Fly fishing hacks: Do you retrieve with the right hand, the left, or both?

Retrieve hand may depend on sizeWhich hand do you retrieve with? That is the question.

I’m a right handed person, and like most I cast with the right hand and retrieved (i.e. strip or crank the reel) with the left. At least as far as fresh water fishing went. The reason we’re dealing with past tense here is as follows…

Quite some time ago I found myself on a lonely flat in the Keys, in early June. As it happens, my fly managed to connect with a sizable tarpon, and after fifteen or so minutes of fighting I found my right arm and hand cramping up. Call me a sissy if you must, but I even wound up asking for help – my partner-in-crime just laughed. My exhaustion eventually resulted in an exploded rod, when the nasty beast was within fifty feet of the boat and I levered back a bit too much in hopes of putting the nightmare to rest getting the fish in once and for all. I wound up losing two sections of rod, a fly line, and a fly. In retrospect, I realized the cause was simply being a candy-ass tired.

What knocked me down? Casting a 12-weight all morning, and then having to fight the fish with the same arm. Meanwhile, I knew I could have reeled faster with my right hand, only it was incapacitated by the rod in it. Thereafter, I switched retrieve on all the reels I owned which held more than a couple hundred yards of backing to right hand, meaning whenever I hooked up I’d have to switch rod hands before the reeling began. I’m now doing this with all bigger rigs (say anything 8-weight and above), and it has suited me just fine. While I’d like to say I’ve lost fewer big fish as a result, we all know I don’t hook any fish to begin with I haven’t done any empirical study. Nevertheless, it feels quite natural to me now.

I’m fishing the conditions, knowing I can put more line back on the reel with my right hand when I need it most. And I’m giving my right arm a much needed rest in the process. With smaller rods/reels/targets I still cast with the right and reel with the left.

What hand do you fight with? Do you maintain that position regardless of the type of fish you’re targeting, and the gear you’re using? Or are you a switch hitter like I’ve become?

Delusional Inquiring minds want to know.


Gracie the switch hitter? That’s not the LGBT type, but more the baseball type? Whatever, it doesn’t really matter to me, I’m just wondering if you’re coming out–because we’re here to support you.

I don’t catch big enough fish to worry about. So it’s cast with right and reel with left. Always. NO switch hitting here.

KBarton10 says:

Cast right, reel right – it was the way I was taught.

I’ve no defense for the practice other than I need my most nimble hand on the reel, allowing me to react to fish movement faster than using the less coordinated left. Keeping the rod high and line tight is a single motion – better suited for the “goofy” hand as all it’ll need to do is lower the rod quickly (bowing to the fish).

@Scott – Thank you for your kind support. [Getting choked up] Ok…here goes… While I do chat up every woman I bump into Whole Foods, I only get numbers like 1% of the time. Whole Foods has cost me plenty, as have those lucky one-percenters. I cannot tell a lie, so I hereby profess my love for all the darling ladies at, with particular emphasis on those who might have a stash of home-brew beer they are willing to share. There…I said it. You satisfied?

@KB – I agree with this method wholeheartedly, and have actually found myself swapping rod hand after hookup a lot since I started chasing carp (even if I’m holding a 5-weight with an elk-hair caddis on it). I’ll probably migrate one reel over soon and see how it feels on trout water, as something within has begun ‘re-wiring’ itself.

Derek McLauchlan says:

I’ve always cast with my right hand then swap the rod over to my left hand when fighting a fish. It just feels right!

Lol Whole Foods!

Jeff says:

Personaly, just go with what feels comfortable. I cast right reel left. I don’t think about it, i just do it. Thats all there is too it IMO.

myron says:

I,m going to be a switch hit hitter this year after I watched some inmpressive fly fishing videos. The way it was done Old English Style, cast with the right, reel with the right, but only after the fish itself has put itself on the reel. Once the fish was hooked, the rod was used to controll the fish in the main hand(right for me)and line was stripped in or let out with the left till either the fish was brought in or the fish took the all the line out and then, only then, once the fish was on the reel, was the rod switch over to the other hand, then the main hand controlled the fish on the reel.

Dominick Amato says:

I tried both ways Right Hand Cast , Right Hand Retrive works best for me also . Left hand retrive works great for spincast but Fly fishing just wears out the hand, must be the position of the reel ?

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