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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I grew up bass fishing in Virginia, and I got in the great habit of aggressively setting the hook on the first detection of a strike. That's great for bass fishing. Years later, I have lost more steelhead than I care to mention from feeling the grab and then breaking them off as I jerk back to set the hook. I conciously try to relax and be patient while I swing, but that muscle memory is hard to forget.

A great tip that I got from an even better fisherman than I know was to simply hold the rod in the other hand while it swings. Seems simple enough. I'm going to give this a shot.

If that doesn't work, has anyone successfully overcome this seemingly autonomic response, and been able to relax enough and "do nothing" until the fish turns and hooks itself? I'd love to hear all of the tips that are floating around.
 

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OK, here's a couple I've seen tried...

1. Back off your drag until it's just tight enough to prevent overrun, then keep your paws off the line. You may twitch at the take, but won't tighten up until you control the line.
2. Try holding the rod in whatever hand you're not used to, and use that to retrain your muscle memory. It's not easy and will mess with your brain, but it will slow you down.

Hope you get lots of chances to practice!

Carl
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
strike loop?

I guess in the first scenario there is no strike loop? My big strike loop has been for show anyway most of the time. I've actually looked down after I've broken off the fish and seen the strike loop still there:chuckle:

I fish the river right more often than not, and I usually have my right hand on the rod. Besides addressing my strike memory problem, it'll probably be to my advantage to keep the rod in my left hand anyway to slow down the swing.

I just thought of a good one! I'll keep a full beer in my hand along with the rod. My guess is that the muscle memory to not spill my beer is greater than the one to set the hook.
 

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Here is what I do:

1) Make a one-foot deep loop between the reel and the hand I'm holding the line with. That's about 2 feet in length. Too big of loop can get wrapped on the butt of the rod, this is bad. Always, always, always make sure the loop is free at the start of the swing. Every time!

2) don't lift the rod until you hear or see the reel turn. In other words, you are giving the fish just over two feet of line to run with the fly. When the fish hits you are only thinking about clearing line of the loop, not lifting the rod.

3) think of being a statue. You don't lift the rod for little ticks or big pulls or ANYTHING. I repeat, you are a statue, and the fish is going to hook itself and pull that loop out of your hand and start pulling the line and you are going to do nothing to stop it from doing that, no matter what.

4) practice this technique on trout. Find a trout river with a good caddis hatch and zillions of aggressive fish (I am lucky I have one 100 yds from my house...but that's anothe story). Put on a tungsten bead tan bird's nest about a size 14 and swing it with a floating line on a 5-wt single hander just like you are fishing for steelhead. Cast, mend, step, cast mend step. Pretend you are fishing for steelhead. Practice steps one and three several days during the summer so that at the end of the summer it's like second nature to not move the rod. Think of it as reverse muscle memory conditioning with far less serious consequences if you lift on a fish.

Number 4 is probably the most important step for me. I love catching trout on the swing and it really gets me ready for steelhead season.

Good luck and remember to pretend to be a statue. And once the reel is spinning and the fish is goin, give the rod an extra (but careful) "pop" to make sure the hook is firmly set.

Good luck!
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Thank you. In accordance with the trout and ice recommendations, I have noticed that I tend to get better in the early summer when the smolt are nipping at anything that is in the water. I can recognize my need to wait after a few ticks, and I can just take a breath instead of setting the hook. However, as soon as the smolt calm down in late summer/fall and don't tick quite so much I revert back. A big key is just plain focus. I need to be 100% concious at all times. It's when I've got the stares or thinking about which part of my body is colder that I get a true grab, wake up from my daydream, and respond with a hookset.

Focus, focus, focus.... proper preparation prevents poor performance.
 

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I have found that a lot of steelhead will grab several times prior to a hook up. What I mean is that steelhead will bump as they give chase. any attempt to set the hook or flich can put them of. I hooked a lot of fish this summer after a little bump, sometimes as many as three bumps prior to getting my rod ripped out of my hand at the bank. Each time I flinched and lifted the rod I was done. I think your idea of holding the rod in your weak hand with a 18-14" shock loop is a great idea.

I haven't experienced much line bumping for winters. But then again I haven't experienced many hookups from winters either unless nymph fishing which I will not be doing this year unless in a boat.:tsk_tsk:
 

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Ground those jumpy nerves

Fishing for bass and/or trout with a two hander can ground those jumpy nerves.
Bass and trout can be plentiful in rivers, and if one gets away it's not big deal. Fish a black bugger and focus on letting fish just slip the loop out of your fingers. At first it is tough, but soon you will break out as a true zen master out the swung fly, remaining still and steely as your loop slips through fingers and you hook and land bass, and then steelhead.

I learned this fishing bows in Alaska, and every time I would set premature, the guys I fished with would Jeer and taunt. It got me good in a hurry.

The Mouse
 

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fairhooked said:
I just thought of a good one! I'll keep a full beer in my hand along with the rod. My guess is that the muscle memory to not spill my beer is greater than the one to set the hook.
It's funny that you mention that, a friend of mine has a funny habit of hooking fish with a beer in his left hand and a cnd in his right. You know who you are...spanky:devil:
 
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