One the biggest hurdles most anglers encounter when making the jump from freshwater to saltwater fly fishing is how to set the hook. A strip-set gets the job done on the flats. Raising the rod in ‘trout-like’ fashion doesn’t. If you’re not quite sure what we’re talking about, not to worry, check out this post on how to set the hook on bonefish instead.
For many dedicated trout anglers, setting the hook without raising the rod is a difficult habit to break. After all, in most trout fishing applications, raising the rod when setting the hook is critical to drive the hook home while also protecting fine tippets. But, after a few days on the flats (and a few bonefish) most anglers get the hang of it, resisting the urge to raise the rod, and defaulting to a strip of the fly when it comes time to set the hook.
If only it were that simple.
Once learning the importance of setting the hook with a strip-set, a mistake we see first-time anglers make is setting the hook too hard, as if trying to penetrate the boney jaws of a tarpon. The inside of a bonefish’s mouth is comparatively very soft, and setting too hard often results in the fly popping free (or tearing loose) from the fish’s mouth, or worse, breaking off the fly leaving the angler wondering what went wrong.
It doesn’t take a tremendous amount of pressure to penetrate the mouth of a bonefish with a sharp hook. But how hard should you set the hook then? We’ll tell you.
When you feel your fly stop, continue the strip at the same speed you were stripping your fly at. Make this last strip longer than normal, extending your hand behind you as if tossing your car keys to someone standing behind you. Doing so should provide enough pressure to drive the hook home.
Strip long, not hard, and you’ll land more fish and break off less flies.