When it comes to fishing, setting the hook well is absolutely important unless one’s plan is to do something that I call “distant release,” where the fish releases itself before being brought up on land. That said, losing fish due to a bad hookset does happen no matter how well one thinks or feels that one has set the hook well. Anyway, the idea is to minimize such incidences. This article focuses on fly fishing.
[ there usually is a certain amount of slack (line)… ]
When it comes to fly fishing setting the hook is somewhat different as compared to fishing on a spinning or baitcasting outfit. This is because most of the time when fly fishing, there usually is a certain amount of slack (line), and striking or setting the hook as one would on a baitcasting or spinning outfit will certainly not work; unless you don’t have any slack line.
Sharp hooks are important for a good hookset.
So How Is It Done?
Before we go further, there are some things to make clear. I will be using the terms casting hand for the hand that is holding on to the rod, and stripping hand for the hand that is used to strip the line and to reel in the line. That way there will be no confusion as to which hand does what during the process. Here is a general fly fishing scenario…
Picture yourself casting out your fly. Your fly lands on the water and sits there quietly, without action. To give it some action you strip the line using your stripping hand while you casting hand supports the line with a finger (usually pointer) and thumb. After a few strips a fish takes your fly. You have free or loose line in the water.
Hold the line securely with your casting hand in a pinching manner, and raise your rod to strike and set the hook. While doing so, reel in any slack lines with your stripping hand, all the time maintaining controlled pressure on the fish with your casting hand (controlling the pressure by pinching the line between the thumb and finger) until the slack lines have been reeled in. You can now continue fighting the fish with the reel.
Notice the finger on the line ready for a strike.
There you go… that is how to strike a fish and properly set the hook on a fly fishing outfit. How hard to strike will depend on the tackle you are using. Needless to say, one should be more gentle when one is fishing with light lines, and harder strikes when fishing bigger fish with heavier tackle. Tightlines and happy fly fishing.