SET DOWNSTREAM – Keep the Connection

Are trout giving your nymph rig the slip?

You see, sense, or feel the strike, but you just aren’t hooking up. There’s a good chance you’re not setting the hook in the right direction. With guests during a guided trip, the hook set is something I address early on. When I say, “Show me your hook set,” I almost inevitably get the same response: STRAIGHT UP, WITH THE FORCE OF A ROCKET SHIP. The blast-off hook sets are cool on bass shows, and may also work while jigging for walleye. However, the physics at play among trout, current flow, and tiny little hooks require a different motion.

Humor me for a minute and allow me to demonstrate (with your hands) the value of a downstream hook set, when fishing subsurface with weighted nymph rigs:

Colorado Fly Fishing

Put more fish in the net with a downstream hook set!

STEP 1: Imagine current is flowing directly in front of you, from right to left.

STEP 2: Form your left hand into a fish, and pretend it’s swimming, face-first, into our imaginary current.

STEP 3: With the trout’s head (your fingers) pointed upstream (facing right), begin to gobble (fingers opening and closing) the bugs that are drifting along in the current.

STEP 4: Your right index finger is now the hook of a fly flowing toward that big fish….STRIKE! (close your left hand around your hooked index finger…)

And now, the moment of truth:

SET THE HOOK UP IN THE AIR: hook slips out.

Try again.


Try again.

SET THE HOOK DOWNSTREAM: BOOM. Now you’ve felt it (your right index finger should be firmly wedged into the pad between your left thumb and index finger).

How hard should you set? More line out = more force applied. Less line out = less force applied.

BONUS: A downstream hook set will not only improve your chances of landing fish, but also keep your drift out of the bushes behind you…translating in more fishing time…which, likely, will also lead to landing more fish.

Set downstream to connect with more fish when fishing subsurface.

Interested in more? Our guided trips emphasize fun and simple ways to catch more fish.

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