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I'm a relative newbie to the game, and I'm finding that I have a tremendously hard time getting a proper hookset using a spey rod. After reading Riveraddict's post, I think it may have something to do with the orientation of the rod as I fight a fish, but I think it goes deeper. So my question for the Spey Clave braintrust (a mighty impressive one, I might add), is what type of hookset do you find works the best with two-handed rods? And do you find the action and/or length of the rod affects which one to use?
 

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I am incredibly surprised that no one has responded to this! If there is a subject that should produce many varying opinions, this is one! This is my approach on hooksets with a DH (doublehander), as applies to steelhead and Kings on a swung fly. At that moment when I feel that the fish HAS A SUFFICIENT HOLD ON THE FLY, I hit 'em hard. Here are my reasons why. 1- I am usually fishing with large flies, and at least half of the time they will be taken sideways by the fish, like a dog with a bone, which means that one must move the fly through the fish's mouth in order to effect a purchase. 2- I am never "tight" onto my fly during the swing, there is always some sort of bow in the line that must be removed during the hookset. 3- I hold the tip of my rod off of the water 18" to 36" during the swing (height dependent on length of cast, speed of water, etc) to allow for the fly to be "vacuumed" by the fish during the take. This "sag" must also be accounted for during a hookset... When swinging a fly, my rod butt is planted onto my right hip (i'm right-handed), with my right hand holding the rod loosely around the uppermost portion of the forward grip like a suspension cable. To initiate a set I pull back hard and fast with my right hand in the opposite direction from where the rod is pointing. At the exact moment when a steelhead or King takes my fly, my mind is most often not exactly focused on the task at hand, but rather wandering about looking at the scenery or daydreaming. Considering that many fish, especially winter steelhead, will not hold onto a fly for a long period of time, I have found it nearly impossible to "think" about using the "recommended set" (low and towards the bank). I have found the "hard and fast" to work well enough for me under most circumstances... P.S. - I follow the swing of the fly with my rod tip, therefore at any given time the rod is always pointing in the general direction of the flys' location.
 

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Riveraddict,
What about when your fly gets to the bottom of your swing and you feel a small tug that you know is a fish who is just playing with your fly. He is interested, but, not committed and by the time you have felt him tap it your line goes slack again. Not quite enough time to get a hookset in and if you do there is nobody home. Most of the time I leave it and wait to see if he picks it up with some authority. He usually doesn't...so I end up trying to recast and swing it right back into where I felt him dinkin around with it before. Whats the best way to handle this situation. Leave it down there or pick up and cast again or something else? Thanks...

LR
 

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"RA," good 'point.' Didn't even see the orig. post.

On hook sets I've almost always got the rod tip within a couple of inches of the water (helps keep a tight line) and just outside the line 'swing.' The general recommendation (if memory serves) is to sweep low and to the bank for hook sets as the fish moves away from you.

More often than not I find this to be pretty ackward (sp?) to do left handed or across the body. But into/off the bank low and right on the water usually sets the hook for me. I agree that your method with large(r) metal hooks is a good plan as it takes a lot of 'omph' to drive a large point into a steelhead's mouth. They call them 'steelhead' for a reason. But this is exactly the reason I favor light wire hooks regardless of the size of the fly. Small point drives in easier and doesn't appear to tend to 'ware' a hole in the fishes jaw over a long fight.
fae
 

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I have to rethink what I am doing on this given my current predicament. Thanks for the thoughts.

Question: How do you set the hook hard with a 6 LB maxima leader with a 7/8 weight spey rod ?

PM Out
 
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Can't say as it matters much for my most recent outings, but...

I've been taught to keep my hooks finely honed, my rod tip low and slightly outside my swing and, my drag set fairly stiff so that the fish barbs itself on the turn.

As to the nibbler types, I keep between a 6 and 12 inch loop in my off-hand which I release to the nibbler.

mmm
 

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Hook Set

I am with Fred and MMM - sharp hooks, mine are fine wire of late or smaller hooks on tubes so it is easy to get the hook in. If it won't grab when slid across a fingernail, it needs sharpening.

Most of my fishing involves fairly aggressive takes, so there is no doubt of the hit and the fish hooks itself most of the time.

I am sometimes leading the fly into a slot or softer water, so the rod can be leading. I do keep it fairly low and move the rod toward the near bank.
 

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PM-hooksets

I agree on the sharp hooks being key, but I find you can still put it to 'em pretty good with 6# Maxima and a 7/8 rod. I'd err on the side of hard until you learn otherwise. A part of the equation is how much slack line you have between rod tip and hook.
 

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Any spey rod, even the fastest action one, will bend quite a bit through the blank, or at least the tip, and it is hard to break off a fish with light tippet as a result. Scott O'Donnell does a great "hook set" demo where he shows you how little pressure you are putting on the tippet and hook point with a typical hook set. So, I absolutely agree with the hard hook set.

What I find more challenging is knowing when to "let go" of the fish during/after a hook set when the fish wants to turn and go the other way.
 

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Let the reel do it!!

Circlespey,
Set the drag right and let the reel decide when the fish needs to go.
 

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Undertaker, a different and easier way to set the hooks

Go to this site and read how this guide recommends how to set the hook in the winter and soft bites.

http://www.flyfishsteelhead.com/stories/cold1.htm

The Guide doesn't loop the line and strike the rod. He keeps the rod low and sets the drag as per his instructions. If he feel something, he just lifts the rod and lets the line, the reel and the rod set the hook. I surprised a lot smaller fish with this technique. I just wish that I had known about it earlier. I hooked one big steelie which broke my 8# tippet in the middle of my tippet. His strike was a peck by a small parr.

Be sure to go to his homepage and read about the reels that work. My Loop 4, Battenkill Large Arbor and Reddington reels work very well.

This is the link to his article about which reels to use in this technique.

http://www.flyfishsteelhead.com/stories/reels.htm
 

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I like Dennis, and this has worked for me at times, but I disagree on the whole. To effectively set the hook on light tension the drag would have to be set pretty darn tight.

"Letting the reel do the work" is the way I used to try to set fish, and too often I had fish that would go on a run or two only to then come unbuttoned because the hook had never really found a solid purchase.

Steelhead do not have soft mouths, and reels set to a few pounds of pressure will not effectively set the hook, especially when the tip of a long spey rod is absorbing a lot of the tension.

We've all had the kamikaze strikes where the fish sets itself, but I increasingly believe that this is a small fraction of winter steelhead strikes.

Circlespey
 

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The guide in question uses this technique partly because he is guiding a lot of new steelhead fishermen and this allows a hookset without worrying about the sport clamping down on the line or breaking the tippet on the hookset.

For summer fish and thus summer sized hooks, I think it probably works well. For winter fish; who tend to have slower less violent grabs, and the larger hooks that often go with winter fishing, I am a firm believer in a good firm hookset.

The other reason I do not like the "let the reel hook them" is a tight drag limits letting the fish show its stuff. Plus half my reels are Hardy click and pawl and there is no way to get the drag tight enough nor would I want to.

Finally, I believe there could be something to all the strike to the shore stuff but I have to admit that when a fish hits, I am usually not able to process fast enough to do that. Instead the rod either comes straight back or up and back.
 

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sinktip

As I noted, I had no problem with my Loop 4, Reddington reel and Orvis LA Battenkill.

However, with my trusty Ross Gunny3 and my trusty Bob Meiser 7/8, this did not work. So I went to the OLABK, and hooked a couple of small fish that I would not have hooked.

My son who is the best fisher. Plants all of his 6' 200 #'s into striking any fish from stripers to trout. He hooks most of his strikes and keeps the fish on. I will not get near his right side when he is fishing. He hit me one time as he was setting the hook and about knocked me overboard.
 

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hook set

once you strike low and to the shore it gets into your muscle memory and the brain need not be involved. it becomes an automatic reaction.however ,the way you hold your rod while fishing can be the key to enabling an automatic resonse.when you are fishing river left you have your rod positioned on out side of your body and it is easy to go in toward shore with some leverage with the cork part of the rod against your body. when I fish river right i have the rod on the outside of my body also. it is easy to get used to this position. if you hold that way as your fly swings and your tip swings with it,you cant really strike any other way but toward the shore. and you can really hit them hard on that side. i believe that that side is the tough part for most people.use the leverage of the butt section against your legs and/or midsection. once you do both sides the same it becomes an automatic reaction. beau
 

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The other mental block that I have is forgetting that I can set the hook AFTER the first run if the fish is already taking line before you have time to react. I lost a nice fish on the Trask this way a few weeks ago. The fish was running right away, and then it stopped when it got to the far bank. I had some seconds to set the hook, but my small brain was saying to me "this fish has already taken 50 feet of line, so it must be hooked." Meanwhile Scott O'Donnell is yelling at me to set the hook, and I just didn't process that. The fish came unbuttoned about a minute later. Part of the problem that day was the cutthroat that were nailing the fly every few casts, so I wasn't in a "set the hook" mentality.

Circlespey
 

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Too Much & they are gone

I lost a nice fish on the Clearwater with a short line strong set on what turned out to be a big steelhead. 10# Maxima doesn't part that easily, but when you are half asleep and you come back in surprise you can get a lot of force with a 15' rod.

A shart hook doesn't take that much force to sink into a steelhead.

We haven't heard from Dana and Kush on this one yet. I would be interested in hearing how they do it.
 

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hook set

excellent point about setting hook when they make that first run away from you. that is perfect time to set again even if already did.when i used to salmon fish in salt i always set the hook 2-3 times as they started to run.perfect angle to drive it in.beau
 

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I feel confident in leading the fly with the rod tip elevated to chest to eye level depending on the depth I've waded. Those who know me know I can be high strung and quick to react. I find the slack line allows additional time to "hit the grab". If the water is cold 38-41/42 I'll lower the tip a bit to get additional "stick" with the hook.

andre
 

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The most effective hookset that one can use will be dictated by one's personal method of fishing. I fish with a "loose" line on the swing, along with holding my rod tip off of the surface of the water. Therefore, there is a good deal of calculated "slack" in my system at any given moment. Hard, fast hooksets are imperatve in my style of fishing in order to compensate for this slack (sideways hooksets are quite "slow" in comparison to an upward and back hookset). I subscribe to this method for the following reason. It seems that fish can take a fly in many different ways. This can range from a full-on tackle smashing grab ( I have had the occasional steelhead literally clean a fly right off of the leader on the take), all the way down to the barely perceptible pluck. Some takes actually involve a physical clamping of the steelheads' jaws onto the fly (usually larger flies) while some do not. Many takes of the fly by steelhead (especially smaller flies) are accomplished by the fish flaring its' gills and VACUUMING the object into its' mouth (I read somewhere that largemouth bass have been observed vacuuming plastic worms from off of a lake bottom from 3' away!). In my opinion, this is what is often happening when we flyfishers feel "taps" and "plucks" on our flies. If the fly is being swung on a "tight" line then the fly will not "drop" into the steelheads' mouth and the fish turns away with nothing more than a mouth full of water, and we of course are disappointed at not feeling the weight of a fish turning away with our fly. In some instances the fish will circle around for another try, but with winter steelhead they often will not. I believe that most such fish could have been hooked had the angler provided enough "slack" for the "suction" to have been effective. However, holding a loop, IN MY OPINION, is not the best remedy. Here's why. Dropping a loop at the moment of feeling the take is too late! By the time one feels the "pluck" it has already happened! Yet the loop is effective for many anglers, especially on summer steelhead. Why? I think that by the time one has dropped the loop, the steelhead has come around for its' second attempt and that NOW the necessary slack is present for the "vacuuming" to be effective. The loop is not as effective on winter steelhead because many of them WILL NOT come around for a second pass......................................................................... Lipripper... As your fly swings in towards the "hangdown" try slowly raising the rod tip off of the water until it is at a height of about 2 1/2 to 3' when it is finally pointing straight below you. This "sag" should turn some of those "taps" into legitimate "pulls". If a fish still "taps" you at this point, do three 6" strips of the fly and then pause for a count of "one-thousand-one" followed by another three strips and pause WHILE KEEPING THE ROD TIP ELEVATED OFF OF THE WATER. Most steelhead that can be caught in this situation will have taken the fly by this time. Good luck!....................................................................................... When a steelhead grabs my fly with surprising speed and violence and is immediately running, I have found that it is best NOT to set the hook until after the fish has completed the run..... Sharp hooks = more fish hooked and landed. Hook file, don't leave home without it!................................................................... Hardy reels + steelhead = more fun!
 
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