Let’s be honest, everyone loves to hoist a big fish for the “grip n’ grin” photos. It’s easy to spot awkward hands fumbling a fish, and it’s no fun for the fish either to be dropped, rolled on the bank then choked half to death. In order to have a great looking pose for your photos and keep the fish happy and healthy there are a few things to keep in mind.
First off, really try to keep the fish in the water every moment possible. This is one of many advantages to using a net, as it’s east to keep the fish breathing in the “bucket” while you remove the fly and prepare for a photo. Next, be aware that any contact the fish has with a dry surface is going to harm the protective mucus layer (slime). This means wet your hands before handling a fish, and don’t land fish by “skipping” the poor fella up onto the bank for it to flail in dry grass, dirt, leaves, rocks, etc. Once the camera is ready, lift the fish for a quick shot then return it to the water asap. Imagine you were just running for your life then captured and drug under water. How long would you like to hold your breath? Keep that in mind as you pose with your catch.
Be aware of how much of your hands the camera can see, and try to keep as much of the fish showing and your hands and fingers hidden. A great way to hold the fish is by making the “A-OK” symbol, using only your thumb and second finger to create a ring around the “wrist” of the fish’s tail. Don’t use a full hand to squeeze the tail, the narrow grip of 2 digits keeps the tail fanned out and thus a better hold. Then with the other hand, simply lift the front of the fish beneath the peck fins. Tail hand controls the fish, front hand simply lifts and supports. If you squeeze a fish it will be more prone to struggle, and often ends up dropped or gets the “bear hug” into dry clothing making a slimly mess on you and a very poor chance of survival for the fish with a large area of slime now on your clothes rather than on the fish. Always stay positioned directly over and close to the water, that way if the fish struggles it’s easy to put it down in the water and re-group. Turning a fish on its side will often disorient and calm a fish down to get a quick grip. Also don’t be afraid to be creative and keep in mind that photographing the fish IN the water makes for much more unique and interesting shots anyways. Slightly lifting a fish barely out of the water helps keep better control and just makes for a classier shot.