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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi, I recently joined the site and have found it informative so far. After reading some threads it has brought about a question I have regarding my hook up ratio.

I built a switch rod (8wt - 11') last year for my first trip to Labrador for Atlantics and went with a scandi head. I found that holding a loose line in my hand, if I got a strike it would pop off more often than I would like. So after some experimentation I left the line tight to the reel and was able to increase my hook ratio. I ended up doing very well so I'm told as I landed many Grilse and Salmon combined on the trip but I still lost a pile of good takes and it was rather frustrating.

This leads to my question, Is there a preferred method to dealing with the line during the swing? Perhaps it's just the nature of Atlantic Salmon but most of the takes I got last year were light. Having never fished for Atlantics before I don't know if this is a common issue or is there something I am missing.

I would appreciate any advice as I am headed back this July and want to go prepared.

Regards
Hackle
 

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Generally it is best not to rush things, here in the UK we refer to it as a "Take" rather than a "Strike" & the usual approach is to keep the rod down & allow the fish to "tug, tug, tug" until it turns with the fly & everything tightens up when all you need to do is steadily lift into the fish to set the hook & start the dance, so to speak.

It may be a different interpretion of terminology, but "Strike" suggest a more violent grab necessitating a quick strike with the rod to hook up - this is certainly what I need to do with sea-run browns which grab a fly & swiftly eject it if you don't react quickly & "belt 'em" to set the hook; but Atlantic salmon will generally take in a much more leisurely manner & left alone normally take the fly into their mouth & then move off with it. Hitting them too early when they are still facing you & mouthing/ investigating the fly will often pull it out of their mouths or result in a very shallow hook set which pulls free in the fight; wait until they have it properly & turn away with it & you will usually have a solid hook hold.

This works in most circumstances, sometimes running fish [particularly grilse in lowish water levels] won't turn with the fly but will hold it, pause, & let go - if you get 2 or 3 of these one after another then try hitting them straight away, you may miss most, but you will hook some which otherwise would have let go. Generally though, on 95% of occassions you are better leaving the fish tugging until it turns & then just lift & wait for things to happen - which as it isn't alarmed by a hard pull may take a while due to the salmon being puzzled by the pressure rather than panicked & they often come in quite easily until they reach the shallows or see you, then make sure you haven't wrapped the line around the reel handle as things can turn very exciting around this time.

Regards, Tyke.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Thanks for the reply Tyke,

Thanks for the terminology clarification. Yes, the "take" as it were was often very light and just a quick pull. Most often so fast I couldn't react regardless, therefore did leave me waiting as you mentioned with the result still being a lost take. This happened in both fast runs and slow moving water too.

The types of flies this happened with were mostly small dries if that makes any difference. The ones that did get hooked well made no bones about the take either, you knew when it hit it was committed.

It sounds as though there is no real remedy then! I was fishing this one run which had many fish in it and would get that quick take on almost every cast with only a handful of fish on as a result. It was frustrating to say the least.
 

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My experience is similar to what Tyke mentions about running grilse. On one hand it's very exciting, on the other it's frustrating.

I don't know what to tell you if you decide to keep using the dry. With a wet fly, I like to drastically change the speed of the fly, either by fishing it much slower or much faster. Fishing a faster fly has become my preferred method. If you don't spook them, I think they tend to hit a fast fly with more authority. If that means stripping a fly to induce a take, then so be it.

A technique that has worked well for me is to swing the fly like normal until it just reaches the "kill zone," then strip it out of the zone and away from the fish. I think they get used to seeing a fly moving at a predictable speed/trajectory and and abrupt change can trigger them to commit in a more aggressive way.

I don't know what the answer is or even if there is one. If you play the odds and stick to conventional presentations, you'll probably hook a few. I think it pays to experiment when you have that many fish around, though. Reading this thread is making me play back old scenarios in my head and the one thing I always come back to is that I wish I took more chances back then.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Thanks for the input Pork!

Sounds like more than just myself have experienced this. As for wet flies I haven't bothered with any but will tie a few soft hackled flies and give them a go.

Might be interesting to report back with my findings.
 

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Thanks for the reply Tyke,

Thanks for the terminology clarification. Yes, the "take" as it were was often very light and just a quick pull. Most often so fast I couldn't react regardless, therefore did leave me waiting as you mentioned with the result still being a lost take. This happened in both fast runs and slow moving water too.

The types of flies this happened with were mostly small dries if that makes any difference. The ones that did get hooked well made no bones about the take either, you knew when it hit it was committed.

It sounds as though there is no real remedy then! I was fishing this one run which had many fish in it and would get that quick take on almost every cast with only a handful of fish on as a result. It was frustrating to say the least.
Not reacting is the right thing to do, IMO. I accept that sometimes there's probably nothing that can be done and the fish just isn't going to stick. If you start trying to get those quick pulls to stick by reacting you might end up losing fish that otherwise would have been hooked.

The real frustration will set in when you aren't even getting any pulls ;)
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
The real frustration will set in when you aren't even getting any pulls ;)
LOL, This year we have the last week so things start to slow down on the river. Good thing is there are only 7 of us on the whole river for that week so there's lots of water options.
 

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Have you tried holding the rod high during the swing and then dropping the rod on the grab?? This is a method Bill McMillan wrote about in Dry Line Steelhead and can be done with your switch rod. I've been experimenting with this method on steelhead and so far so good.

Todd
 

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Have you tried holding the rod high during the swing and then dropping the rod on the grab?? This is a method Bill McMillan wrote about in Dry Line Steelhead and can be done with your switch rod. I've been experimenting with this method on steelhead and so far so good.

Todd
Do you do that for waked flies? I feel like I get lots of hard plucks on foam skaters and muddlers, where it's obvious the fish had a decent enough grip to bring the fly under tension yet the angle of the hook point to mouth just wasn't in the cards. I've tried the loop dropping method and it doesn't seem to make a difference compared to just fishing them off the reel.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Have you tried holding the rod high during the swing and then dropping the rod on the grab?? This is a method Bill McMillan wrote about in Dry Line Steelhead and can be done with your switch rod. I've been experimenting with this method on steelhead and so far so good.

Todd
No, I haven't actually. The take is so fast though I doubt I would be able to drop the rod fast enough to do as you mention. I'll definitely give it a try though.
 

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Do you do that for waked flies? I feel like I get lots of hard plucks on foam skaters and muddlers, where it's obvious the fish had a decent enough grip to bring the fly under tension yet the angle of the hook point to mouth just wasn't in the cards. I've tried the loop dropping method and it doesn't seem to make a difference compared to just fishing them off the reel.
Yes, I've tried dropping the rod this past fall while fishing foam skaters and went 3 for 3 at the very end of the season. More experimenting is warranted this year. Admittedly, this method is easier once a steelhead is located and has made an initial rise and "misses" the fly. You have his position pegged so it's easier to anticipate where the fish may come back to the fly and then drop the rod as soon as the rise happens, allowing the fish instant slack to turn with the fly. If the fish is not felt on the line after a couple seconds, a slow sweep to the bank should bring you tight to the fish if he has your fly.

Atlantics may be different and I have not experienced fishing for them so my thoughts are from a steelheader's perspective. This methods takes some practice and persistence as it requires being on "constant alert". One can just fish and cover water with the rod at a less tiring lower angle on the swing, and when a fish is located, try dropping the rod or a loop on the follow up rise if it comes - beware, this is addicting stuff!

Todd
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Admittedly, this method is easier once a steelhead is located and has made an initial rise and "misses" the fly.
I found this too. If a fish rose I could make a cast to target it and be ready for the take, hooking more than if it came from no where. I guess I just don't understand my quarry yet, in thinking about one run that I fished in the dark a few nights I was getting strong takes on almost every swinging through this one section but no hook up. It was very frustrating. I don't understand how a fish can grab the fly and not get hooked in water that's moving as fast as that. I'm still not sure I have any new revelations after asking some questions so I'll just have to experiment I guess.
 

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Well, since no one has mentioned it

Consider swinging a riffle hitched fly. FWIW: I often raise the rod tip as the fly comes around into the dangle.
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
I did use a riffle hitch quite a bit when fishing the appropriate fly. For what ever reason though last year the guys weren't doing well on the traditional salmon flys and buck bugs. Being new to it I leaned towards my steelhead patterns and did way better then them...I can't answer why.
 

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I found this too. If a fish rose I could make a cast to target it and be ready for the take, hooking more than if it came from no where. I guess I just don't understand my quarry yet, in thinking about one run that I fished in the dark a few nights I was getting strong takes on almost every swinging through this one section but no hook up. It was very frustrating. I don't understand how a fish can grab the fly and not get hooked in water that's moving as fast as that. I'm still not sure I have any new revelations after asking some questions so I'll just have to experiment I guess.
You'll never hook them all, but if you've located a player, stay put and enjoy the "comeback game"! If the fish has not actually gotten stung by the hook, it will often comeback, sometimes multiple times. In fact, I even had a steelhead that took some line off the reel and still came back (I believe it was the same fish). Try shortening up, going back with the same fly, then change to a smaller skater, then try a riffle hitched muddler or wet, then as a last resort I go to a a small sparse wet. I always try to get the comeback on a surface fly, but will "settle" on resorting to the small wet which is almost a sure thing often times.

In short, if you've located a player and he hasn't been stung, stick with him, you've worked hard enough just locating a fish so don't give up too quickly before moving on.

Todd
 

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I found this too. If a fish rose I could make a cast to target it and be ready for the take, hooking more than if it came from no where. I guess I just don't understand my quarry yet, in thinking about one run that I fished in the dark a few nights I was getting strong takes on almost every swinging through this one section but no hook up. It was very frustrating. I don't understand how a fish can grab the fly and not get hooked in water that's moving as fast as that. I'm still not sure I have any new revelations after asking some questions so I'll just have to experiment I guess.
I have been (west coast) steelheading for over 20 years now with a healthy dose of atlantic salmon sprinkled in. Of late been spending 75% of my time salmon fishing. Quite similar species when comparing summer run steelhead to atlantics. Yet completely different. As difficult as it is (for me), blocking out EVERYTHING steelhead and focusing solely on salmon is the only way to get to know them. Plenty of overlap between them, yet nothing is really 'the same'. Always seems to be a little twist.

A couple of things come to mind. Those grabs may have been by a species other than salmon. If they were salmon, salmon get moody and it was HOW they were taking the fly at that moment in time coupled with your reactions to that take. An hour later, tomorrow, next week it might be different for the fish. I have learned the hard way, over and over and over with salmon that even though you feel the weight (where 99.999999999999999999999% of steelhead will be solidly hooked if you draw into them at that moment) DO NOT LIFT. Do not draw the line. Do not do anything that pulls the line, even a millimeter or you will come up empty. Don't have to give them any line, just do not take any. At all. All things being equal salmon take the fly slower than steelhead and require more patience on our parts.

Over time you will likely come to appreciate that session for what it was. You won't win them all, no matter how much you try and 'fix'. It just happens at times. Sometimes they just will not take the fly well. Far better than not having any action at all.

Sticky sharp hooks. Hone your reflexes to do nothing and WAIT longer (sometimes PAINFULLY SLOW before you draw into them) than you think once that fish has taken the fly.
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
A couple of things come to mind. Those grabs may have been by a species other than salmon. If they were salmon, salmon get moody and it was HOW they were taking the fly at that moment in time coupled with your reactions to that take. An hour later, tomorrow, next week it might be different for the fish. I have learned the hard way, over and over and over with salmon that even though you feel the weight (where 99.999999999999999999999% of steelhead will be solidly hooked if you draw into them at that moment) DO NOT LIFT. Do not draw the line. Do not do anything that pulls the line, even a millimeter or you will come up empty.
Good advice Inland, thanks!

I'm sure some of the takes can be from the Brook trout in the system as well but most often if a brookie took the fly he was committed. The takes that I refer to mostly though are confirmed salmon as I can either see them or there is a very large swirl when it takes the fly. As for doing nothing as you mention, that's pretty much what I do as it happens so fast, only minus a hook up...lol.

There is one section where large boulders sit submerged in fast water and I can get close to them. The best way I found to attack those spots is to just swing the fly through on a short line. I can overhand cast maybe 20' of line repeatedly as the water moves quick there. You can watch a fish come up from below and hit the fly but I found if I don't react with perfect timing I won't hook the fish. It blows my mind how fast they can come up, grab the fly and spit it inside a fraction of a second. After finding a bunch of these rocks I was able to keep moving from rock to rock making a bunch of casts. After raising a fish (hooked or not) I'd move to the next rock and do it again. Then walk back down river and do it again.
 

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What you are describing is a fairly common occurrence and how you solved it seems to be what most guys do (especially if you have the advantage of seeing it). Something else to play around with is to speed your swing (even if your current lane is only 3 yards wide) up by consistently stripping line in 1-2" increments, increasing in speed adding another inch/strip or so as the fly approaches the dangle (where it stops swinging in the pockets you are fishing). Or even better (speed it up) when it is going over the lie (suspected or known). Play around with the cadence and speed up/slow down and so on. Strip right through the take and you will feel the hook take purchase, once done and weight begins to build let the fish hook itself when it turns away. If it doesn't turn away keep it tight as you may need to strip strike them.
 
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