Having read the FAQ on hook sets, I have a question: Is there danger that when pulling the fly line down while raising the rod to set the hook, that the line guides could be damaged. (I have been just keeping a tight line and raising the the rod tip appropriately.) Pulling down on the line makes sense, I just worry about my rod guides, figured I'd get some opinions on here.
You should be pullling back more than down with your line hand while sidearming your rod back and to the side with the other hand. The line coming off the guide is pulled right back past the reel when this happens.
The replies you have received are right on as far as over thinking the act of actually catching a fish. However, I don't know what part of the country you live in or what you are fishing for. With that said I'll go a little farther on the topic, I honestly believe that 95% or more of the trout I've caught using dry flies have hooked themselves when they grabbed that sharp little hook of mine. Likewise, trout that grab a streamer fly are usually hooked in the act of grabbing the fly and attempting to turn away with the catch but I won't go so far as to say the percentage is quite as high with streamers. I stay away from raising the rod high or laterally when testing the connection to the fish, rather keeping it low and tightening the line to feel the fish on the hook. Of course some fish will jump strait out of the water when they are hooked and you must react to this in order to keep a tight connection to the fish and this may require all sorts of movements of the fly rod.
When I stopped reacting to a fish whether they were taking a dry fly from the surface or grabbing a streamer while it swung through the underwater currents, I started catching more fish. The business of not jumping, jerking, or in any other way over reacting to a fish taking your fly is simply and truly a matter of experiences with fishing. You will reach a point when you fully expect to catch fish and when one rises to, or grabs a fly you will not be surprised at all by the sight or feel of it. This familiarization leads to a much more controlled and thought out response from the angler.
There are exceptions to the generalizations I've made in the above paragraphs. Species can and often will determine how you react when the fly is taken by a particular kind of fish. I fish very often for salmon, perhaps as much as 80% of my time is spent with various species of salmon as the target. Very much like trout, a salmon will usually grab a salmon fly and be in contact with the hook point right away. These fish have a much larger and harder mouth than would a 12 - 16" trout and with this big bony jaw in mind I do take action to ensure that my hook is well placed in order to avoid the fish coming off the hook when I'm dragging it to the shore. I guess what I do could be described as a 'strip or pull' set of the hook. When the fish tightens the line up between my rod tip and itself I pull several times on the fly line to test the connection to the fish. If the line feels tight and heavy I can be fairly confident that the fish is firmly on the hook and I proceed with the business of landing it. Pike are another species that I give a good firm pull on my line to ensure that the hook sinks in to its fullest extent possible. When trout fishing or steelhead fishing if I feel the weight of a large one on the hook I do the same, a good but controlled pull on the line to tighten it between myself and the fish so that I can feel the connection. If the fish is obviously not large as can be determined by the feel of it on the rod I do as I stated in the beginning of this reply, I do nothing to 'set the hook' I just reel in the fish.
I hope that adds a little more to your list of things to consider,
Good post, Ard. I think what happens most often when one "misses" take after take on dries is that they are not really "takes". The fly never makes it inside the trout's mouth; the trout just appears to the angler to be hitting the fly.
Then it's time to switch to an "emerger" the same color and size (or a little smaller), and if you don't have one, to carefully snip the palmered neck hackle, unwrap it and let it dangle.
Thanks for all the advice. I'm actually fishing nymphs 99% of the time. I lost two very nice trout (fishing in central KY) not too long ago because I didn't set the hook properly due to failing to string a guide on the rod when I set up that day. I did get me thinking, thus this thread. If pulling down on the line while raising the rod will get me a better hook set, I'm all for it. I rarely keep any trout I catch, but it's nice to be able get one in to admire and maybe get a picture. That said, everyone wish me luck (slightly different topic) I'm going after KY brookies this year to see if they actually exist.
I tend to set pretty hard into all fish, except for crappies (papermouths). This is rooted in me from all my days fishing for bass. Even with trout I set pretty hard and I rarely ever lose fish. Each to their own I guess. Some great posts on here already, I'll butt out. =P