The Two-Handed Retrieve

The Two-Handed Retrieve:

Last time we took a look at the widely used One-Hand “strip’ Retrieve. Now let’s look at an alternative method – the Two-Handed Retrieve. And why you should learn both.

I first wrote about this type of retrieve way back in the early 1990’s. And it’s a popular tactic here in the Northeast salt. You’ll come across it from New Jersey to Maine , although as you travel farther south it is far less common. Here’s how you do the Two-Handed retrieve: after the cast, put the cork grip up high under your casting arm, and pinch down with your upper arm enough to secure the rod in place. It doesn’t take much. (see photo) Typically at this point the reel slightly protrudes behind your armpit. Next reach forward with one hand and pull down on the fly line, as the other hand climbs to do the same. So you are making alternating pulls, one hand after the other. Pretty simple really.  Oh, be sure to keep the rod tip fairly low as you do with the One-Hand Retrieve.

At this point you are essentially hand-lining the fly. If you feel a “take”, strike by pulling down on the fly line. That’s right -“strip” strike! Do not lift the rod for God’s sake!  As the fish runs,  use the hand under the rod to keep some tension on the fly line as to reach across with the other hand to remove the rod from under your arm. Sounds complex but it is very simple. Keep the rod tip low for a moment, as you clear line from the stripping basket. When things are good lift the rod up.

So why learn this tactic? For one thing, as we just saw, the Two-Handed Retrieve forces you to “strip” strike. Excellent. Way to go. Second because you are hand-lining the fly, this retrieve is very sensitive to even the lightest “take”. It also capable of a greater range of retrieve speeds from very fast to very slow.  Additionally you can produce a steady speed retrieve which is how bait often swims. ( You can also a stop-and-go style if you like.) Need more? You don’t cut your damn finger up as can with the other retrieve. Ha. And lastly, since the rod is hands free, you can instantly use both hands to undo a tangle or a knot. Nice.

So is it all good? Of course not. It is harder to work a popper, although you can learn how. And some will argue its not as good at hopping a fly across a flat. But the biggest problem is that it is something different, and many anglers are creatures of habit. Oh well. My condolences.

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2 Responses to The Two-Handed Retrieve

  1. Ted Rzepski says:

    Great consideration of saltwater retrieve options. On huge plus for having the rod under my arm during a two hand retrieve is I have a better sense of what the fly is doing. In one of your classes you compared this technique to fishing with a baited hand line. There’s less interference from the rod guides. Also, it’s possible to alternate to one hand stripping with the rod still under the arm.
    Finger injury from single hand stripping can make a multi day fishing trip very miserable.

    • Ed Mitchell says:

      Good point! Yes, you can switch to the “one-handed” with the rod still under your arm. I like that. Years back folks were reluctant to try the “two-handed” believing it was only for high speed retrieves. They didn’t seem to understand it worked well at any speed. But serious anglers discovered there was a time and place both styles of retrieve. It simply makes you a more effective anglers.

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