One of the things I enjoy most about Troutbitten is the questions and ideas I receive from anglers. Fielding questions every day keeps me in touch with what makes fishermen curious. And hearing new ideas keeps me current. So I’m constantly adding to my backlog of things I’d like to try next.
Whether it’s through the comments section here on the website, through emails, through YouTube or on Instagram, I hope you’ll keep your questions and ideas coming. Some of them have made it to a podcast episode. And with this article, I’m starting a new Troutbitten series that I’ve been thinking about for a while now. The concept is simple: Ask a question, and I’ll provide some thoughts. (Notice I didn’t say “the answer.” Nothing is guaranteed, after all, because this is fishing.)
Here we go . . .
Bryan Kim emailed me:
I was listening to some old podcasts recently and had a question about the “blind strike,” discussed briefly at the end of the Why Do We Miss/Lose Fish podcast (1:19:25).
It reminded me of the video below, where Joe Humphreys catches a fish by what he calls “striking impulsively” (10:15-11:20). I’ve thought about this clip a lot since first watching it.
On the podcast, I think it’s Bill who describes it as setting the hook the first time through a good spot. You respond by saying you technically blind strike at the end of every drift, but do you ever set the hook early in your drift for no reason other than the fish are very active and you just know one will be holding in a certain spot?
Hey Bryan, your question came to me at the perfect time. I saw your email a few hours after I caught the best fish of my day on a blind strike. It was a fun moment, and one that happened because I did as you mentioned — I set the hook at the end of the drift. I do it all the time, regardless of whether I believe a fish is there. That hook set serves to get my tippet and fly out of the strike zone and activated. And it usually goes directly into my backcast. By the end of the day, I often catch a couple of extra trout with that end-of-the-drift hook set.
Here’s a Troutbitten article on the concept . . .
However, you also asked . . .
“. . . do you ever set the hook early in your drift for no reason other than the fish are very active and you just know one will be holding in a certain spot?”
I know that Bill said yes, but I will say no. I need a reason to set the hook. And the truth is, I can usually find that reason. While nymphing, I am on high alert. And rarely does a drift go by where I do not find a reason to set. In fact, in those prime, juicy spots, I’m even more on alert, and I’m looking for any reason to believe that a trout just ate my nymph.
But I might not get that reason. Certainly, in the best spots, I may see no hesitation of the line, no pause, no flash underneath, and I might feel nothing unusual through the line or rod. So I do not set.
Because I think the blind strike, in the best part of that juicy pocket, can spook fish. Think about this . . .
One of the reasons we often catch more trout on the first few drifts rather than the tenth, is because the disturbance of our flies drifting next to a trout turns them off. Sometimes our tippet bumps them. Sometimes the fly bumps them. Sometimes they see a dragging, unnatural fly. All of that puts an edgy trout down — I have no doubt in this. And a fly that’s ripped out of a trout’s lane is even worse. Maybe he’s even about to eat it, but the blind strike not only takes away that opportunity for us — it puts the trout down for good.
I don’t guess, because I might ruin my best chance. I also do everything I can to be in contact or just slightly out of contact with the nymph, whether that’s on a tight line to my rod tip or under an indicator. And I trust my skills this way, more than I trust my instinct to set on nothing.
I believe in this so much that I don’t check set as much as I used to. I save it for faster water and more specialized situations.
So no, I don’t blind strike. And I hate to disagree with Humphreys on this, but I don’t do it.
However, there’s a lot to be said for angler’s intuition. And if you want to set the hook, and you think you should set the hook . . . then set the hook. Because hook sets are . . . (wait, no, they’re really not free.)
So, even in the best of prime lies, I wait for a good reason to set the hook.
Final point here . . .
Some people believe that the best nymphing anglers have a sixth sense for strike detection. But I don’t buy it. Instead I believe there is a reason they decide to set the hook. They saw, felt, heard, noticed something unusual, and they hooked a trout.
Fish hard, friends.
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Enjoy the day.
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