I watched the line, waiting for some indication of a strike and intently expecting a fish to eat the nymph. Then at the end of the drift I looked away, scanning for my next target upstream. When I lifted the line for the backcast, I was surprised to find a trout on the line. He bounced off quickly because I never got good hook set.
That’s happened to you a hundred times too, right?
Nymphing is an art of the unseen, and no matter the material attachments we add to the line for visual aid of a strike, trout take our flies without us knowing about it — probably way more often than we can imagine.
That’s why it’s best to end every underwater drift with a hook set. Do this with nymphs and with streamers, at the end of every dead drift presentation, and you’ll find unexpected trout attached to your line. The short set also prepares the line and leader for your next backcast. Here’s how . . .
At the end of each drift, give the line a short and sharp hook set downstream. On a tight line, you need only move the fly six inches.
If the nymphs are upstream of your position, this hook set is a simple and quick lift of the rod tip. If the nymphs are across or slightly downstream of your position, then the angle of the hook set may be more to the side.
Either way, this short hook set is a setup for the next backcast.
Set it up
Aside from hooking the unexpected trout, the end-of-the-drift hook set gets the underwater flies and tippet in motion, making the coming backcast easier and more efficient. The short, sharp motion releases the tippet and flies from the tension of the currents, and it straightens out any slack in the system before the backcast.
The motion must be short, only a few inches of movement with the rod tip. Otherwise, your rod is too far back to make a full backcast. Remember, just a short pop of the line hand is all that’s needed. The backcast should immediately follow. From a distance, the casual observer may not even notice the distinction between hook set and the actual backcast, but an experienced angler sees it easily.
The same tactic applies while fishing tight line to an indicator (a personal favorite tactic) or tight line to a dry dropper. A quick, short hook set downstream of the indy gets everything setup for the backcast while hooking the occasional undetected trout.
Likewise, while fishing streamers with any slack in the system, a good final animation of the rod tip — a hook set downstream — brings the line tight and ready for the backcast while tempting (and sometimes hooking) a curious trout.
Remember this: Cast. Drift. Hook set. Back cast. Delivery. Repeat. That’s good fishing.
Fish hard, friends.
Enjoy the day.
T R O U T B I T T E N