Fly Fishing: How to Set a Hook

Fly Fishing: How to Set a Hook

This is an angling method of fishing in which you use a light-weight lure to catch fish. The lure is called an artificial fly. The fly is cast using a specialized weight line, fly rod, and reel. When you set the hook, this means to make a motion with the rod to put the fish hook into the mouth of the fish once it has taken the bait. This is done to secure the fish on the hook

What Not to Do When Setting the Hook

To get the best results when setting the hook, try to avoid lifting your rod skyward, which is a natural tendency to do. You should also not set the hook in an upstream direction. Doing either of these could pull the fly out of the mouth of the fish.

How to Set the Hook

When you first start out fly fishing, the most difficult thing you will need to learn is how to set the hook after the fish has taken the fly. When you are fly fishing, the most effective way to set your hook is by pulling your rod quickly in a downstream direction. When doing this, make sure that your arm is parallel to the water. Setting the hook correctly is the difference between catching a lot of fish and catching none. 

What Setting Your Hook Means

This means that during the short time that the fish has the fly in its mouth you need to make sure that you move the fly an inch or so for the hook to get buried in the jaw of the fish. This will involve quickly tightening your line enough to move the fly while the fish still has it in its mouth. If you are not quick enough to set your hook, then you will probably lose the fish. The fish will only hold the fly in its mouth for a second before it will spit it back out. This is why you need to be quick. 

What Happens After You Set Your Hook

To move the fly, raise your rod tip over your head. This will tighten the line between the fish and you. Do not hesitate because you will lose the fish. As soon as you think a fish has taken the fly, get the tip of the rod up. This is called striking. Most of the hooks used in fly fishing have very sharp points so you do not have to use much force when you strike. Many times when you strike, the fish will hook themselves.

how to set a hook fly fishing

How to Strike

This is done by pinching the fly line tight with your hand. Next, move the rod tip until you feel the hook hit home. Make sure that you are pinching the line in your casting hand. If you do not pinch the line, it will slip through the guides of the rod so there will be no force on the hook point.

When striking your rod, you do not always have to do it hard. If you have a heavy tippet, over a six-pound test, you can strike fairly hard and not pop the tippet. If you have a lot of slack line on the water, you may have to strike hard in order to take up all the loose line. On long casts, it takes moving 60 feet of line longer than moving 15 feet so it is going to require a harder strike and more force. When fishing for most saltwater species, like pike and bass, you will have to use a hard strike because the hooks for these are large and require more force to set them. These types of fish have a bony mouth so you have to use some force to penetrate their mouth or jaw with the hook.

Setting the Hook on a Dry Fly

This type of fly sits on the water and may resemble rodents, insects, full-grown flies, and more. When using a dry fly, the technique is everything. Most fish will only feed if the food looks irresistible. To find where the food is, look for the foam on top of the water.

With a dry fly, you will usually know where the fish has taken your fly. You may see them come up to grab your fly. As soon as they do take the hook, pause briefly before you set the hook with a side-current or downstream motion. By pausing, you are giving the fly time to dip lower into the mouth of the fish.

Setting the Hook on a Wet Fly

This type of fly sits under the water and may resemble nymphs, imitate hatching flies, or be streamers. These will usually catch fish but you have to watch to make sure which one to use. Streamers imitate crawfish, minnows, and some other bait so fish will always seem to bite on these. Use a nymph early in the morning before the sun is up because at this time the flies will start the hatching process and they look like nymphs. When using a wet fly, you should have an indicator on your line so when you see it move, you can instantly set the hook.


When you first start to do fly fishing, learning to set the hook will take time and patience to learn. Do not become frustrated when you miss setting the hook. Even professionals sometimes miss setting the hook. Practice and soon you will know how to set the hook and be bringing in a lot of fish. If you have never done fly-fishing before, once you try it and learn how to set a hook, you will want to do it all the time as this is one way to catch a lot of fish.

If you don’t have a fishing hook available, you can even make your own fishing hook.

Remember that the only thing that a fish can grab objects with is their mouth so if what is in their mouth does not feel right, they will quickly spit it out. This is why when you see or feel a fish take the fly that you set the hook before it comes back out and the fish is gone.

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