. In fact, I have been fishing with ultralight gear for so long that I can tell the size and species of the fish on the end of the line without having to see it. Ultralight gear is like having supernatural senses; you can feel things that the average fisherman would otherwise miss.
Another benefit of using ultralight gear is that it is extremely portable. I prefer to do my fishing in secluded mountain streams, which often requires miles of hiking through rugged terrain. Carrying a shorter, lighter rod with a lightweight reel allows me to navigate through thicket, briars, and brush without difficulty. Many of these mountain streams are very narrow, so ultralight equipment allows me to cast with pinpoint accuracy without “spooking” the fish.
But perhaps the best thing about ultralight fishing is the challenge. Anyone can horse in a big fish using a braided co-polymer line, but it takes a real fisherman to land a 23-inch brown trout on 2-pound monofilament. With ultralight gear, even the smallest fish turns into a worthy opponent. This makes the large fish seem even more spectacular.
The key to landing a large fish with ultralight gear is to take your time. The worst thing you can do is be over-aggressive when playing the fish; one big jump or a quick run downstream will snap the line. The fish must be worn down gradually by allowing the fish to make a run, and then reeling in the slack when the fish changes direction. With extremely large fish, it may be necessary to reel in line and let out line several times before the fish can be landed successfully.
The largest fish I ever landed on an ultralight rod and tackle was a rainbow trout; a hulking 28-inch behemoth taken from Loyalsock Creek in Pennsylvania. The fish was hooked at around 6:30 in the evening, and fought a valiant battle for over thirty minutes until sunset. Loyalsock Creek is a wide and sometimes deep river, which presented the fish with several opportunities to make long runs downstream, at about fifty yards at a time. The battle was not unlike two football teams on the gridiron scrapping for field position and fighting for territory. When the trout was landed, I had a newfound respect for the fish; a respect that would not have been so deep had I merely reeled in the trout in five minutes with a heavy line.
Catching big fish with ultralight rods and tackle requires patience and practice, but once you have the experience of pulling in a monster fish, you too will be hooked, no pun intended.