Today we address one of the most common mistakes we see made on the river; setting the hook in the wrong direction.
When fishing in moving water, the direction in which your rod tip moves when lifting the rod to set the hook can be the difference between a fish that makes it to the net, and ones that comes unbuttoned mid-fight.
Whether swinging flies, stripping/skating streamers or mouse patterns, or dead drifting flesh/egg patterns, a common adage heard by most of our guests when it comes to properly setting the hook is ‘set downstream.’ Setting the hook with a sharp forty-five degree angle to the downstream side does a great job to carry the hook directly into the fish’s mouth (who should be facing upstream) without introducing slack into the line. For example, if the current is moving from right to left, then lifting the rod up and to the left (see photo above) should result in the best hook set possible.. Most of the time.
However, one thing we’ve noticed is that determining which direction is downstream quick enough to set the hook can be challenging for some anglers. Take a large eddy in which the fish’s upstream orientation might be opposite the direction of flow from the main river or a slack-water side channel where current is nearly nonexistent as an example. Determining the downstream side is not always an easy task in the time required to set the hook.
Therefore, when explaining the proper direction to set the hook, we’ve resorted to a new adage; set towards the tail. Remember, fish in moving water will be positioned upstream ninety nine precent of the time. Keep in mind which direction your quarry should be facing at all times and set towards their tail when it comes time to bury the hook. That will pull the hook into the fish for a solid hook hold as opposed to away from the fish (i.e. upstream) which is often the culprit of a fish lost.
Set towards the tail. Set towards the tail. Set. Towards. The. Tail.