hooked up and having fun …. steve dally images

The moment between the eat and coming tight might be the essence of fly fishing. Preparation and anticipation, bursts of adrenaline then the peace of the release.

The White River system is an awesome place to learn the basic skills of fly fishing: do the little things right: rigging, casting and mending and you are going to get plenty of practice setting hooks and fighting fish. Now like everything in fly fishing there is a myriad of techniques and styles, depending on whether you are wading or boat fishing.
But at the end of the day there are some basic principles that get the job done.We will bespending most of our time looking at hooksets for standard dead drift nymphing. 

Boat v Wade

The biggest difference is simply when wading you have the impact of the current on the line, while in a boat you are moving at the same speed. When you are wade fishing, faster currents will set the hook and the big issue is not to overcook your hook set and break off. From a boat you have to move all the line to get tight to the fish.

Getting Set
Line controlled under the fingers of your rod hand

In most cases, once the fly line hits the water, the first movement should be to mend, and get that fly line under your trigger finger. The finger acts as a positive stop to allow the left hand to grab more line.

Otherwise you end up in the Statue of Liberty pose: rod hand high, left holding the line at the extent of your pull and no where to go. I’d hate to think of the number of fish, and big fish, I’ve seen lost in this pose.

I say most, as some prefer 2 fingers, and I had a run of very experienced fly fishers this year who were able to nimbly retrieve their line with a kind of finger crawl. I like a low rod tip, almost at the water’s surface, to allow you to move more line, and fish to your strongest side

Strong Side
Victor has the rod and line aligned to his strong side

It’s simple really, your strongest side is the one your rod goes on. It’s the arm you learnt to cast with and hookset with. Which makes it remarkable how many fly fishers try to hookset across their body to the “weak side”. Perhaps its watching too many bass shows on tv.

Simply you can’t move your arm, as far or as fast to the weak side. No matter if you a wading or boat fish, turn your feet to keep the fly line and rod aligned to your right side. Now you will stay in position to move the fly line in the most efficient manner

Victor has adjusted his stance to keep the line aligned

The hardest component to learn is reacting to the movement of a indicator. A bobber swimming upstream is a pretty obvious giveaway to set. But the more subtle clues, indicators stopping, squatting down in the water or sliding across current often defeat newcomers.

The solution is simple, fish more to build experience and set on anything that looks wrong. Don’t beat yourself up if there is nothing there, keep setting. 

The easiest was to hook a trout on a nymph rig is to move those flies fast, it’s incedible how quickly they can reject those bugs some days. Swing high and fast until you feel the weight of the fish. Bass fishers are used to continuing the hard swing to pull largemouth away from cover, but with trout maintain that pressure,to keep the rod tip bent

Jared stripping hard to stay tight to a fish running at him. Note the line under his right fore finger

So you have got the fish hooked and it’s bouncing around and doing the White River thing and heading towards you. Now you will appreciate having that line trapped under your forefinger.

Strip the line fast, to keep the bend in the rod. Pull the line on the reel side of your finger. Pull down the line of the rod, instead of 90 degrees to your finger if you don’t want line burns.

Guide Gabe Levin has the Boatwright sisters’ rods doubled up and over

If the trout dashes away, bending the rod down towards the horizontal let the line slide out smoothly to keep the tip high. If the trout needs to be on the reel the fish will gather up all that line up off the deck on it’s own. Otherwise stripping line will help you react faster to the trout’s movements.

Use your feet to follow the fish if it circles the boat, try and keep steady pressure through the rod tip. It’s the little things that will cost you big fish running away from the boat: trying to stop the fish running; standing on the line or letting a loop grab around the reel or rod butt.  

Chad Johnson working a large brown on light tippet

When the fish gets close to the boat, free up your arms and bring the rod tip high over the guide’s head, which invariably takes the fish to the net. Keeping your hands close to you body pulls the trout to you, and away from the net.