Proper Hook set Technique For Trout With a Fly Rod

How to Properly Set the Hook With a Fly Rod (for trout)

Proper hookset for flyfishing trout.Fly fishing for trout is a whole different ballgame than fishing for bonefish or tarpon. Personally I don’t fish the saltwater very often, but I do know that the hooksetting technique seems to be a lot different than is used for trout. People who spend a lot of time fishing for permit or tarpon might find the trout hookset to be hard to get used to. If you do the “strip set” (where you barely lift your rod and simply strip in line) you will not hook very many trout. I have personally witnessed fish after fish being missed, (or having the hook pulled out of their mouth) recently by improper saltwater hooksets. It would seem that if you don’t get the opportunity to set the hook often, it can become a pretty stressful moment when the fish you have been waiting for finally strikes. The cause of most bad hooksets is panic mode in the heat of the moment , learn to control yourself and calm down; you will hook a lot more fish. I have seen hooksets that look like nothing short of a full fledged seizure on the river.  Here today I will show you the proper technique to hook trout. The  most simple way to remember how to set the hook nearly perfectly each time is to lift your rod on the hookset the exact way you would when you pick up to recast. Have you ever pulled up to recast only to find a trout was on the end of your line? This is very common and you have inadvertently, perfectly set the hook! By pulling up just as you would for a recast, your fly and line will safely fly right over your head and not into your face or the face of the person sitting next to.  I have witnessed all types of hooksets from people including:

  •  Oh my god, I don’t know what to do hookset: (this is where people really don’t set the hook, its more of a light pull as they look around in panic mode.
  • The slack line slap hookset: This occurs when there is way too much line on the water. No matter how far and hard you pull, unless you have a 16′ rod you won’t ever be able to get all the slack line off the water to get the fish hooked.
  • The pull the rod like hell, while not holding the line hook set: so all the line that is sitting at your feet is just getting pulled up and nullifying your entire hook set.
  • The Sidearm hook set: There is nothing wrong with setting the hook to the side sometimes (if there is a tree hanging over head for instance), but if you are swinging your fly rod over the heads of the 2 other people in the boat, then it becomes a problem..

I could go on forever about the multiple wrong ways I have seen the hook set, but lets get to the proper way.

The Proper Technique for a Trout Hook Set


As mentioned above, the safest and most reliable hookset will be to mimic a backcast. This will occur when you are gripping the line with the hand that is not holding the rod and providing tension as you lift your rod. The line being in the opposite hand will cause the extra slack line to easily be pulled out because your rod is moving up and away from your opposite hand holding the fly line.

After The Hookset

I have seen (and done) some bad executions after the fish is hooked such as:

  • The holding the flyline with the teeth while trying to gain control of the fish (ever hear of giardia?)
  • The total Submission: This is where the person deliberately allows the fish to have slack in order to get situated during the stressful hookset 🙂

See the video above to learn the proper strategy to gain control of the trout, while keeping adequate tension on the line.  The strategy is simple. You will need to tilt the rod at the proper angle to allow your hand that is on the rod to meet the line. From this point you can slide the line under your index finger and begin stripping line. Stripping from below your rod hand (not above) to haul in the fish.

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