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Line management is key to fly-fishing

Imagine, if you will, waiting the better part of the morning for your chance to deliver a fly to a tarpon.

The fishing has been slow. You're getting bored. But then, seemingly out of nowhere, the perfect school of fish appears and heads your way. You get the boat into position, make two false casts and shoot the line.

Then something unholy happens: Your fly stops in midair and lands woefully short of its target. You look down to discover your fly line is wrapped around the cooler handle and your only opportunity of the day has been blown.

What could be worse?

How about if the fly reaches its target, you hook the tarpon, then discover a knot in your line that looks like an osprey's nest. Frantically, you try to get it undone. Meanwhile, the fish is picking up speed, getting ready to leave the county. At this point, all you can do is grab the line and break the tippet or risk having the guide ripped off your rod.

If you have fly-fished for any length of time, it doesn't take much imagination to picture similar scenarios. It may not have been the handle of the cooler, or the knot may have been a little smaller, but something similar to this probably has happened to you.

In the world of fly-fishing, the most important precaution is also the one most overlooked _ fly-line management. The art of good fly-line management is simple to define: Do whatever it takes to keep your line free of tangles and prevent it from getting snagged.

Defining the problem is the easy part solving it is another matter.

Start by getting rid of most of the snags in your boat. Flush-mounted push-pole holders are the ticket. They pop up when you need them and when you don't, they lie flat and out of the way.

The same goes for a popup bow cleat. It probably is more important than the push-pole holders because almost everyone fly-fishes from the bow and without one of these, life would be miserable.

Make sure the cooler is out of the way. As mentioned earlier, handles, latches and hinges have a way of grabbing your fly line at the most inopportune moments.

You never can have enough spare rods and reels in the boat, but they're notorious for getting in the way. Store them on the opposite side of where you're casting.

Take your shoes off because shoelaces have been known to get twisted in fly line. Also it's easier to tell if you are stepping on the line if you are in your bare feet.

If you have a bow-mounted trolling motor, drape a damp beach towel over it to eliminate any problems it might cause.

Keeping the fly line free of tangles and knots is a little more difficult because you also are dealing with Mother Nature. These problems are mainly caused by the wind blowing the line all over.

One thing you can do to help minimize these problems is use a stripping basket to collect your line. They sell for less than $20 but you can make one that works just fine.

Take a hamper and pour in 20 pounds of ready-mix concrete. Once the concrete sets, place a piece of carpet over it. Stick some non-skid tape to the bottom of the hamper and you are ready to go.

If you don't like stripping baskets, try placing a piece of carpet on the floor of the cockpit and strip your line onto it. Either one of these methods are definitely better than a fiberglass floor when it come to keeping your line in place.

And that's the secret. If you can keep your line from being flung about the boat it should uncoil in the opposite order in which it was stacked, which allows it to run through the guides tangle-free.

Good line management is nothing more than being properly prepared, which of course is the most important part of fishing.

_ Bob Puccinelli is the co-host of Let's Talk Fishing on WQYK-AM 1010.

KING FLY: Since May is tarpon time, here's a fly to catch the silver king. This fly is a Dahlberg version of Black Death. Throw this fly with a floating line or, depending on the circumstances, with a sinking line. Fly courtesy of Marty Martin, World Class Outfitters, Tampa.