Right hand or left hand?
Published Sep 24th 2013
The debate about whether to use the right hand or the left hand on the fly reel is almost as old as fly-fishing itself. Let's look a bit rationally on the issue at hand... sorry, couldn't help it!
People do what they are comfortable with or what they have learned, but to judge someone to be doing it wrong is like judging someone for being wrong in eating, writing or scratching an itch with one hand rather than the other.
There is on the other hand (excuse the pun!) issues to consider when choosing what to do with what hand.
there is no "right" hand as in the correct hand
Right/wrong, left/right, primary/secondary
Most people have their right hand as the dominant or primary and the one that they use for most purposes that require control and coordination like eating or writing.
You can have several varieties of hand dominance.
Right and left handedness is simply being better at almost all things with one or the other hand.
According to Wikipedia
Truly ambidextrous: 1%
According to Wikipedia
Truly ambidextrous: 1%
Ambidexterity is being equally good with both hands.
Mixed-handedness is being good at some (often most) things with one hand, but being able to do other things equally good or even better with the other. Like writing with the left hand but preferring to eat with the right.
Some mixed-handedness is forced upon people who are left-handed because most of the world is set up for right-handed people. That could be tying as a right-hander in spite of being left handed because that's how you learned it, or using certain tools in the right hand because they are shaped to be used in the right hand.
Most of us cast with the good hand, which is the right (as opposed to the left) hand in a majority of cases. Under most circumstances it doesn't make a big difference, but in some instances it influences the fishing.
Fishing in wind is harder when you have the wind onto your casting side. You want the wind to blow the line away from your casting hand. In a boat you will also usually want to keep the line away from the boat and yourself and not least fellow anglers or guides on board.
If you are fishing in a current, some situations are also facilitated by using a certain hand. Using the water surface in an underhand or roll cast is a lot easier with the current coming onto your casting hand, because it transports the line and leader "away from itself" in front of you where you mostly want to perform the cast, rather than away from your casting hand, forcing you to cast off your casting side or with the danger of the line touching or crossing and tangling if you insist on performing the cast in front of you.
You can't always choose the direction of the current (as in never actually), but you can sometimes move to the opposite bank or turn. But if that's not the case, switching hands can solve the problem, and bring the rod and line from the off-current side to the on-current side, making roll and underhand casting easier.
For most people the natural way of retrieving is with the opposite hand of the casting hand. Since the non-casting hand is on the line while casting, it's natural to keep it so and retrieve line with that hand. So a right hand caster will mostly retrieve line with the left hand.
Following the same logic, you grab the reel handle with your free hand and wind.
But it's surprisingly common to switch hands once the cast is finished or a fish is hooked or you need to retrieve or spool in line. In other words using the same hand to cast and to retrieve. You will often see reels used by right hand casters with the spooling handle on the right hand side, pointing away from the angler's body and free hand.
Stronger, better coordinated
I have tried to find out why, and the most common answer is that it's how people learned it and the way they have always done things.
When asked, some argue that it makes sense to use the better hand to do the critical operations - both casting, retrieving and spooling. The argument is that there's more strength and better coordination in the good hand, which is a fine argument, but honestly seems like an afterthought more than a motivation as such.
Personally I think tradition and teaching converts more people to switch than an actual need to get things transferred to the good hand.
Whichever way you have the handles on your reels, just keep it like that if you are used to it and comfortable with it.
If you want adaptability and flexibility in your fishing, it's a very good idea to learn to cast with both hands.
If you always used your good hand, you will feel very inadequate in the beginning, but people being forced to change due to physical damage or injury, actually learn to use the other hand quite quickly. They might not be able to cast as far as they did with the good hand, but they can cast.
And even without being forced to do so, learning to master the other hand will enable you switch hand according to wind or current or physical limitations like trees or steep banks, so it's a very good investment.