Set­ting the hook

Think you know how to strike? Mas­ter these tips and tech­niques for wily fish and tricky sit­u­a­tions

Trout & Salmon (UK) - - Contents - DON STAZICKER ’S

Don Staziker of­fers tips and ad­vanced tech­niques

ATROUT TAKES, YOU strike and don’t make con­tact, you break off, you spook the fish and you put your fly into a tree. Did you strike too fast, too slow, too hard, should you strike at all? Then fol­lows the blame game – this leader ma­te­rial is rub­bish, these small hooks don’t take a good hold, I never had this prob­lem with my old rod, the fish are com­ing short… There is no sin­gle method of set­ting the hook that works for every tak­ing fish. By match­ing our hook set to the fish­ing sit­u­a­tion we can dra­mat­i­cally in­crease our suc­cess rate. A few ex­am­ples of my fal­li­bil­ity will serve to make the point: I was fish­ing a size 8 nymph tied on a heavy wire hook with a huge barb (it was the 1980s). I used a short four-weight rod be­cause I thought that the light line would land gen­tly and not spook the fish.

“The guide was hold­ing my arm to prevent me strik­ing pre­ma­turely”

The line did land lightly, it didn’t spook the fish, and more than a dozen took the nymph. My light rod just wasn’t strong enough to set the heavy hook with its large barb, and every fish threw the hook. I had caught a suc­ces­sion of small wild rain­bows from fast runs on the Der­byshire Wye. I was not re­ally pay­ing at­ten­tion, with the re­sult that my vig­or­ous strikes brought the small fish bounc­ing over the sur­face to­wards me. I paid the penalty when I rose an­other fish and set the hook strongly with­out think­ing. The 2lb wild rain­bow dived for cover, tak­ing my fly with it, an em­bar­rass­ing re­sult of not match­ing hook set to fish size and tip­pet strength. The first time I fished for Yel­low­stone cut­throat trout I was to­tally un­pre­pared for the leisurely way in which they take a dry-fly. See­ing big fish rise to a large ter­res­trial pat­tern float­ing down a fast run and take it with an in­cred­i­bly slow, lazy rise was too much for my hair-trig­ger re­ac­tions. Af­ter miss­ing four good fish the guide was hold­ing my arm to prevent me from strik­ing pre­ma­turely. The willpower re­quired to de­lay the strike has since served me well, par­tic­u­larly when pre­sent­ing dry-flies down­stream. You must let the fish turn down with the fly. This spring, while film­ing a nymph­ing rain­bow trout, I cap­tured the mo­ment when the ar­ti­fi­cial nymph was taken. The se­quence of mouth open­ing to ac­cept the fly – mouth closed – mouth open­ing to eject the fly took less than 0.25 sec­onds. An­other 0.25 sec­onds later I shouted to the an­gler to set the hook! There are times, of­ten when fish­ing nymphs, when you can­not strike too quickly.

PHO­TOG­RA­PHY: DON STAZICKER

A fish can take in and then eject a fly in one quar­ter of a sec­ond.

Hooked.

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