No. 12 – Fishing Tips

4 December 2015 | Paul Procter

Setting the Hook
When fly fishing in freshwater, generally we tighten on our quarry by a deft upwards or sideways sweep of the rod. Not only does this gather up unwanted slack line in the blink of an eye so tension is instantly realised, a flexing rod helps protect delicate tippets too, especially following an overenthusiastic strike! Naturally, such actions become instinctive to those who have spent their lives pursuing species like salmon, trout, or grayling.

However, anglers venturing into the realms of saltwater fishing for the first time will find this lifetime habit of raising their rod utterly useless when attempting to hook hard, bony-mouthed species like tarpon, snook, permit, and even bonefish. Instead, it’s wise to execute a positive “strip strike,” which involves a hard yank on the fly line using your retrieving hand.

This works because you have a more direct pull on the fish, unlike when lifting a rod, which results in much of the force being dissipated due to a flexing blank. Furthermore, if any takes are inadvertently missed, your fly remains on the same plane and moves a mere foot or so away from the interested fish, when, chances are, it will make another grab at your now fleeing imitation. Conversely, the traditional trout strike that fails to connect sweeps your fly away by several feet, denying the fish any other opportunity of seizing your fly.

Of course, understanding sounds simple enough here in black-and-white, yet in the heat of the moment, excited trout fishermen often revert to their default setting of raising the rod. Granted, “practice makes perfect” as the old saying goes, though one tip that has stood me in good stead is to assume a more open grip on the rod during any retrieve, rather than clenching it tight. More relaxed now, you’re less likely to fall foul of a knee-jerk lift and instead wrench on the line to make a firm hook-up.

Check out Paul's monthly Fly Fishing Reports here!

During the initial part of the retrieve, a short pull is all that’s needed to set the hook on predatory fish or when saltwater fishing.

It’s important not to extend the retrieve beyond this point; otherwise you leave yourself little, if any, room to make an effective strip strike when fish take your fly at this point.

Any takes that occur at the conclusion of each strip during the retrieve are addressed by a firm pull, which extends much further back now.