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Right hand or left hand wind?

This article comes from Peter Hayes, one of Australia's most respected guides and casting instructors. For more information on Peter, head to

The million dollar question.

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 cast with then spools your new reel and line to wind with the opposite hand – then he has likely given you a bum steer. 

The fact is that we wind up the line very infrequently when we are fly fishing. We might wind in for morning tea, lunch, afternoon tea and very occasionally when we hook a fish. Most fish should be pulled in by stripping in the line – it’s more efficient.

So, the efficiency of not needing to change hands to do the job is not 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. He’s clearly the fish of a lifetime and the largest you’ve ever hooked.

He’s powerful and cunning too. Now he turns and runs straight at you, with considerable speed. You know you must wind up the slack or he 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, you are now moving your fingers in triangles and squares. Now the near vertical rod tip is vibrating and rotating in circles. The slack hanging line is being wrapped around the tip. Now it’s all jammed up and you can’t wind any line in now. Deep in your heart you know it’s over. You have stuffed up and lost the fish of a lifetime – all because the guy in the shop 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 then I would say ‘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 meters downstream over boulders before you land your fish then I suggest you wind with the hand you are best 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.

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