Ahhh, the strip set. Nothing’s been beaten into the streamer angler’s brain more than the necessity for a good S-T-R-I-P to set the hook. When a trout eats, always set with the line hand, not the rod hand! Never set with the rod. Right? Oh my, no. Never do that.
Call me wrong, but I use both a strip set or a short rod jerk all the time. Whichever one I’m in position for when a trout takes, that’s the one that happens. It’s all pretty natural and not something I think about much anymore. On a trout, both methods are equally as effective at driving the hook home, and I’m not about to change over to strip setting exclusively.
I tried. Honest. But because I use a lot of rod tip motion to animate the streamer (jerks, jigs and twitches), forcing a strip set when I’m an instant away from the next jerk is just awkward.
Why Strip Set?
There’s a good reason for all this strip setting stuff. Since you’re arm is no longer than a couple feet, if you set the hook with a hard strip, the most your fly can move is . . . well, a couple feet. And that’s good, because a lot of trout whack their prey before eating it. They slam a minnow, baitfish, etc. to stun or kill it, then they swoop in moments later to eat the meal head first. (Learned that one from Galloup). By contrast, an undisciplined rod set may move the fly too far from the trout.
(By the way, if you hate the way trout short strike in the daylight too often, do not fish at night. It gets worse.)
So a two-foot strip set keeps your fly in the vicinity of where that hungry trout just made an attack. And with (a lot of) luck, he might return to finish his supper.
That’s all great stuff . . .
But I’m a contact man
I tightline my nymphs — a lot. So I’m very comfortable being in touch with the flies. When I set the hook while nymphing, I have no significant slack to take up. And all I need is a quick, sharp motion with the rod tip — of just a few inches. That’s right. Inches. (Sometimes I set the hook multiple times through a drift without pulling the nymph out of its drift lane.)
Point is, I’m competent with short, strong hook sets. And if you are too, then we can all do the same thing while fishing streamers.
Do Not Trout Set
Since there’s no dictionary of made up terms used by fly fishers, I’ll offer my own definition of the phrase here.
\ ˈtrau̇t \ set \
1 : any variation of a hook set where the fly angler rips extra line off the water with a long rod motion, to pick up slack, to tighten the line, to drive the hook home. Often accompanied by a loud, unnecessary, “Fish On!” or alternatively, “Dammit!”
2 : that’s about it
Trout setting comes from the necessity to pick up slack. Dry fly fishers often leave strategic slack on the surface to enable a dead drift. So a long sweep of the rod tip is necessary to gain contact with the fly and set the hook. That’s how the habit of trout-setting is formed.
So . . . don’t trout-set your streamers. The long motion of the rod moves the fly way too far in the water. It doesn’t look realistic, and the trout that just side-swiped your long fly loses interest.
A short, crisp hook set with the rod moves the fly no more than a strip set.
But what’s the disadvantage of hook setting with the rod? Not much.
When the rod flexes you lose a little power for penetration. But these are not bony-mouthed musky, my friends. We’re fishing for trout. These are not your Daddy’s old school Mustad hooks either. The chemically sharpened weapons we use these days bite into a trout’s jaw with a good swift rod set. I promise.
Opinions, thoughts and disagreements are welcome in the comments below. Be nice.
Fish hard, friends.
Enjoy the day.
T R O U T B I T T E N