Why am I not getting a good hook set?
When a fish takes your fly, and he’s hooked, it would be nice if you would have a reasonable chance of landing our quarry. If you’re doing things right then you should. Occasionally though, the fish will sometimes fight for a couple seconds and get off. This is not an uncommon problem. If you're losing a large amount of your hook-ups then something has to be rectified. The problem is usually the hook set. Pay attention to the following six factors that can affect a proper hook set.
1. Hook Point: Make sure your hook points are very sharp and stay sharp. Sometimes even new hooks can use some extra sharpening. Get one of those hook hones and use it often.
2. Hook Barb: This plays a huge roll in the hook set. The larger the barb, the harder it is to set the hook very well. You may be better off de-barbing your hooks.
3. Line Control: Make sure that you don't have too much slack line in the water. The tighter the fly line, without affecting the drag free drift, the better off you are. If all your hook setting motion is doing is picking up slack line then setting the hook deep enough can be a problem.
4. Rod Stiffness: If you rod is a medium or fast action, you shouldn't have a problem here. Some slow action rods are so limber that they make it hard to get a good hook set.
5. Technique: It’s hard to judge this without actually seeing you fish. Make sure your rod is not too high during the drift. If you hold the rod with your right hand, hold your fly line with your left hand. When you get a strike raise the rod tip straight up and bring your left hand straight down, while still holding the line, at the same time.
6. The Fight: Make sure you hold your rod straight up at a 90 degree angle while fighting the fish. Keep the line tight. It’s important that the fish can turn and run if they want to. So, don't set your drag too tight. You want a 22-24 inch fish to able to pull line off of your reel if need be. Don't try to "Hog'em In". I'm sure there are a few more factors worth considering. For now, play with these six and see how it goes.
Another option is to use a "strip-set". This is done by keeping your rod tip low and stripping the line hard with your opposite hand to set the hook. You can put much more power into the hook set this way compared to if you are simply lifting or swinging the rod. It’s standard practice when fishing for large bass and saltwater fish, and should work well on most trout too. Another advantage of setting the hook this way is the fact that you're only moving the fly a maximum of two feet, so the fish may have another chance at your fly. If you set the hook by swinging the rod, it’s very possible to move the fly too far away from the fish for it to have a second chance.