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colotrout 10-31-2009 11:36 PM

Discerning a strike from the bottom
Hi All,
What a bunch of invaluable hints/tips in this forum!:thmbup:

Here's my problem. I'm still relatively new at this absolutely addictive activity (fly fishing) and although I am able to get trouts with some success, I loose way too many fish. My issue is that I am having a difficult time discerning a strike from hooking the bottom of the river. As you all know, a small hesitation is often enough for the fish to spit the fly. I try to convince myself to set the hook and deal with the eventual bottom hook but given the very unpleasant feeling and accompanying hassle associated with hooking a rock or submerged tree limb, I hesitate.

Now, although I know that with time I should be able to better read my indicator and discern a fish strike from a bottom hook, I would appreciate any recommendations/hints from you all wise people!

BTW, I feel that fish take a wet fly in many different ways. Some fight vigorously right away while others seem to gently tug on the line, at least initially (my biggest catch ever happened to be the most gentle initial strike by a nice 18" Rainbow). This variability in the initial strike seems to be true for both Browns and Rainbows. After the initial strike, I do notice different patterns. Browns tend to dive deep and hard while Rainbows flip out of the water and spin.

Help me keep the fish on the hook, at least until I release it.:)

Thanks in advance.

jpbfly 11-01-2009 02:18 AM

Re: Discerning a strike from the bottom
Difficult for me to help you for I never use indicators...if the fish isn't too deep you can see it taking the nymph(don't strike when the mouth is white wait till it's black again:confused:) if it's deeper have a look at the place where you located the fish when you see a "silver flash" strike (I mean trout and mainly bows show their side which is silver )you can also look carefully at your tippet and your leader slowly and regularly sinking ...if there's something unusual strike!Last thing....strike when you feel the fish has taken the do I know when I have to strike...I don't know....but I feel I have to do it:D

Frank Whiton 11-01-2009 07:11 AM

Re: Discerning a strike from the bottom
Hi colotrout,

It sounds to me that you might have a problem with your technique or you are casting too far up stream. If you cast too far up stream with a weighted fly or with split shot, fast water will wash the fly to the bottom. You may need to adjust the amount of weight your are using or adjust your indicator closer to the fly. With fast shallow water you need the indicator much closer to the fly. That is instead of 7 or 8 feet from the fly it may need to be 3 to 5 feet from the fly.

Try casting 45 degrees up stream instead of 30 degrees. You may also be getting too much slack in your line. When you mend line you don't want to have huge big S curves on the water. It makes it much harder to strike or control the fly.

When I am fishing nymphs or wet flies I seldom strike and get the bottom. I may get hung up but not due to a strike. If you are striking and getting the bottom frequently then you need to adjust something in your technique. Use less weight, cast more across the stream or river, adjust the indicator, adjust your drift. Subsurface fishing is a learned endeavor and you need to analyze what is happening every time you hang the bottom. To me hanging up on the bottom is different that striking and getting the bottom. You may just need to get more experience and this problem will go away.


flyguy66 11-01-2009 09:34 AM

Re: Discerning a strike from the bottom
In my opinion, most fly fishermen over-set the hook on trout, pan fish, etc...most freshwater fish other than largemouth bass and other hard-mouthed fish where a strip-set is the right way to go. So I'll give you 2 pieces of advice.

You should not be trying to detect the difference. You should be setting the hook any time you see an irregularity in the line/indicator activity.

But setting the hook deserves some attention.

Ever hooked yourself? Did it require much force? If your hook point is properly sharp, it will dig into your fingernail easily. The only thing required to penetrate your skin or waders or shirt is that all of the slack is removed from the line, right? Even the slightest tension applied to the line will cause the hook point to penetrate soft tissue.

In casting and fishing, slack is the enemy!

Keep slack to the absolute minimum to achieve the dead drift at all times...if you're dead drifting. If not, then you have no problem here. You should have any slack...period. Any time the indicator/line disposition changes even slightly, simply lift the rod tip enough to apply the lightest tension for a second. If it's a fish, you'll feel it! If not, drop the tip and mend to creat a bit of slack. The fly will almost always loose itself from the bottom using this technique if you have your depth right: just barely ticking along the bottom now and then. Also, you'll find that if you use unweighted flies and a piece of split shot about a foot above the fly instead of weighted flies you get a lot less hang-ups on the bottom!

colotrout 11-01-2009 09:56 AM

Re: Discerning a strike from the bottom
Great advice! Thank you.

I think my enemy is slack. By the way, the problem I outlined in my original post seems to worsen as the day progresses. This makes me thing that Frank is right on and that my technique is probably the culprit.

FlyGuy, you are absolutely right about the force (or lack thereof) required to set the hook. Again, too much slack is likely my biggest problem!

As for jb, I would love some day to fly sans indicator! Trop difficile pour moi.

Thank you all! Now I want to go back and put all this advice to the test!

flyguy66 11-01-2009 12:12 PM

Re: Discerning a strike from the bottom
One thing I forgot to mention:

If you feel the fish, then raise the rod further or strip some line to increase tension a bit more until the fish finishes the hook-setting job for you.

Ard 11-01-2009 12:34 PM

Re: Discerning a strike from the bottom

I have read all the response to your question and see that you have been given a tremendous amount of good advise.

I thought about answering your thread last night but it was late and I opted to wait until today. I don't use indicators, (old school) but I do use floating lines and wet flies so perhaps I can have some positive input for you.

Slack in your line has been addressed and quite thoroughly; the distance between your floating indicator and the weighted fly hence the depth of the drift has been covered also. These are the two prime problems with the indicator fishing of nymphs. For you to pay attention to every variance in the drift and treat each occurrence as if it were a fish is very good advise.

What I would add is this; if you fish this area often or you plan to fish there often, then a little recon is in order. The next trip when you are ready to leave, wade the creek. Take a walk wherever the depth is allowable. Get to know the bottom, how deep is it really, where are the logs, limbs, boulders, etc. Take a good look at the bottom strata and this will be of great value on future trips to this same water. I know of no better way to gage the depth of water than to walk out into it.
This would be a good way to answer the question you put forth in your other thread; How to get people to stay a comfortable distance from you, if people crowd you it may be a good time to check out the stream channel. They may find that fishing too close to you is not a good thing.

I hope this is of some help, I like to know the bottoms of my favorite places if possible. If the water is so deep that I can't find the bottom I find that a set of spinning gear may be better suited to the task.


HuronRiverDan 11-01-2009 04:17 PM

Re: Discerning a strike from the bottom
Great advice from all...The only thing I will put here is an old steelhead anglers axiom, "If it feels funny set the hook". When you are using indicators add this to the quote, "If it looks funny set the hook".


colotrout 11-01-2009 04:59 PM

Re: Discerning a strike from the bottom
Thank you All for your advice.

I will try all of these and pay particular attention to my indicator.

Speaking of indicators, when NOT using one, how do you keep your wet fly or nymph from hooking the bottom? I tried without an indicator the other day and my problem got significantly worse...

flyguy66 11-01-2009 05:40 PM

Re: Discerning a strike from the bottom
You control depth using the rod tip, characteristics of the fly line, leader length, weight, and current. But it isn't as hard as that sounds. It really doesn't take so long to get the hang of it. And you can actually "compromise" by adding 1/2 of a Palsa foam or a bit of that tubular foam right at the tip of the fly line when fishing a floating line. You end up getting away from the "bobber factor," but you can still SEE the tip of the fly line very well and control it better until you really get the feel for it. Sort of like training wheels for nymphing without an indicator. Scientific Anglers L2L Connectors also work good for this. They don't really float, but they improve your visibility of the Line-leader connection point.

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