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Tips for hooking fish

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2008/6/28 15:57
Posts: 738
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This has been one of my biggest problems, ever since I've been fly fishing. At last, it appears that I'm on the way to solving it.

I don't think anyone hooks all of the fish that take their lures on fly tackle- but I've had outings over the past few years when I was 0 for 6, or 1 for 8, or so. That isn't fish lost after a fight, it's fish that took my fly but were never really on in the first place.

This year I'm doing much better, so far.

This is what I think has made the difference:

1) I pay much more attention to stripping the excess slack out of my line. It's necessary to leave a little bit of slack in any upstream drift, of course, or else the line is pulling and dragging the fly. But it's also important to remove the large slack loops and coils of line that start to pile up, feeding as much back through the guides as possible.

And the crucial part of doing that is to always hook your rod hand index finger under your line at the handle, once you've made your cast! That's your real stripping guide, so to speak. Always pull the line past your index finger as you strip it in.

This is so elementary, I'm surprised that it doesn't get addressed more in the "how-to" books. Maybe they think that it's so basic that it goes without saying. But some of us are slow. The first book I've read that emphasizes the importance of feeding line past the index finger is Eric Stroup's Common-Sense Fly Fishing. (I highly recommend that book; the content is exactly what the title advertises.)

2) When you see or feel the take, don't jerk- pull! The motion of your arm should NOT feel like a startle reflex. If you're doing that, it's likely that you're yanking the fly out of the mouth of the fish. If you're like me, that yanking motion started at the shoulder, along with a sharp snap of the elbow...and, congratulations, you've just pulled your fly something like three feet from the mouth of the fish. No bueno.

What you want to do instead is just a little more casual. Keep all of the action at the elbow. For me, it's like the motion of my arm when I flip a coin- my forearm rises up maybe a foot or so in the process. Not super fast, like a mousetrap snapping shut- just a little slower and smoother. The key is to react just as fast to the take, but not so forcefully. Once the fish is on the line, the line tension will set the hook deeper on its own.

3) Keep your hooks sharp. Get a hook file and use it with every new fly, and after every snag and every fish released. It also helps to bend the hook point slightly to one side, particularly with flies #16 and smaller.

The first two points- about the preparation and the act of hooking- are the more important ones. A sharp hook won't grab a fish by itself...well, actually it will, otherwise I would have caught next to nothing in previous years. A few fish did manage to hook themselves, despite everything I did to impede the process. But not very often.

Like I said, now that I'm applying these principles I've been doing much better at hooking fish.

Newbies, this too could be you:

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Posted on: 2013/5/15 11:38


Re: Tips for hooking fish

Joined:
2007/3/24 2:29
From Luzerne County, PA
Posts: 374
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Good read, nice post, I was taught to lift the rod just hard enough to set the hook, this will vary with the amount of line you have on the water but the concept is the same.

Posted on: 2013/5/17 2:06


Re: Tips for hooking fish

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2006/9/13 8:36
From SEPA
Posts: 813
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Browns and smallies, you rule dude! Bend the hook to one side about 15 degrees, it gives you a better chance to find home.

Posted on: 2013/5/17 17:44
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Re: Tips for hooking fish

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2011/7/6 12:30
From Ephrata, PA
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Yup-and set the hook with a smooth, steady motion. Like you said, not herky jerky! Give yourself a second, too. I was taught once that when I see/feel a fish take your fly, say the words, "big brown trout" and then set the hook. Someone told me that the first year I started FFing, and its worked out okay for me so far!

Posted on: 2013/5/17 17:54


Re: Tips for hooking fish

Joined:
2006/9/13 10:18
From LV
Posts: 7749
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Let me address your points. First always keep large amounts of slack off the water, you do this by measuring your cast, that's why you false cast a couple of times. Once the fly hits the water you should already have less slack on the water. I'm not sure what you mean by using your finger as your stripping guide.
As for set the hook, many times if you cast to rising fish the fish will hit the fly as it hits the water if you cast is where the fish rose. However, when watching fish rise you want to make sure you are seeing the fish rise either in the same spot all the time, or whether it's moving around some. If the fish is moving as it is rising, then try to anticipate where the next rise will be. And remember if you are getting a lot of looks and no takes, change flies, because that's the same as a refusal. Now we get to the third point.
Always tie flies with sharp hooks, you can check the sharpness by scratching the hook on the back of your thumbnail. If it doesn't catch on the nail, it's dull, if after checking several and finding them dull you should go shopping for new hooks. Mustad hooks are not always sharp out of the box, s I don't use them. When you tie on a fly make sure it's sharp before you tie it on and check for rust. if it's rusty throw it away.
Now I'll add; trout hook themselves 90% of the time, just lift the rod and keep a short loop in the line to cushion the set, and you are lifting the rod a short strip will drive the hook home. You seldom have to do more, but I'll add when you use streamers because the hooks are larger you may want to give a good strip of the line to set the hook.

Posted on: 2013/5/17 18:57
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Re: Tips for hooking fish

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2012/3/22 8:26
From Couldn't Care Less
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Quote:
Squatch wrote

Yup-and set the hook with a smooth, steady motion. Like you said, not herky jerky! Give yourself a second, too. I was taught once that when I see/feel a fish take your fly, say the words, "big brown trout" and then set the hook. Someone told me that the first year I started FFing, and its worked out okay for me so far!


Wow .. I have done it wrong so many times as I still "herky jerky" way to often plus I don't wait at all. Lost way to many fish because of both.

***Barbless - Interesting post and enjoyed reading it.

Posted on: 2013/5/18 16:57
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Re: Tips for hooking fish

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Quote:
Chaz wrote:

Let me address your points. First always keep large amounts of slack off the water, you do this by measuring your cast, that's why you false cast a couple of times. Once the fly hits the water you should already have less slack on the water. I'm not sure what you mean by using your finger as your stripping guide.


Chaz, ur entire post was very informative and much appreciated. This is of much interest to me as I am horrible in judging how much slack and line management in general. I guess that will come with experience.

Posted on: 2013/5/18 17:02
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Re: Tips for hooking fish

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Quote:
trout hook themselves 90% of the time


unless you react like you just stepped on a high-voltage wire, like I used to do.

I really am better this season, it's no fluke. I've had only four missed takes this year so far. Everything else was on the line for at least a couple of seconds.

Two of my missed takes were on streamer fished upstream. Streamer fishing is a bit different- you have to sock it home a bit harder. And it seems to me that there are often a lot of short strikes, no matter what. It's often tough to keep slack out of the line when streamer fishing, whether upstream or down.

In both of my missed streamer takes, the fish exploded on the fly so hard that I did nothing at all in response. But I may have pulled the fly out of reach anyway. I was drift-stripping it on an upstream line, probably doing it too fast. I'm thinking that the fish in the East seem to prefer a slower retrieve than out West, with pauses in between strips.

Stagger, one other thing that's helped me a lot is to sneak closer to the fish and use a short line. Like much shorter, 15-25 feet between the rod tip and the fly.

Posted on: 2013/5/19 10:49


Re: Tips for hooking fish

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Quote:
I'm not sure what you mean by using your finger as your stripping guide.


On reflection, that's a misleading label. I think the use of the index finger should better be called "the retrieve guide". I'm referring to the "line hand" pulling the slack line back in across the index finger of the hand that's holding the rod grip. As opposed to simply pulling line down and retrieving it directly from the stripping guide.

That's made a big difference for me, at least- having the line stay aligned to the rod all the way down to the grip when stripping it in.

Posted on: 2013/5/19 11:07


Re: Tips for hooking fish

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2009/12/17 20:43
From Souderton PA
Posts: 875
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Quote:

barbless wrote:
Quote:
I'm not sure what you mean by using your finger as your stripping guide.


On reflection, that's a misleading label. I think the use of the index finger should better be called "the retrieve guide". I'm referring to the "line hand" pulling the slack line back in across the index finger of the hand that's holding the rod grip. As opposed to simply pulling line down and retrieving it directly from the stripping guide.

That's made a big difference for me, at least- having the line stay aligned to the rod all the way down to the grip when stripping it in.


You mean having the line pass between your index finger of the rod hand and the grip? If you don't do this your strike will just let out more slack line, so it is very important.

Posted on: 2013/5/19 23:40
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Re: Tips for hooking fish

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Yes, that's what I'm talking about.

Posted on: 2013/5/20 7:17


Re: Tips for hooking fish

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2012/10/24 19:22
From Landenberg, PA
Posts: 1642
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training yourself to do a down stream sweep when nymphing helps a lot.

nice post barbless.

Posted on: 2013/5/21 20:55
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Re: Tips for hooking fish

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2011/7/6 13:48
From Philadelphia PA
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Wow...look at those nice soft hands in them photos...they look like they don't see to many trout!

Posted on: 2013/5/22 16:18

Edited by PennypackFlyer on 2013/5/22 16:41:30
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Re: Tips for hooking fish

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2012/9/30 21:12
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Just to add something..

I too have been noticing the same beginners issues with low hookup percentages on dries.

I usually fish a small suburban class A with wild browns, and am getting pretty decent at catching fish, but when using certain dries, get a lot of big takes that don't connect.

So i tried some of the things mentioned in this thread, and did some experimentation with some eager redbreast sunfish and chubs in the creek near my house.

One thing that i didn't see mentioned anywhere is the tying of the fly itself.

I have had a lot of missed strikes on:
elk hair caddis, griffiths gnat, stimulator type things for sunfish

I have had good hookup success rates with
Klinkhammer, deer hair caddis, ausable wulff, parachute adams.

Also, I am a mechanical engineer, so I look at things a certain way.... it occurred to me that the (commercial / online bought) flies i was using had a lot of stiff hackle fibers "covering" up easy access to the hook point.
(forgive me if that's not the right term) - but the elf hair caddis and the griffiths gnat should illustrate the point.

This was made pretty clear to me when i tired to slip a pre-made clinch knot loop for a dropper over the point of a EH caddis hook... the body bristles were acting like a weed-gard for a bass lure.

and of course my good-hookup ratio flies all lack the "bristles" and have nice fully protruding hook points

Anyway, back to the experimental subject sunfish... I was tossing a foam caddis in a size 16, getting instant takes, but no hookups.

I tweaked the hook to a 15 degree offset- little help. I openened the gap a little but - not much help - hooked but lost a fish this way.

Then i trimmed the hackle fibers on the bottom fo the fly in front of the hook gap with my nippers (to about half their original length, and voila.... close to 100 percent hookup rate thereafter.
Even connected with a 3" chub with this modification.

So, technique may still have a lot to do with it, but I found that too long / too stiff "bristles" on the bottom of the fly can either
a) make the fly easier to spit out
b) prevent the hook from finding fish parts on the hookset

In any case, i will be looking at this carefully when fishing purchased "bushy" flies going forward, and make sure all flies have hook points that are not blocked by fly bristles.

hope this helps some.


Posted on: 2013/5/27 23:12


Re: Tips for hooking fish

Joined:
2013/5/22 13:00
From Shipp
Posts: 46
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Good info and something I need to work on. I frequently end up with the fly in the tree behind me.


Quote:
geebee Posted on: 5/21 20:55


geebee...can you explain this further?

Posted on: 2013/5/29 10:35



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