How To Get Flies Out Of Trees, Bushes, & Body Parts

It happens to the best of us. You’re false casting, getting ready to launch that perfect presentation to a rising giant of a trout, when you take one last backcast and–whoops–into the tree it goes. Those bushes you thought your cast were going to clear? Apparently not. Those shrubs along the river that looked out of casting distance, you caught them. Learn how to get your precious fly out of tangles and snags before getting pissed and giving up.

Overhanging Tree Branches, Shrubs Or Bushes

I sometimes fish with a guy that has the uncanny ability of getting his fly or lure out of any tree, or any vegetation, no matter how badly it’s snagged, every single time. It’s truly a sight to see. Now when he goes up into a tree I get just a little excited, thinking that this is the time that he fails and has to break off. Nope, he still gets it out. Take a page right out of his book, if you take a moment to think about your game plan for getting the fly out of the tree, instead of reacting, you might be able to get it out.

Instead of wrenching back your rod the second the fly starts to wrap into the tree, just wait and let the fly settle. Once the fly settles, if you can see it clearly, try to figure out if the leader is wrapped around the branch or just hanging over it and if the hook is in play at all. If the hook isn’t stuck you should be able to slowly pull on the line and free your line. The line should be lost since you didn’t wrench back on the rod and tighten the leader. If not, you may need to break it.

Learn To Get Flies Free From Snags
That concrete piling you didn’t notice behind you? Yea, you’re stuck on it now.

Far Away Plants, Rocks Or Structures

Sometimes not being able to see the problem is the actual problem. If you can’t tell how your fly is stuck and the simple “just wait, then pull slow and steady” approach above doesn’t work, then it’s time to get creative. Many times you’ll be able to get your fly back by throwing a roll cast towards the snag, then pulling back your rod tip to get the fly un-stuck.

Obviously though, that doesn’t always work. If you can, try to pull on the line or roll-cast-then-pull from a different angle. If you’re nymphing and have caught your fly on a rock on the river’s surface, you’re most likely just snagged between two rocks. Putting tension on a different part of the line may cause the fly to come free easily. The final, last-ditch strategy is to borrow a tactic from pro bass anglers. Pinch the line near your reel and pull it up a few inches, then make your line tight. Point your rod tip towards the obstruction. Then at the same time both release then line pinched between your fingers and extend your rod hand towards the snag. Sometimes this will pop the hook free, but if not, it’s time to break off.

A Fly Angler Ties On A Fresh Leader After Getting Snagged
Always carry an extra leader, or two, just in case you can’t get your fly free.

Precious & Tender Body Parts

Oh man, now it’s serious. This is why you should always wear sunglasses, a hat, and even a neck gaiter when fly fishing, because you just never know what you’ll snag on next. I’ve seen someone get a fly stuck in their eyelid, and that was enough to make me wear shades every time I fish, no matter what. Good thing to, because I’ve head lures and flies, both mine and from other people, knock the glass on my shades more than once.

If you get a hook in a body part, carefully inspect the wound. It’s a good idea to cut off any barbs on your hooks, not only to make releasing fish way easier, but also because it’ll be less painful if you get hooked yourself. If you are fishing a barbed hook, look to see if it’s embedded in your skin. If it’s not, you should be able to easily, if not painfully, pull the hook right out. If the hook has gone in past the barb, then you need to sit down, maybe take a few sips of beer and grab a friend. Cut off the leader from the fly and grab a few feet of fly line. Use a finger to put pressure on the hook eye of the fly in your skin, pushing down and back (as in towards the hook bend). At the same time, put fly line inside the bend of the hook and with a hand on each side, get ready to  yank. Count to three, pull on two. It should pop right out. If not, go see a doctor.


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