The sport of fly fishing consists of many specialized skills that come together in a delicate balance of rhythm and precision. Setting the hook is one of those specialized skills. Many times the techniques for setting the hook are neglected by fly fishermen who spend many hours practicing and reading about casting and fly tying skills. Unlike many of the skills of fly fishing, it is almost impossible to practice setting the hook without a live fish on the end of your fly line.
The first step in a successful hook actually begins when you tie your fly, either at home or on the river bank. It is very important to make sure that your hooks are razor-sharp. A dull hook doesn’t have a good chance of finding its mark in the mouth of the trout.
In most fly fishing techniques it is important to set the hook as quickly as possible. If the water is fast, the trout usually strikes the fly very quickly and with a lot of force. It won’t take long for the trout to realize that he has an artificial fly in his mouth, and he can, and will spit it out in a split second.
Fly fishing in slow moving water is the one exception to setting the hook as quickly as possible. When the water is slow trout feed in a more leisurely fashion. They may require a second or two in order to take the fly. If you set the hook too soon, you’ll most likely pull the fly away from the trout. However, if you set the hook too late the trout may have already spit it out. There again is the delicate balance so often seen in fly fishing.
Sometimes while fly fishing the fishermen becomes so excited when he hooks a trout that he sets the hook with too much force. This usually results in broken tippits. Setting the hook quickly, doesn’t mean pulling on it with great force. One way to avoid broken tippits is to use a slip strike which cushions the tippit.
If you are fly fishing using an upstream presentation, strip in the line with your line hand at the moment that you set the hook. This will remove most of the slack in the line and improve your chances for a good hook set.
When setting the hook using surface techniques of fly fishing, it is very important that you are able to see your fly in order to get a good hook set. If you are fly fishing using an underwater technique, it is essential that you can see your indicator when setting the hook. In both instances timing is very important.
Many experienced fly fishermen spend a lot of time imagining the strike and thinking about how they will move when they set the hook. They do this because they know that in fly fishing, the more imaginary trout you hook and land in your mind, the better your chances of taking an actual fish.