WHAT DO WE WANT FROM A HOOK SET?
Three things: to successfully hook the fish; be in a position to control it after the strike; and to not break off. Consider the following:
Big hooks and barbed hooks need a hard set. The fish’s teeth may grip bulky flies with soft bodies requiring a hard set to move the fly enough to seat the hook.
LENGTH OF LEADER AND CAST
Leaders must be strong enough to set the hook. A long line is harder to pick up but stretches to absorb the shock of the strike; a short line is easy to pick up but has less shock-absorption. The stroke length and force of the hook set should be proportional to the length of the cast.
Small fish often take quickly and require a faster strike.
As a general rule, match your hook set to the speed of the water: fast water, fast strike; slow water, slow strike.
ROD ACTION AND ANGLE
Fast-action rods pick up line rapidly resulting in break-offs when you make contact with the fish before you expected to. Reduce rod-ring friction by lowering the rod tip after setting the hook allowing the fish to take line with less strain on the tippet.