On our Alaskan rivers, targeting big leopard rainbows with gaudy rodent imitations is not only visually appealing, but also very productive at certain times of the year. Takes can be ferocious and often unexpected.
However, one of the most common faults when mousing for trout is setting the hook too early. It’s important to allow the fish to take the fly under before attempting to set the hook, or you risk pulling the fly directly out of the fish’s mouth. ‘Waiting’ to set the hook is much easier said than done however, and we’d be lying if we said we haven’t missed our share of hook sets.
Recently, we tried new approach on setting the hook when mousing while fishing with our friend Tom Larimer…the strip set! Strip setting on trout? You bet! While the classic trout lift is great for hooking trout on delicate tippets, when mousing for trout in Alaska, we often use ‘tippet’ upwards of the 20 pound range for better turnover of the fly, so break offs are of little concern. Plus, the strip set allows for the angler to delay setting the hook long enough for the fish to take it under.
Most of the time we like to retrieve our mouse patterns by keeping our rod tip high and twitching the tip back and forth while taking up the slack with our line hand. When the trout takes the fly, the amount of time it takes to lower the rod tip towards the fish and strip set the fly is just about the right amount of time to set the hook. See the take, lower the rod tip, make a nice long strip set, and enjoy.