In any avenue of fly fishing, one thing that separates successful anglers from not-so-successful anglers is complete, undivided, fully engaged, focus whenever your fly is in the water. Many fish are lost (or perhaps never hooked at all) from anglers who’s minds were wandering or whom were not expecting a fish to eat the fly in the first place.
Spey fishing is no exception, and we feel a lot of fish are lost from this very lack of anticipation of the inevitable – when the fish eats the fly! Therefore, its important whenever your fly is under tension to be in a position to properly set the hook (low and towards the inside bank, please). It’s going to happen eventually, so you might as well be ready for it!
When explaining the ideal ready position during the swing, Alaska West guide, Ben West, utilizes a simple saying; Don’t block your hook set. In other words, during the swing, position both your feet and rod hand accordingly so that when it’s go time, you’re able to make a good, firm, efficient set. Most of the time, rods tucked under the arm during the swing, or held all the way down at the side (see photos below) don’t allow enough freedom of movement to provide a firm hook set, thus ‘blocking’ your hook set.
Instead, try positioning your feet at a slightly downstream angle throughout the entire swing, with your rod hand tracking the fly slightly in front of your body (see photo below). That way, when it’s time to hit ’em, regardless of which side of the river you’re on, you have full range to rotate your torso and swing your rod hand in front of your body to really drive the hook home.
Ron Walp says
Ben thanks for your great articles. I have never fished for steelhead or chinook in AK. What fish are you fishing for in AK using your hook set method? Are you recommending this method of hook set fishing for steelhead scandie style in low water too?
I am 80 years young and I have been fishing for summer steelhead with single and two handed rods for 40+years. I want my clients to do nothing on the grab, wait til the fish turns and with the rod low move it to the bank. Hard to get new anglers to follow that procedure. We practice the grab for newbee’s. Here is a drill. Take an empty peanut butter plastic jar, put water in it about 1/4 full, put you leader tip and fly in the jar and screw on the lid. Throw the jar out into the current and make a few mends to set the line up, position the rod as when fishing with a shock loop or off the reel. When the line becomes tight it is very very close to what an actual grab feels like. Practicing in different current speeds and with different amounts of water in the jar will give different types of grabs as no two grabs are the same. Closing ones eyes will also give practice “to do nothing on the grab.”
What do you think? It works for me on my home water, the Deschutes River.