Fly Fishing Tailwaters - Part 6 - Strategies









Like people standing in an elevator, trout will solemnly face the same direction-upcurrent. Upcurrent is different than upstream because islands and other structure at times will alter the current's direction. A back eddy is a good example. The fish in a back eddy may be facing downstream on one part, and upstream in another part. The current acts like a huge conveyor belt that delivers the squirming larva and pupae. While some aquatic insects can swim, few can manage against even the slightest of currents. It's worth noting which direction the fish are facing, because the best hook sets are perpendicular to that direction. If a fish is facing upstream and you set the hook upstream, you will likely pull the fly from his mouth or get a bad hook set. This is because we can never know how the fly will be oriented in the fish's mouth. If the fly is oriented lengthwise along the hook in the fish's mouth, an upstream set will often work. If the orientation is anything other than that, the fly will often be pulled out of the fish's mouth without ever connecting. This is especially true with a small pattern. When the hook is set perpendicular to the fish, the hook has double the opportunities to connect because now it can connect to the top or bottom of the mouth, but also to the side.

It doesn't take trout long to realize that your fly is a fraud. They are like toddlers as they determine the edible things of the world first by sight and/or curiosity, but then by taste. During the normal course of their day they take in and spit out more than they consume. And, like a toddler with a spoonful of mashed broccoli, it doesn't take them long to expel it. To get good hook sets you have to be faster than a mongoose with a belly full of lattˇs and you have to set in the right direction. Upstream hook sets will pull the fly from the fish as he's trying to spit it out. You have to be fast because it takes time for the take to be telegraphed up to the indicator and, by the time the indicator moves, the fish is often in the process of spitting out the hook. This method is for nymphing. For dry flies or streamers, the hook sets are somewhat different.

In order to get good drag-free drifts that will present the fly properly to the fish, you have to have enough slack in your line. In order to get good hook sets you have to get pressure on to the hook. So, before you can set the hook, you first have to deal with all that slack you just laid out on the water. Keeping your "finger on the trigger" accomplishes this. This means that you put the fly line between your index finger and the cork of the rod. When you feed line out, release the pressure. When you set the hook, press the line firmly to the cork and lift your rod up and perpendicular to the current to set the hook.

All photos and text © Trapper Badovinac. Any use without written permission from the author is illegal.
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