Peninsula Fly Fishers

Grip n' Grin

How to Hold a Fish for a Picture

by Mary Nishioka

March 2008

After seeing 1,000s of grip-and-grin pictures of people holding their fish for photos, I want to share some valuable information that I learned from guide, Jim Andras.
First thing to remember is that this is a once in a lifetime photo op. Once the fish is put back, dropped, or wiggles free, your chance for a picture is over. If it's truly a memorable fish, why not make it the best picture that you can? How many times have you seen people holding their fish and all you see is their grin and their hands? The poor fish is hidden. When you do catch a big one, how many times have you said that it looked bigger when you caught in than in the photo?

How not to #1
All Hands and not Even Much Grin

At least a grin
At Least We Can See the Grin

Also think about how many pictures of fish you want. The limited amount of background tends to look the same, we usually wear the same or similar clothing, and the fish start looking alike. Taking the fish out of the water, excessive handling, risking squeezing or dropping are all potentially hazardous to the fish. Use The Golden Rule and handle the way you would want to be handled if you were a fish.

Step 1:
After the fish is in the net - and still in the water, stop and take a deep breath. Your adrenaline is high from the take and the fight. You need to focus on the next part - the picture. And never ever take your camera out or turn it on before the fish isactually in the net. Very bad fish karma. Don't even think of the picture when you are fighting the fish.

Step 2:
Wet your hands. The fish will probably be tangled in the net and tippet. Release the fish from the net but leave him or her in the net in the water. You are getting ready to pick the fish up. If the net is tangled around fins, in the mouth, or you want to take the fly out, fix it now. Keep taking slow deep breathes and concentrate on what you are doing. Ignore the people around you and the voice in your head that is screaming "I got it ! ! I got it ! ! "

Lose that Net!
Lose that Net!

Step 3:
Trout, salmon and steelhead all have a flat spot at the base of their tail on the top. Put your thumb on this flat spot and your fingers around the back - not the front - of the fish. The bigger the fish, the bigger the flat spot. On a nice steelhead, your whole thumb fits. Smaller fish are trickier but it's still there. Squeeze down with your thumb on the flat spot and up with the pads of your fingers at the base of the tail.If you are doing it correctly, this one hand gives you total control of the fish. You can't hurt the fish unless you literally squish it's tail off (on a small fish, I suppose it's possible) so please don't do this. On a medium to big fish, you can't hurt it from this position.The fish is not going anywhere, it can't kick and wiggle free. The fish should still be in the net in the water. All you need to do is barely lift the tail to get your hand around the back (non camera side) of the fish and squeeze top and bottom.

Fish Under Control and Ready
Fish is Under Control and Ready for Picture
Step 4:
The background should be selected. The sun is where you want it. Decide if this is a traditional grip-and-grin or something more interesting. The camera should be on and focused. The fish is still in the net in the water.

Step 5:
Now you are going to move fast but gently. Your second hand comes up below the fish and cradles it -with almost no fingers showing on the camera side of the fish. This hand is supporting the weight of the fish so the internal organs aren't harmed and you lift. At the same time you smile, look up and the picture is taken. Fish goes back in the net in the water. Note that this also limits the amount of your skin that touches the fish.

Got it Right
Awsome Fish--Got It Right

Step 5:
Repeat if necessary but limit as you want to revive and release the fish as soon as possible.

Even Better!
Some Fish Personality to this One

Step 6:
To put fish back in the water to revive before releasing, repeat steps 3 and 4 for handling the fish. Hold the fish with the hand in front of the tail pressing down with your thumb on the flat spot. Wait until the fish is revived and wants to swim away then release. Don't make him fight but make sure that he is fully able to swim.

Step 7:
Repeat often until you get it right.

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