setting the hook [Archive] - Fly Fishing Forum

: setting the hook

04-27-2002, 04:02 AM

I seem to have a problem with fish escaping. I'm letting my flies drift far enough away that I can't see them, so I just react to what I feel on my line. When I feel a fish, I raise my rod and strip line to get tension. A lot of times, the fish will bend the rod momentarily and then its gone. Today, I had two monsters on my line and they both had my rod bent. On the first one, my leader came shooting out of the water after about 5 seconds. The fish was way downstream, and it was beautiful to see the flash of his body as he leapt into the air and my line jumping off the glassy emerald green water in a long arc as it came taught. I had just put some new tippet on, and I assumed one of my knots failed, but when I checked, everything was intact. The second fish was on my line for about 15 seconds during which time I worked him up stream, and as I saw him move deeper in the water, my line came flying out of the water at me. Once again, I assumed a knot failed, but everything was ok. All these fish have hit my fly downstream. I don't think I have gotten a fish to take my fly upstream yet.

With all of these fish, I have my index finger trapping the line against my rod, but to get a natural drift there is a decent amount of slack in the line and leader, so I usually have to strip line before I get tension when a fish strikes. Then I fight the fish by stripping in line with my hand. I also crimp the barbs on my hooks. Any suggestions for keeping fish on my line?

On previous days, I could never find a pattern that seemed to work consistently. It was hit or miss even though the fishing conditions seemed ideal each day: fish splashing and leaping out of the water early in the day, and then rises all over the river late in the evening, and I never could catch two fish on the same pattern. Today, I decided to use a mayfly emerger pattern that had a green body and a white tuft on its back. It looked almost like a small blue wing olive. Anyway, I let it drift down stream floating a few inches below the surface, and I caught a fish with it. After releasing the fish, I cast down and across, and bingo! another fish, making that two fish on two casts. I caught two more fish with five more casts, making a total of 4 fish in about 10 minutes. Hey, now I was on to something! But the last fish had my hook through its nose and I had trouble getting it out and finally my hemos cut the 6x tippet at the knot while I was trying to wiggle the hook out, and the fish swam off with my magic fly. I didn't have any more like that, so I tried a midge pupa imitation next: it had a black cylindrical body and scraggly white tufted material coming out one end, and I put floatant on it so it would ride on the surface. It was very different than my magic fly, but I caught two fish with it, and I had a couple of other strikes. Do you usually hit on a pattern that consistently gets fish, or do you keep trying different patterns?

I also have a question about releasing fish. I don't touch them at all. I grab my leader about a foot from the hook and try to get my hemos on the shank of the fly while lifting the trout's head out of the water. They are usually pretty twitchy, so it takes a few tries. Then I lower his head back in the water, and with a sharp jerk I try to disengage the hook, which seems to work pretty well, and the fish all dart off with plenty of energy. What puzzles me is the advice to hold the fish under its belly until it revives? Is that necessary? Also, is there a more effective method for getting the hook out?

04-27-2002, 08:36 AM
Wow, sounds like you've got things figured out pretty well to me! This is my first year with the fly rod and I'm still trying for my first trout. The bluegills and rock bass have been pretty cooperative though.

I can't offer any help with strike detection and hook setting because I am having the same problems myself. I just fish until I feel something on the line, then strip the fish in by hand and hope it stays on the hook.

As for releasing the fish, it sounds like you've already mastered the LDR (long distance release) :hehe: Seriously though, you've got the right idea there too: keep the fish in the water and touch it as little as possible. You seem to be bringing the fish in quickly without fighting the fish to exhaustion. This is better for the fish as long as you can unhook them easily. Sometimes it's better to tire them a little before you try to unhook them so that they don't thrash around so much while you are "operating". You are more likely to hurt the fish while trying to control it if it's not ready to be handled yet. If the fish is tired enough so that it doesn't thrash around while you are unhooking it, then it may need some reviving. This is the case when you would want to support it by the belly, while it's still in the water, and wait for it to get it's strength back and swim out of your hand.

There are a couple of different tools that can make it easier to remove the hook without touching the fish. One, called the Ketchum Release, is basically a small stick with a slotted tube in one end. Slip the tube over the tippet, slide it down to the bend of the hook and push the hook backwards to pop it loose. Another type (I forget the name) is a basically a wire hook with a handle on one end. Put the wire hook around the tippet, pull the line and tool in opposite directions until the tool hooks onto the bend of the fly hook, then lift the tool away from the fish while keeping the line tight. The hook on the tool will pull the fly hook out by the bend of the hook. This type of tool does not seem like it would work well if the hook is deep in the fish's mouth or gills. I've never used either of these tools so perhaps someone else can comment on their effectiveness.


04-27-2002, 10:33 PM
I saw the Ketchum Release in the store. One guy said it is all he uses and another guy at another shop said the device ruins the hackles on his flies so he doesn't use it. I would have bought one, but at $20 for a plastic stick with a hollow tube on the end, it is $19 over priced. That thing can't cost more than a nickel to make.

04-28-2002, 08:28 AM
I hear that! You can use a twig to accomplish the same thing!

04-28-2002, 09:43 AM
Its been a while since I did any serious trout fishing but one of the challenges with a downstream presentation is timing the "strike". Feeding fish face upstream and your fly/nymph is coming at them on a relatively tight line. When they hit, they flare their gills and 'suck' the fly in turning quickly back down towards their lie. If you haven't done it yet I recommend finding a high spot on the river bank where you can watch a trout feeding. Once you have the picture in your mind, you'll see what's going on. and the rest of htis will make a lot more sense.

The tight line/tippet prevents the fly from being properly 'inhaled' and you feel a nice tug followed by some trouty antics and slack line. You must let the fish turn down on a tension free tippet before setting the hook. With a floating line there is generally a visual clue - with a boil, flash, splash etc. There are various ways to overcome the short strike. Dropping the rod tip, throwing some slack into the line after the cast, saying "God Bless You" before setting the hook. If you feel the tug, it's generally too late and you are at the mercy of chance. If you see the rise and pause before striking your hook-up and landing ratio will increase dramatically.

My .02c - hope it helps.

Nate Bailey
05-01-2002, 03:40 AM
I would agree with adrian, I have been known to pull flys right out of the fishes mouth. Its hard to watch a 6 lb brown come up and take a nad at your fly without pulling to soon.

Here is a method I use , I keep a loop of line between my index finger and the rod, About 16" worth and I realease it upon a upward strike. I miss verry few fish this way. When teaching my wife I forgot to teach her this trick she got discusted because she broke of so many fish..........Nate