Streamer Presentations — Why “Always Strip Set!” is a Fallacy

by | Jan 20, 2019 | 13 comments

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.

READ: Troutbitten | Streamer Presentations — Strips  Jigs and Jerks

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 . . .

Photo by Josh Darling

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.

READ: Troutbitten Category | Nymphing

READ: Troutbitten | Tight Lining — The Check Set

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 \
Plural: trout-sets

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.

Photo by Josh Darling

Opinions, thoughts and disagreements are welcome in the comments below. Be nice.

Fish hard, friends.


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Enjoy the day.
Domenick Swentosky


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Domenick Swentosky

Central Pennsylvania

Hi. I’m a father of two young boys, a husband, author, fly fishing guide and a musician. I fish for wild brown trout in the cool limestone waters of Central Pennsylvania year round. This is my home, and I love it. Friends. Family. And the river.

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  1. Dom: “your Daddy’s old school Mustad hooks”? Ouch! That hurt. By the way, I rarely miss a hook-set but I do know how to use a hone. And, like you, I strive to be in contact with my flies.

    • Ha! Don’t take that too personally. I’m only pointing out that hooks are a lot sharper than ever. We’ve come a LONG way in the last couple decades. All companies have, Mustad included. I use the 3366 for a lot of wet flies for night fishing. That’s not even one of their sharper hooks. It’s a classic design, but a good, super strong hook with a wide gap. Like you, I sometimes touch them up with a hook hone.


      • No offense taken Domenick. LOL! I hope you know it was “mostly” in jest. Have a great day!

  2. I learned the strip-set while fishing in a float tube on a lake while trolling leeches and buggers. Whenever I tried to “trout set” or “dry fly set,” I always lost the fish. It was a hard habit to break, so I would recite the following mantra to myself: “cast with the right; set with the left” (cast with the rod hand; strip-set with the line hand). By repeating this phrase over and over to myself as I trolled around the lake, I soon broke myself of that habit.

  3. Dom,

    I will agree with you in your point in regards to what many would call “juvenile” trout. And I mean this with all due respect, fish under the 20 inch mark you can get away with that style of hookset. But, I will say however when dealing with the upper part of the food chain, those fish north of the 24 and 30 inch marks, that method of setting the hook from my experience will have a much lower success rate than the old strip set. My personal feeling is if it ain’t broke don’t fix it, and The angler never can really know definitively what the caliber of fish is striking their fly when it happens unless they have that fish in view. So why chance it? I say strip set it and be safe.

    • Rich,

      Thanks for the thoughts, man. But WHY strip set? What is the reason? I’ve tangled with plenty of Whiskeys and Namers, same as you, and I have probably used a rod set as described above on half of them. What is your reason for strip setting? Do you believe you get more power in the set? I do not.


      • I will answer it like this, what’s gonna give more? Your rod or your arm? You’re rod acts as a shock absorber and will essentially give way giving you less power and a slower reaction time as opposed to the power you can generate through a strip set and the power of you coming tight with your hand. Granted, that is also dependent on the line you use ie if it’s a mono or braid core. But the loss of power from the rod sweep is much different. Personally speaking, there’s no comparison.

        • Good stuff. So I certainly know that many good anglers, like yourself, will disagree with me on this. And that’s alright. But again, for trout fishing, even for the very large ones, I don’t believe any extra power that is gained with a strip set is necessary. In fact, I don’t actually agree that I can get more power with the stripping arm. I believe I get more speed and quick power with a rod set. I can move that tip faster than my arm. And assuming the rod is stout enough, the flex or bend in my arm and the rod is not a big deal. But again, I’m talking about big trout here, not saltwater and not musky.

          Lastly, the reason I use the strip set AND a rod set, is so I can dance the streamer however I like and strike at any moment.

          I might be in the minority on all that, but that’s okay.

          Thanks for the opposing thoughts!


        • I’ll join the strip set revolution when I can’t land a brown on a centerpin rig. By your logic Rich we should be seeing a bunch of centerpin guys strip setting. The only way I could see it being more powerful is if the rod was pointed directly towards the fish, the line would need to be tight, and the timing of said strip set would need to be optimal.

          • Jon,
            my logic has nothing to do with dead drifting nymphs, flies or bait on a center pin rig or a suspended nymph rig with a fly rod, and everything to do with fishing streamers on an active retrieve. This style of fishing typically results in fish chasing the imitation down in the water column, usually with much larger hooks as opposed to drifting a nymph, other style of fly or lure or bait into the fishes feeding lane. And then yes, a “trout set” as the flyfishing world would like to say is an optimal means by which to set the hook.

          • Hey Rich,

            I guess I failed to make my point. My point is if I can send the hook home fishing a floppy 13′ rod, into a 10lb+browns face with a centerpin rig, then you can do the same fishing a streamer without a strip set. I thought it was a decent analogy. Then again I only got to fish for an hour last night so my head might not have been clear!

          • I’ll summarize my points from the article above. I specifically do not recommend a trout set. I use a quick, powerful, short rod motion to set the hook, or I use a strip set, with the the line hand. Mainly, this is because I do not want to give up using the rod motion for animating the streamer. Because I use rod tip and stripping both, when a trout takes, I set with whatever motion I’m in the middle of or whatever motion is next. I certainly don’t have trouble setting a modern streamer hook, with a rod set, into jaws of the biggest trout on the river. None of this has to do with any other species.

            Lastly, I feel like forcing myself to only strip set really limits what I’m comfortable doing with the rod, in terms of jerks, jigs and twitches.



  4. This is the old man that fishes 8days a week since last March (that’s when I started fly fishing). I wish I could say I’ve had success with both techniques,I wish I had success with one of them.I wish I could say I actually know what you’re talking about.O well,I’ll continue my efforts tomorrow at Laurel or Confluence maybe both.This retirement stuff sucks!Tight Lines laddies


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