Don’t Let Go of the Fly Line in Your Rod Hand During the Hook Set

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Always maintain a grip of the fly line in your rod hand when setting the hook. Photo Louis Cahill

Have you ever set the hook on a fish, and the next thing you know, you’ve got your arms spread apart in the shape of a giant slice of pizza, leaving you unable to reach the fly line with your rod hand?

Do not be ashamed if this happens to you every now and then on the water. You’re not alone, I promise. Many fly anglers do this regularly, and the reason they get themselves in this situation is because they’re letting go of the fly line in their rod hand when they set the hook. You can completely eliminate this problem on the water if you make sure you keep a solid grip on the fly line with your rod hand during and after every hook set. Doing so, it will allow you to maintain tension and control of the fish while you’re stripping in fly line or getting that excess fly line on the reel.

I know some of you that have found yourself in this situation have probably used your mouth to hold onto the fly line until you can get your hands back into the correct position. God, I know I have plenty of times. Sometimes this works, other times it doesn’t. One thing I can assure everyone on is that proper fish fighting technique with a fly rod doesn’t call for our mouth to be involved. Next time you find yourself in this predicament on the water, forget about using your mouth, and immediately bring your hand that’s holding the fly line back to your rod hand so you can resume fighting the fish effectively. As mentioned before, you shouldn’t have to worry about doing this if you always make a point to not let go of the fly line in your rod hand during and after the hook set.

Keep it Reel,

Kent Klewein
Gink & Gasoline
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6 thoughts on “Don’t Let Go of the Fly Line in Your Rod Hand During the Hook Set

  1. Being the new guy on the water…this is great advice.

    But when holding the line with the rod hand…I only use my index finger.

  2. I normally set the hook as described in this post and it hasn’t been a problem with smaller fish. Once I was fishing (nymhping with a thingamabobber) with another fisherman alongside and hooked into a large trout and when I set the hook in a similar fashion the tippet snapped. I can’t remember if it was exactly when I set the hook or immediately in the few secs after. But the other fisherman said that it happened because of me gripping the fly line in my rod hand. I’ve kinda been confused by what he said; I see his point that if I’m gripping it tightly and the fish makes a run for it, it’ll snap. But at the same time since I don’t have the fish on the reel as yet, I need to grip it too. So is the trick here to know how much tension to apply on the fly line with your rod hand till you get the fish on the reel? Or am I missing something else?

    If it is a matter of knowing how much tension to apply, do you apply 100% tension during the actual hook set? And then reduce it later to account for the fish running?

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