September 17, 2012
Tips For Hooking and Fighting Fish on Small Flies
By John Merwin
In response to my post last week about fishing with little olive dry flies, loyal reader "buckhunter" asked the following: “Maybe someday soon, you can give us tips on hooking and fighting fish on small flies. #20's-#26's. I'll be darn, after working hard to get a fish to strike the little flies, I tend to loose the fish in the battle. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.”
Buckhunter, I don’t claim to be the expert on this, but I have fished tiny flies quite a bit. (That’s my “small-fly” box in the photo.) So here are a few tips that should help you land more trout when fishing flies size 20 and smaller.
Use Enough Tippet -- When fishing 6X or 7X, I use 20 to 30 inches of tippet. That not only helps me to get better drag-free drifts, but the tippet’s elasticity is a plus when setting the hook and fighting fish.
Pull Harder -- Don’t wimp out when fighting fish with a very light leader. Most anglers tend to be much too cautious here. Learn how hard you can pull with 6X or 7X by hooking your fly to a branch and then tugging with your rod until the leader tippet or knot breaks. Chances are you can pull harder than you think.
Work the Angles -- When you get into position to cast to a rising fish, consider not only your drift but also how you’re going to set the hook. Ideally, a trout will take the little fly and turn away from you in the process. That puts the fly in the corner of the fish’s jaw, which is perfect. For that reason, I like to be directly across-stream from a fish. Fishing straight downstream is the worst and makes a solid hookset almost impossible.
Keep a Stiff Wrist -- When setting the hook with small flies and light leaders, do so by raising your forearm (and thus the rod) gently. Rolling your rod-hand wrist sharply rearward to set the hook puts too much velocity at the rod tip, and you’ll snap the tippet on the strike.
Fall is prime time for really small dry flies, emergers, and left-over terrestrials (not to mention huge streamers). Hopefully, some of the foregoing will help. You can let me know what happens.