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ORVIS – Fly Fishing Lessons – Setting The Hook And Fighting Fish

Peter Kutzer, an expert from the ORVIS Fly Fishing School in Manchester, Vermont, is here to offer valuable insights on setting the hook and battling your first fish. Peter guides you through the nuances of angling for trout and other small fish, as well as the techniques required when stripping a fly for saltwater species or freshwater big game.

The manner in which you set the hook holds great power over your success rate, making it essential to grasp the appropriate motion for each specific situation. Countless flats anglers have faced the embarrassment of losing a fish due to a misguided approach known as the “trout set.”

Moving on to the art of fish-fighting, Peter emphasizes a more efficient technique. Contrary to the common belief of holding the rod tip high above your head in the classic fly-fishing pose, this actually represents a less effective use of the rod’s power. Instead, the key lies in bending the butt section of the fly rod. To illustrate this, Phil Monahan joins Peter in utilizing a BogaGrip scale, showcasing the significantly greater force that can be generated by engaging in a fight “off the butt section.”

To discover additional means of enhancing your fly casting and fly fishing prowess, we invite you to explore our diverse range of other online learning centers. In the video “ORVIS – Fly Fishing Lessons – Setting The Hook And Fighting Fish,” presented by Peter Kutzer of the ORVIS Fly Fishing School, you will learn valuable techniques on setting the hook and fighting your first fish. Peter discusses the important differences between fishing for trout and other small fish, as well as the specific approach when stripping a fly for saltwater species or freshwater big game. The method of setting the hook plays a significant role in ensuring your success rate, so understanding the proper motion for each situation is vital. There have been instances where flats anglers have been mocked by their guides for losing a fish due to incorrect hook setting techniques. Additionally, Peter delves into fish-fighting techniques, emphasizing the inefficiency of the classic fly-fishing pose with the rod tip held high above the angler’s head. Instead, he advises bending the butt section of the fly rod, which allows for greater force and effectiveness. To illustrate this, Phil Monahan joins Peter in using the scale on a BogaGrip, providing a demonstration of the enhanced power generated when fighting “off the butt section.” For more ways to enhance your fly casting and fishing abilities, be sure to explore ORVIS’ other online learning centers.

Setting The Hook

When it comes to fishing, setting the hook is a crucial skill that can make or break your success. While there are various techniques you can employ, two popular methods are the Trout Set and the Strip Set. Each of these techniques has its own benefits and is suited for specific fishing situations.

Different Ways to Set the Hook

Before we dive into the specifics of the Trout Set and the Strip Set, let’s take a look at the different ways you can set the hook in general. Having a diverse range of hook-setting techniques in your arsenal will allow you to adapt to different fishing scenarios and increase your chances of landing that prized catch.

One common hook-setting technique is the classic jerk of the rod. With a quick and forceful motion, you pull back on the rod to drive the hook into the fish’s mouth. This technique works well when you have a good sense of the fish’s position and can anticipate its bite.

Another approach is the sweep set, where you sweep the rod to the side once you feel a fish bite. This action creates a lateral force, increasing the likelihood of the hook catching hold. The sweep set is particularly effective when fishing with larger lures or when targeting species known for their aggressive strikes.

Trout Set

The Trout Set is a specialized technique often used when fishing for trout, as the name suggests. It requires a delicate balance of finesse and timing. When you feel a trout take your bait or lure, rather than yanking the rod back forcefully, you execute a swift upward flick of the wrist. This subtle movement is enough to set the hook firmly.

The key to a successful Trout Set lies in its gentleness. Trout have delicate mouths, and an aggressive hook-set can easily tear the hook free before it has a chance to secure itself. By employing the Trout Set, you minimize the risk of losing your catch and increase your chances of reeling in that trophy trout.

Strip Set

The Strip Set, on the other hand, is a technique commonly used in fly fishing. When using a fly rod and line, the angler retrieves the line by stripping it in. When a fish takes the fly, instead of lifting the rod, you incorporate a swift strip-pull motion. This mimics the movement of a fleeing insect and sets the hook firmly in the fish’s mouth.

The Strip Set is particularly effective when fishing for species like bonefish or tarpon, which often require a quicker hook-set due to their swift strikes. By using the Strip Set technique, you can react swiftly and increase your chances of successfully hooking these fast-moving targets.

Fighting Fish

Once you’ve successfully set the hook and hooked a fish, the battle is far from over. Fighting the fish requires a combination of skill, patience, and proper technique. By understanding various fighting techniques, utilizing the butt section of your fishing rod, and applying side pressure, you can maximize your control over the fish and increase your chances of landing it successfully.

Fighting Technique

When engaged in a tug-of-war with a fish, it’s crucial to maintain a steady and controlled pressure. The constant back-and-forth strain on the line can exhaust the fish and reduce the chances of it escaping. Your technique should involve using the flexibility of the rod to absorb the fish’s powerful bursts and to allow it to tire itself out.

To keep the fish on its toes, so to speak, it is important to vary your retrieval speed. Reeling consistently at a steady pace might lead the fish to become accustomed to the pattern, increasing the risk of it making a sudden dash and breaking free. Mix up the speed, sometimes slowing down and other times picking up the pace, keeping the fish guessing and off balance.

Using the Butt Section

The butt section of your fishing rod is a powerful tool when it comes to fighting fish. This section, located closest to the handle, is often the strongest and most rigid part of the rod. By gaining control over the fish with the strength of the butt section, you can exert more force and steer the fish away from obstacles or into calmer waters.

To best utilize the butt section, keep a firm grip on the rod handle and shift your weight, using your body as an anchor. This will enable you to tap into the rod’s strength and leverage while maintaining control and balance. When the fish makes aggressive runs or attempts to dive beneath structures, the butt section allows you to apply greater force and counteract its movements.

Side Pressure

In addition to utilizing the butt section, employing proper side pressure is another key element in the fight against a fish. Rather than simply pulling straight back, incorporating lateral pressure can help tire the fish and restrict its movements. By angling the rod to the side, you create a sideways force that makes it harder for the fish to swim in its desired direction.

To apply side pressure effectively, it’s essential to anticipate the fish’s movements and adjust your rod position accordingly. As the fish changes direction, you need to adapt quickly, maintaining tension on the line and adjusting the angle of the rod. This constant adjustment of side pressure helps keep the fish off balance and increases your control over its movements.

ORVIS - Fly Fishing Lessons - Setting The Hook And Fighting Fish


Setting the hook and fighting fish are pivotal moments in the art of fishing. The Trout Set and Strip Set offer two distinct approaches to setting the hook, each suited for different fishing scenarios. When it comes to fighting fish, employing proper technique, utilizing the butt section of your rod, and applying side pressure are crucial to gaining the upper hand. By mastering these skills and understanding their application, you can increase your chances of reeling in that elusive catch. So next time you cast your line, remember to set the hook with confidence and fight the fish with finesse.

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