Women on the Water: Fall Update

Mary Rosel, Women’s Activities Chair
From the October 2020 newsletter 

Fall is finally here with its cooler weather and cooler stream temperatures!  I dream of getting back on the water.  This has been a life changing year.  Change isn’t always easy, especially if it means giving up something you love to do.  I want to think that this change will lead to innovations to a new and better way to live.  In the meantime, savor the moments with your loved ones.  Be thankful for the good things in your lives.  Ponder your thoughts and dig deep to learn how to make sense of it all.  Most of all, be positive.

For me, I have become a little crazy trying to be good, trying to follow the rules as to not be in harm’s way or harm others.  From a fishing perspective, I’ve thrown myself into learning more via Zoom, visiting fishing web sites, joining women’s fishing groups, and now, venturing out to take someone on-one fly casting lessons.  Those have been awesome!  So I decided I would share some of my new found information.  For those of you who already “know it all” I would appreciate constructive input.  For those of you who have asked to know more, I hope I can address some of those questions.

My most recent read has been about setting the hook, so I’d like to present some basic take recognition and situational hooking setting differences.

First, the Common Dry Fly takes include:

  1. The Sip Take.  When there are a multitude of insects on the surface, fish will position their body, angled below the surface, with just lips and nose showing.  They will casually “sip.” When one takes the fly, the natural tendency is to set the hook immediately with an excited rod tip up-and-back set motion.  While this can work, the quick rod tip upward set is more likely to pull the fly (and hook) right out of the fish’s mouth.  Instead, employ a brief pause before setting the hook with a downstream or side-current motion.  A short pause allows the fly to dip lower into the fish’s mouth, while the angled hook-set makes for a clean and solid hook embed.
  2. The Swirl Take.  This kind of “eat” tends to happen when there are fewer naturals on the surface.  The swirl is caused by a determined surface take, which is followed by an immediate direction change.  As with the sip take set, the swirl take set produces better results if the angler is able to resist the impulse to initiate the sudden upward rod tip set motion in favor of a momentary pause and angled hook set.  The good news is that in darting off in another direction, the fish has made it easier to establish a good set. Assuming it hasn’t immediately decided to spit the fly out, the swirling fish has already done most of the setting work for the angler.  Thus, a pause followed by a tight set motion on a swirl take will almost always lead to a well-hooked fish.
  3. The All-Out Attack Take.  The all-out attack take most often results in a well-hooked fish, regardless of the hook-setting technique.  This is usually how a fish hits a luscious attractor, terrestrial, or meaty mouse pattern.  In this case, a quick and spiffy upward rod tip set motion is the generally accepted best practice; however, an angled, down, or cross current set will typically seal the deal as well.

Second, setting the hook while nymphing:

  1. Nymph takes are similar to how fish take surface dry flies-just under the surface.  Sometimes they casually slurp them as they drift by their noses.  Other times they swim a small distance to eat and then swirl-dart back to their feeding lane.  And sometimes they even attack nymph imitations with an all-out ferocity.
  2. With similar line, current, and hook dynamics at play, the nymph takes mentioned above manifest via the action of the floating strike indicator.  In the first scenario, the indicator might hesitate, tick to the side, or dip slightly.  In the swirl-like take scenario, the indicator will produce the same motions as a more subtle nymph take but in a more obvious and pronounced way.  In the third scenario, the strike indicator might dart ten feet hard in one direction, or in some cases, will come clear out of the water just below or above the fish, which is already hooked and has breached the surface in an angry thrash.
  3. For nymph takes, the most effective way to set the hook is an immediate cross- or down-current rod set motion.  A skyward set motion will generally work well too, but since a strike indicator’s move usually lags behind the take by a split-second or two, no pause is needed or advised.  Rather, when you see the indicator move, set the hook instantly.  Many such sets will come up empty, but quite a few will produce a telltale fish-on wriggle every angler loves.

Maybe the next time I go out, I’ll remember the appropriate technique at the right time and catch “the big one.”

If you would like to discuss or have questions, please e-mail me at women@newmexicotrout.org. May you always have tight lines.

Information has been provided from the website https://flyfishingfix.com, article “How to Set the Hook when Fly Fishing” by Matt Buchenau.  Editing by my amazing son-in-law, technical writer, Tyler Kent.