A while back we had a discussion within a swap thread about setting the hook on moving water, and landing big fish. I have that thread copied to a notepad on my computer as a ton of good info was communicated. I thought it would be a good discussion thread then, and still do. So I thought I would get it started.
Now, most of the fish I catch on the Truckee are smaller, 8 to 14 inchers, but occasionally you hook into a nice 20" plus fish. I have landed a few, but lost what I think was a huge one. I say I think because I only got a glimpse of him right after he took the fly, did a quick splash and dash, and headed downstream. I have never had a fish take so much line so fast, and no matter what I did I couldn't get him turned until he had most of my backing on the water. He then came back at me in the slow water, did a quick u-turn and snapped off my tippet.
In the discussion noted above, Pocono, Packfanjh, Frank, and Mcnerney all had great input/recommendations on hooking and landing big fish (I will let them add in thier info if they choose to).
So here are the topics for this discussion:
Setting the hook: Upstream, downstream, side stream - how do you set the hook on a fish and any recommendations to improve hookups.
Landing the big guys/gals
Applying pressure or letting them run:
Do you get the pressure on quick, let em run against the reel, follow em downstream even if it means taking a bath, etc...
Here is my take, and remember, I have only been fishing rivers for a couple years so, anyplace I have it wrong - please educate me.
Setting the hook:
If it is upstream, I tend to strip and lift, the strip takes the slack up and the lift sets the hook.
If side stream I tend to pull accross river, if the fly is to my right (facing downstream) I set the hook to the left (accross current). I try to think about this and prep myself as the fly is drifting so if I see the line move, or indicator go under, I remember to do it correctly - sometime I forget and just lift the rod straight up, but I have lost fish on this kind of set, so like I said, I have been trying to pull sideways when cross stream. I was told if you do this, any bow in the line tries to straighten out against the current and hopefully sets the hook in the corner of the mouth.
Straight downstream, pinch with the rod hand and lift, not sure there is any other way to do it down stream and still get good set. This is the one where i think I have had the majority of my poor hook sets fishing the river, primarily, because for the longest time I was getting too much line on the water. I try now to limit the amount of line I have out which has helped.
Fighting the big guys:
I have heard several schools of thought on this topic, one says let em run, one says put pressure on early, one says always apply side pressure to turn them, I think it may be a little of all these, I have never fished for steelhead, so not sure what fighting a 15 or 20 pounder feels like and I have not hooked into many fish that spooled me (other then the story above). So this for me is where I really need an education.
OK, hoping this will generate some conversation on a cold (18 degree) Sunday morning.
There's a lot of variables when it come to hook sets
The strength of the tippet, water velocity, amount of slack in the line, the flex of the rod tip, etc
Strip strikes, slip strikes, lift and strip, side sweeps ....
It all depends on the situation and only experience will help you to know what to do when.
Landing a big fish begins with line control and that's the most difficult aspect of landing a big fish IMO. Things happen very fast and only quick actions will keep the line from tangling and wrapping around every obstruction possible. There's a hundred things that could go wrong.
Keep your eyes open. Make an 'O' with the thumb and forefinger of your line hand and funnel the line through to the guides
I always let a fish run unless there's a good reason not to.
Letting the fish run helps you to clear the line, get the fish on the reel, tire the fish out, and generally just gives you time to get your act together.
If the fish heads for cover, you need to do what you have to do, but in most cases, let them go.
To fight a fish and land them quickly, you need to keep them off balance.
When they go right, force them left. When they go left, force them right.
You need to exert constant pressure, you can never let them rest.
You don't want them 'green' when the come to hand, but you need to end it as quickly as possible
I will only add one comment; use a leader that will accommodate the expected fish, and remember 'They can't swim backward very well' so turn it towards you and make it quick. The longer you leave the fish in its medium the greater its chance of coming off the hook.
I learned to do this fishing for brown trout and now in my adopted home state almost everything I hook is what you could call a big fish so I am forced to deal with the how to land them quandary in 95% of my hookup's.
Wbrex, -15deg this morning, probably not going out today! Sounds like you have figured out the Truckee. It is difficult to have a light tippet to fool more fish, and have some game when Walter takes your fly. I usually make the style choice before starting. Had a big brown run me almost 200 yrds earlier this year. Had him on 3x, but with our pushy water it might as well been 5x. As far as sets, the downstream is the hardest. The dry fly lift will disappoint, I suggest let'em have it till they dive, then strip set with the rod tip down. Many times it feels as though they have a "plan A, plan B, etc. I try to think the same way. Most big Browns, and some bows, save a big last minute move at the net to spoil your fun. I save a last minute response. Like Chevy said, Billy,be the ball.
I think Rip pretty well covered what I would say. I am not sure a 20" is where I would start as big. Might need a few more inches. Anyway if the fish is big enough you might have to follow it, you need it on the reel as fast as you can get it there. The fish will help you do that in a hurry. Make sure your leader is stout enough (Ard couldn't be more right) for the fish that might be there and have your drag set before you make a cast.
It is my opinion many fly fishers use too light of a leader in big fish water. We get carried away with light tippet dry fly fishing and forget subsurface fishing can use a much heavier tippet.
I fish primarily for small mouth bass but the water also holds some huge large mouth and pike. I have found that with the fine wire hooks we use, a quick pop is enough to lodge the hook. I hold the line against the handle with my trigger finger, so i just apply pressure and pop it. If this fish is large for my gear 3x and 4x tippets depending, ill give chase downstream. Rapids are tough, but i sure enjoy slipping down after a pig! I almost always set the hook with a side arm motion as i prefer not to waste most of the rods backbone ripping the line off the water. When i set side arm, i slide the line towards me and it seems to give more energy to the hook set its self. Line management or control is one of the more important factors i have found. I have been caught with my pants down a number of times with alot of slack line out and no way to apply tension to set the hook. Good learning experience for me!
---------- Post added at 07:09 PM ---------- Previous post was at 07:08 PM ----------
lol...i would call 20 big though Frank! I need to fish your waters!
I totally agree about light leaders being over used on larger fish. We have very clear, pushy water, and some very seasoned fish. The outcome, can be a feeling of no fish in the river if you go too heavy. Generally 1x or 2x for streamers, 3x to 4x flouro subsurface.
I can fish 4x mono with a dry, if I use Snake river mud. Maybe. ( "Big" here might start at 24 or so.) Since we never know whether it's going to be a dink, or a bigger than "big" that makes it is hard to set. I recommend a quick lite set to see who's there.
I heard a guy ask a local guide what he does when his client hooks up a fatty. "Pray" he replied.
. . . I always let a fish run unless there's a good reason not to.
Letting the fish run helps you to clear the line, get the fish on the reel, tire the fish out, and generally just gives you time to get your act together. . . . To fight a fish and land them quickly, you need to keep them off balance. When they go right, force them left. When they go left, force them right. You need to exert constant pressure, you can never let them rest. You don't want them 'green' when the come to hand, but you need to end it as quickly as possible
Kudos, Rip Tide. I've seen expert books that don't say what's needed like you do.
It's tough knowing what size leader to fish in our waters. Last weekend I was on the Little Truckee and was using 5x as it is generally a smaller size fish river. After hooking and landing a few up to about 19 inches I hooked into a fish that was easily 30 inches! He jumped, dipped back down and took off. I had no chance with him on 5x so he is now the proud owner of one of my flies.
A rule I have told a few of my buddies that have begun fly fishing is if you can fit the tippet through the fly eye then use it cause you never know when a big one will hit. Until you get the "feel of it" it can help you hang on to bigger fish. You might not hook as many but you'll land more of your hookups. It has worked well for them so far. As for the hook set use what method you think would be best and keep them away from structure.