Left or right-hand wind?  

Following my column back in September, I’ve been asked, which hand should you wind the reel with?

Well, the correct answer is, ‘it depends’. In my opinion if the guy in the tackle store asks you which hand you hold the rod with to cast, then spools your new reel and line to wind with the opposite hand, he may have given you a bum steer.

The fact is, we wind the line up infrequently when we are flyfishing. We might wind in for morning tea, lunch, afternoon tea… and depending on the size and species of targeted fish, sometimes when we hook up. Often, trout can be pulled in by stripping in the line. So, any efficiency gained by not needing to change hands to do the job, isn’t relevant.

How about this for a more important consideration. Just occasionally, hopefully, you hook a truly big and powerful fish. This fish pulls hard and runs all the slack line out that you have at your feet. The reel is now screaming and the fish has you in the backing. It’s clearly the fish of a lifetime and the largest you’ve ever hooked.

When you’re on the backing, you need to be confident in your reeling hand!

The fish is powerful – and cunning too. Now it turns and runs straight at you, with considerable speed. You know you must wind up the slack or it will throw your hook. You keep the rod high and the bend goes out of it. You are doing the best you can at winding flat out with your non-dominant hand. You need to wind the handle flat out in a 40 mm radius.

As a guide I’ve seen this all a thousand times. Your non-dominant hand is jerky at winding. You struggle to move it quickly in a smooth circle; instead you are moving your fingers in triangles and squares. Now, the near-vertical rod tip is vibrating and rotating. The slack hanging line is being wrapped around the tip. Before you know it, it’s all jammed up and you can’t wind any more line in. Deep in your heart you know it’s over. You have stuffed up and lost the fish of a lifetime – all because someone told you to wind with your useless hand and you didn’t ask why.

If you asked this fishing guide which hand you should wind with, I would say again, ‘it depends’. I would suggest that when you next clean your teeth, you try to do it with your non-dominant hand. If it goes well and you don’t jag yourself in the eye, bruise your gums or stick the brush up your nose, then you might try winding with that hand.

If you are going to fish for big and powerful fish where you might be required to walk a hundred metres downstream over boulders before you land your fish, then I suggest you wind with the hand you are best at winding with. In situations like this, you cannot have any loose line dragging around your feet and I will bet there are many times when you will be required to wind very quickly and smoothly.

Right-handed, and winding with the right hand – it works well for many.

In summary, whichever hand you choose to wind with, you must be able to wind quickly and smoothly.