Setting A Salmon Fly Hook
By Jock Monteith 11th October 2021
There's nothing more guaranteed in Scottish salmon fishing than watching salmon fishers waste great hooking opportunities especially during the early Spring or late Autumn when the heavier gauge wire hooks typically used on tube flies don't get enough hook point pressure to be set when a salmon takes.
Use Strong Salmon Fly Hooks
During the warmer water periods of the salmon fishing season where smaller gauge hook wire is used on the smaller flies you'll maybe get away with this nonsensical 'lift into it' theme but even through the fine wire hook months of the year I always want to make sure that a hard earned 'take' reaches the landing net and is not squandered leaving the most awful feeling of 'adrenalin enhanced' loss behind. A little chemically sharpened fine wire hook may allow the water pressure on the belly of your fly line to squeeze the hook home for you during the take without doing anything but that's not the sort of hook you want if that 'fish of a lifetime' shows up as it will likely send it back to you like a buckled safety pin!
Salmon Tube Fly Hooks
To correctly balance a one to two inch bodied tube fly you really are usually talking about a size 6 or 4 hook which means there's typically going to be a good few millimetres between the hook point and the micro barb on your hook. If that hook isn't properly set at the right moment during the take then 'rest assured' that salmon is going to get rid of the fly shortly into the fight and normally in well under 60 seconds. What's the point of fishing smart & hard to give the salmon a free exit pass before you've had the chance to properly inspect it! Soft rubber tube fly sleeves that allow the hook to pivot at the critical hooking moment are also inviting disaster so take them off and throw them in the fire and replace them with more 'rigid' plastic equivalents that will keep your hook perfectly aligned with the tube fly body.
Use Effective Logical Hook Point Pressure
Let logic work on your mind if you're currently a rod lifter. Lifting a salmon rod to set a hook in most cases is going to jag the fish as it's pulling away or half set the hook as the soft action of a fly rod and softly set clutch logically isn't going to exert enough hook point pressure. Keeping the rod tip down at the hook set moment and clamping the fly reel face will logically put the forward momentum weight of the salmon directly onto the initial micro hold hook set driving it properly home. If you feel the weight of the fish by doing this for 2 or 3 seconds (low core stretch fly line) it will never ever come off and you can relax while playing the fish. If you're fishing one of these stretchy core fly lines feel the weight of the fish for a further few seconds to counteract this flawed fly line design feature. The other key to hooking salmon effectively is giving them long enough to turn properly on your fly which is usually at least a 'minimum' of several 'slow' seconds into the take but as time speeds up with a shot of adrenalin wait until you're almost feeling you're giving the fish too much time and you'll be about right.
Don't Lift The Rod Until You've Felt The Weight Of The Salmon
No matter what type of fly hook I'm using I always give the salmon plenty of time to let it think it owns the fly before putting the brakes on it! Once I've felt the weight of the fish for a few seconds with the rod tip pointing at the fish (and there's no bendy rod or slack clutch coming into play) then & only then will I lift the rod. Always remember a salmon's mouth is mainly made up of tough tissue and gristle so proper hook point pressure is essential to set a hook effectively. On many occasions I've hooked salmon and walked them 60 yards down a pool and handed the rod to another fisher and told them to lift the rod knowing fine well the fish is already properly hooked. While wading down the river I've known that hook hold is guaranteed and there's no way that salmon is coming off. This proves there's even no real rush to lift a rod in the early stages of proceedings once you've set the hook properly even though it's logical to play a fish with a high rod tip to avoid the line being drowned and potentially getting snagged on a sub surface obstacle unless of course you want to surprise someone!