Henry Gilbey
Cape Cod - 1010.jpg


Henry Gilbey blog

How do you hold your rod and do you ever play around with it? (tee hee)

I’m not even going to try and justify the endless innuendos either in the title to this blog post or contained within, but yes, I am a 45 year old grown up (?), and no, I can’t do much about the fact that me wanting to talk about how we hold our fishing rods might sound fantastically puerile to non-anglers especially. What, me, playing around with the English language? Never!


Anyway, I don’t know about you, but I reckon from day one of picking up a fishing rod with a spinning reel on it I have held it in the same way - and for me that’s what I think is called a split-grip. When I am holding a fishing rod for either casting or retrieving lures, I would have two fingers either side of the reel stem, and I would hazard a guess that this is how most anglers around the world hold a fishing rod that has a spinning reel attached to it. It feels natural, it gives you a good grip, and it obviously works just fine.

But do you ever play around with it (tee hee)? I bet like me you pick up your fishing rod as naturally as you’d tie your shoelaces (note that I am maturely not pointing out the other, perhaps more obvious male reference here), as in it’s so natural to us that we don’t even think about it - we just do it. For nearly forty years I’d have picked up a fishing rod/spinning reel combination and my two sausage fingers would move to either side of that reel stem. I wasn’t looking to change this, indeed to be perfectly honest I had never thought about how I hold my rod because I’d been doing it for so long and it just worked.


Then a few years ago when I was in Cape Cod with Matt the Fiiish lure designer, I was photographing him casting Crazy Sandeels one morning on the Cape Cod Canal and I noticed how he would cast with a split-grip (above) and then change over to a different grip for the retrieve (below) - he would move his hand so that it sat on the foregrip with the reel stem behind, as in no fingers either side of the reel stem at all. I bet an angler like Matt who has fished all his life doesn’t even know he is doing this it’s so natural to him, but when you stop and concentrate on anglers as I so often do with cameras in hand, you tend to notice these tiny details. It made no difference to how I fish myself, but I picked up on it.


And then we were in Ireland last June and I was photographing Carl with his new at the time Van Staal VR50 (boo, hoo, see here), and I noticed how his casting grip was with his little finger behind the reel stem (above), and then for the most part he would move his hand to sit completely in front of the reel stem for the retrieve (below). So we got to talking about it as one does - men, rods, grips, how you do it, different strokes etc. - and for no other reason than I wanted to try it to see how it felt, I started to give this way a go.


And now when I pick up a fishing rod/spinning reel combination I find that my little finger now sits behind the reel stem with the rest of my hand in front (below). I don’t change this grip save for the odd occasion when I might think about it and try my whole hand in front of the reel for the retrieve, but mostly it’s that little finger behind and without really meaning to it now feels as natural as the split-grip used to feel for me. It feels great to cast and retrieve like this and if I change back to a split-grip it feels a bit alien, although no doubt if I persisted in fishing like this again for a few sessions it would all feel normal again. So what does this all demonstrate? Nothing really, other than it is possible to shake things up a bit, does more of your hand/fingers on the actual rod blank promote more feel perhaps, and that it is also possible to write about how you hold your rod without any innuendos at all……………….