When fishing for trout in Western Alaska, we dead drift a lot of sub surface patterns in search of the big boys. The majority of a trout’s diet is found near the bottom of the water column. Therefore, nymphing is essential to consistently hooking trout. While most of the time we fish flesh and egg flies as opposed to prince nymphs and pheasant tails, we still use many of the same ‘nymphing’ techniques that are used on other trout rivers throughout the world. Whether ‘Czech’ nymphing or high sticking above an indicator, the key to success is setting the hook on ANYTHING that looks fishy!
Most of the time, we are not able to see what is going on near our fly. Therefore we have to rely on subtle clues that a fish has taken the fly. This could be the movement of your rod tip, the subtle twitch of the strike indicator, or even a suspicious flash of color from the depths. There are a number of ways to tell when a trout has taken the fly, however most of the time they look no different than when your fly bumps into a rock or hangs up on a snag.
So, how do you know when it’s a fish or just ticking on bottom? You don’t! The only way to find out for sure is to set the hook every time as if it were a fish. The old adage is ‘hook sets are free,’ so make sure to set the hook on anything that looks suspicious. If the indicator, fly line, or leader moves ever so slightly in an unnatural manner, set the hook! If your guide or fishing buddy yells ‘set,’ even if you ‘know’ it’s bottom, set the hook! Even if nothing else but a sixth-sense tells you a fish has taken the fly, set the hook! Will you break off flies in the process? Absolutely! But that’s all part of the game! Set on anything that looks fishy and you’re bound to hook more fish.