When hung up in the rocks in moving water, you often can not wade out and dislodge what could be your favorite fly or plug. There are many techniques that can be implemented to retrieve what could be your hottest offering of the day.
If you find yourself snagged while casting up-stream, move well above where you think you are hung up. Lightly twitch your rod tip. Most commonly you are lodged in the “V” of the rock pile, so the upstream twitching movement will free your lure. Once you have retrieved your lure be sure to check your hooks, they may be bent or the once sharp tip could have become dull while rubbing against the rock pile.
When you find yourself hung up in a rock pile while fishing down-stream, free spool about twenty yards of line. Then, once the slacked line is out and your line becomes tight, set the hook. Since your line looped well below the snag when you set the hook, your plug will be pulled in a down-stream direction, thus freeing it. If this technique does not work, walk downstream again well below the snag and try the twitch technique. If this fails, wrap your line around your forearm and walk backwards. One of two thing will happen; your lure will become free or your line will break. The reason I use my forearm is so I do not put stress on my rod or reel. This also prevents line abrasion to my hand. The same techniques will also work if you are lodged into an underwater wood pile. The only variation is the twitching. You may need to twitch for an extended period of time, as you are attempting to compromise the water logged, softened wood. Do not set the hook too many times, as once the barb is set into the log, your chances of retrieving your lure go way down.
Another situation you will find yourself in while fishing the banks of smaller rivers or streams is becoming snagged in trees. While I’m sure you won’t mistake a tree for a fish, setting the hook into the tree is not relevant. But what is relevant is getting your lure back without disrupting the fishing conditions. Most of the time when you are battling a tree, your line is draped over a limb while your lure is in the water. You might get lucky and have a fish strike, thus pulling your line off the flexible limb. But chances of that happening are not good. I would recommend allowing your lure to sink, but not to the bottom. The force of the river’s current pulling your lure and line downstream could very well pull the line right off the limb. Another option is to try twitching the line off the limb without pulling the lure out of the water. If you are still not free, reel your lure very slowly to the point where it is directly below the limb. Be sure your lure is not swinging at all. If the lure swings, you could get hung up in a second branch. To get your lure to stop swinging, drop it back into the water and begin again. Once you have your lure 6 inches from the branch, give your line a twitch back toward you. The lure will swing on the 6 inches of line propelling it over the top of the branch. Once you see your lure has cleared the top of the branch, get it out of there by reeling very fast. If you don’t, it may become lodged into a lower branch. If you yank on your rod as you reel to set the hook, the lure could end up in a tree behind you.
Trees, rock piles and log jams are great places to find fish. When fishing these prime spots, it is extremely important to have the knowledge of how to free a snagged lure. If not, you may find yourself fishing the center of the river where fewer fish hold, or even worse, you may find yourself hiking back to the car to head to the local fish market or tackle shop.