Using a Shock Loop when swinging? [Archive] - Fly Fishing Forum

: Using a Shock Loop when swinging?

10-19-2003, 12:11 PM
I have always been taught to lead the fly with the rod when swinging and always use a shock loop. I've had good success at doing this, but recently in an effort to reduce fly speed, I have been following the fly with the rod. I read in Trey Combs steelheading book that if you are following the fly on the swing, you should not use a shock loop as the fly line does not have enough momentum to create an automatic hook set. He recommends no loop, and just a simple drop of the rod tip.

Last night I got my first legit hookup while following the fly, I was using a shock loop and my muddler was quickly expelled. Can anyone confirm the usefullness of a shock loop when following a fly on the swing?


10-19-2003, 04:14 PM
I always use the shock loop, and more often than not I'm following the fly to slow it down. I'm getting good hookups most of the time. A friend of mine doesn't use them and also gets good hookups most of the time. I feel better using them, he feels better not using them. That doesn't help much, probably, but there you are.

10-19-2003, 06:14 PM
I almost always have a loop of about a foot in my hand; however, I don't drop in when a fish takes. I only drop it if the fish has solidly hooked itself. And I almost always strike a fish as well after it has taken the fly by lifting up on the rod quickly. This is not the quick reaction strike of trout fishing, it is still a striking of the fish nonetheless.

10-19-2003, 07:39 PM
flytyer, just curious: what's the advantage of having that loop if you only drop it (I assume you mean let the fish take the foot of line) if there's a solid hook up. Wouldn't having no loop get you the same thing?

The trouble in all of this, frankly, is that getting a steelhead strike tends to clear my mind of everything that was, is, and will be going on for about ten seconds on either side of the strike. For all I know I've been abducted by aliens (or, to dream a little, molested by a bewadered JLo) during those twenty seconds of oblivion. But I _think_ the steelhead graps the fly, pulls the loop up through my dull-witted hands, the line hits the reel, and I raise the rod. Bang, on a good day, she's on.

10-19-2003, 08:34 PM
Originally posted by Cphatts
I read in Trey Combs steelheading book that if you are following the fly on the swing, you should not use a shock loop as the fly line does not have enough momentum to create an automatic hook set.

Trey Combs says alot of things. Some I've found to be true, some I've found to be false, some I've found to be a matter of interpretation, and some are just plain silly. The above is just plain silly IMHO.

There is considerable drag, or pressure, or tension, or whatever you want to call it on a 60 to 100 feet of flyline in moving water. As a test, next time a big fish runs toward you, do nothing but sink your rod tip under water. Even with a barbless hook, the pressure on the line will keep the fish on until you casually reel in enough line to regain contact. You may not know where the heck the fish is, but he'll be on your line :chuckle:

With all that tension on the line, following or leading your line does affect the drift of your fly, but the idea that following or leading the fly will alter the momentum (whatever that means) of your fly enough to alter the hookset on the fish?:chuckle:

The best way I know to slow the drift of a fly on a wide swing, and slow its momentum (whatever that means) is to mend the running line upstream, and then lead that mended line, inserting slack between the rod tip and where the water grips the line, until the connection grows tight, then repeat, repeat, repeat... A tight connection between your rodtip and line, which is what you get when you follow the line, will more than likely speed up things at the business end. Leading reduces tension, following increases tension.

Sorry if it seems like I'm ranting, but sheesh. I have enough to worry about uncorking a decent cast and not falling into the river. If I had to worry about little stuff like momentum affecting hookups, I'd never leave the house!

10-19-2003, 10:24 PM

What I mean by "dumping the loop" I have in my hand, is to simply lower my index finger that has been tightly holding the line against the grip or my thumb to allow the line to run over my finger (with the slight drap the finger adds) before the reel is engaged by the running fish. This seems to keep the leader from being shocked and has resulted in fewer break-offs right after a hook up. My friend Bob Arnold always fishes with a loop in his hand for this reason. It is the same thing I do when fishing for trout or bass with a single hand rod.

New Spey
10-20-2003, 10:50 AM
Deke Meyers likes to set his drag just tight enough to barb the fish. He believes it gives him less to worry about. Things like possible tangles with the loop. I like this system, because I am a tangle waiting to happen.

10-20-2003, 11:12 AM
I never have used the loop for the swing. I've definitely caught my share of steelhead over the years, and thinking back I can't think of a single time I felt I needed shock relief. Spey rods are so full flexing that the take is well shocked anyway, and today's modern disc drag systems are smooth as silk. Between the two I can't see myself needing to do it. In fact if I close my eyes and think back on all the grabs I've had they all feel great! :)

10-20-2003, 11:45 AM
I never used to hold a loop, then when I first read Combs book I started to do it. I never found it useful, primarily because most of the takes were such a suprise that I could never even consider "dropping the loop". I caught plenty of fish before I did it and plenty after I started doing it - I don't think it makes a difference.

This past summer on the Dean I had a of events that have me re-thinking my now well established habit of holding a loop. It seems that the robust take of the Dean fish caused the loop to jump up and flip over the reel handle - this definitely sucks! Therefore, I have resolved to break myself of the habit of holding a loop while the fly swings. I catch few enough steelhead - I don't want to lose even one to something as dumb as a habit I picked up from reading a book!

10-20-2003, 12:29 PM
Fly line momentum huh? Seems that one is up there with the wind is to the east so lean to the west. Or is that never lean into a right hook?

I know plenty of good steelhead anglers that hold a loop and plenty that don't. I personally rarely if ever do. I trust my finger on the line and cork and always follow up with a good solid hookset. After that it is fish straight to a reel with a minimum of drag.

The exception to this would be when I am working line out at the start of a run. I will hold 3' or so of loop until the forward shoot. Occasionally I have had a fish hit when I have the loop. I guess I am not one of those quick reflexed and clear minded few who can drop the loop before reacting. What usually happens to me is the fish pulls a foot or so of the loop through my fingers before I clamp down on it as I raise the tip and fish on!

While I theoretically can see the benefit of the dropped loop for top water patterns, I can't see any advantage to be gained for fishing subsurface. As Juro said, modern rods (speys in partcular) have more than enough flex to protect against shock.

Yes I have on rare occasions snapped fish off when I was daydreaming and a violent hit resulted in me setting the hook like it was a blue marlin. This is a rarity though and is soley my fault when it does happen. I can live with that.

Rick J
10-20-2003, 02:53 PM
On the Klamath where many of the fish are half pounders alot of the fish just nip at the fly. I have gotten into the habit of actually holding my line in my left hand and keeping a pretty straight rod tip to the line - when I get a short strike I will haul on the line and often hook the fish - just trying to set with a 2 handed rod is not quick enough and I will not hook near as many fish

Bob Pauli
10-20-2003, 06:42 PM
I ask the more experienced members of this board if this discussion is missing a crucial difference by not separating techniques for floating lines with near surface flies from sinking lines or tips with sunk flies?

My thoughts are:
For sink tips: No shock loop. Keep fly line tight line under finger[s] and strike when the fisherman feels the weight of the fish. A.H.E. Wood/Jock Scott say to offer no slack when fishing deeply sunk flies.
One exception: On the dangle, slack must be present or almost all strikes will fail to become hookups. Slack can be from a loop, a raised rod tip or hands off the line allowing the fish to take line from the reel's spool during the strike phase of the encounter.

For floating lines with surface or near surface flies: Have enough slack to allow the fish to turn with the fly in its mouth with minimum resistance. This also is effective on the dangle. How large a loop, how much slack should be present? The length of the fish is a good starting point. In very fast current one might increase the slack. There is no definite rule; it is learned through experience.

My own method for holding a loop when fishing a floating line is to lightly secure the loop in the very tips of my thumb and forefinger. The grip is so light that a current seam will occasionally dislodge the loop. I estimate the force required to take the loop is a couple of ounces. When a fish strikes, the loop disappears before one senses anything has happened and the fish is hooked and on the reel, for the majority of strikes.

On feeling the weight of the fish I strike hard, maybe hammer is a better word. Remember you are the predator!

During my first two years of serious steelhead fishing, I was rather tentative, not knowing in advance what exactly I would do when a fish hit. Then realizing I was the predator, I increased hookup and landing rates substantially by being very aggressive in the strike phase [after feeling the weight of the fish] and in the fight phase.

10-20-2003, 07:55 PM
I agree with Juro. I'm glad someone else posted the way I fish. I've fished steelhead for over 30 yrs, Atlantic salmon about half that time. Caught my share, never used a loop, can't imagine why I'd ever need to. That includes heavy sink tips, intermediates, floaters with wets and streamers, dead drift and waked dries.