5 Tips to HOOK More Fish on Streamers
Nobody is perfect. Everyone misses or loses fish!
Whether it's nymphs, dries, or streamers, effectively hooking 100% of your fish over any substantial period of time is simply not going to happen. Some things are way out of your control — like when a fish short-strikes your fly and whiffs on the hook completely. Other things are totally in your control, such as keeping focus, using sound technique, and making sure your gear is up to snuff. Despite all this you can still fully expect to occasionally flub a strike or have a fish quickly come unbuttoned, but having all your ducks in a row greatly tips the odds in your favor.
Here's 5 basic tips to help solidly hook more fish while streamer fishing (and some apply to all fly fishing)...
Keep the Tip Low- A common mistake I see anglers make when stripping streamers is to hold the rod tip way up off the water, sometimes even slightly above a horizontal position! Whenever possible, you want that tip to be pointed down towards the water just off the surface. This keeps the line's path straight and eliminates any slack or "belly" between the tip and the water. The less slack you keep in your line, the better you can control the fly, detect strikes, and set the hook effectively.
Use the Strip Set- Setting the hook with a "strip-set" is pretty much THE technique to use when saltwater fishing, but technically you can strip set anytime you're fishing streamers. However, it becomes most important when fishing larger, thicker-gauge hooks for fish with tougher mouths. Strip-setting works well because you are pulling on the line to set the hook rather than doing it solely with the rod. It's a fast, more direct movement and you can generate a lot of force to help the hook penetrate.
When there's a bite, just maintain a low rod angle and give a long, firm strip to initially set the hook. Often times, a strong strip or two is all that's needed to set the hook solidly before the rod is lifted to begin the fight, but some anglers like to followup their strip-sets with an added jab or two with the rod either upwards or low and to the side. If the fish eats the fly coming at you, keep stripping quickly to maintain a tight line until you feel the fish turn to run another direction before lifting or doing anything with the rod. You'll get a better hook set and you won't be wildly out of position or create excess slack.
Another added bonus is that even if you strip-set but for some reason don't hook the fish, both you and the fly remain in good positioning for a follow-up strike. Since the fly wasn't ripped from the water, the fish may come right back and eat again. You'll be ready!
Low Stretch Fly Line- Want even more power to set the hook? A low-stretch fly line such as those made with RIO Products' ConnectCore technology offer that added grunt. Just like when comparing monofilament and braided lines in the conventional fishing world, a fly line with little stretch transfers the power of your hook set more effectively. I ran a little test of a ConnectCore line back in the earlier days of Demystifly which can be seen here.
Hook Point- This is definitely the most basic, obvious tip of them all. With a dull or damaged hook, your results can be impacted severely. If scraping or bouncing the fly off hard objects both above or below the surface, you'll want to check the hook constantly. Be sure to carry a hook file at all times. After you catch a fish or free your fly from a snag, you'll also want to check the hook bend to make sure it hasn't opened up.
Too Much- Streamers can get pretty bulky. This one probably applies mostly to more novice fly tyers, but building up a fly's body too much with firm material can substantially shrink the gap between the hook point and shank. The less usable gap you have, the less "bite" there is for a hook to successfully set into the mouth of a fish. I can remember some of the Woolly Buggers I tied in my young days...I should've called them Chubby Buggers!