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Increase Hook-Ups: The Strip Set

Fly angler on a flats boat setting a hook using a Strip Set


You deliver your fly perfectly at the edge of the riffle. Your fly rod tip is low, your retrieve quick and lively, and BANG! You instantly lift your rod to set the hook and...nothing. Another lost fish. There is nothing is more frustrating for new and seasoned anglers alike than missing a hook-up, or even worse, a day of missed hits. You are doing everything else right, but just can't seem to close the deal. 

Here's what's happening below the surface: The fish sees your fly race through its field of vision, then turns and instinctively smashes this tasty meal cruising by. You feel the hit and instantly lift your rod to set the hook, get the slack out of the line, and create tension to bury the hook in the fish's mouth. How much time did this take? Literally, a fraction of a second. Yet this is plenty of time for the fish to realize your fly is not 'real' food and release it. This all takes place in the blink of an eye, resulting in another lost fish. 

Enter the Strip Set (or Strip Strike): a critical, must have skill regardless of the species you are fishing for. Whether you are fishing for trout or tarpon, bass or bonefish, the Strip Set is your secret weapon that will dramatically increase your ratio of successful hook-ups. The technique is quite simple, but takes some repetition to master. Your Strip Set needs to become instinctive, practiced until it happens instantly and automatically, without any conscious thought. First, always keep your rod tip low and pointed directly at your fly. Keep all slack out of your fly line to maintain a direct connection to the fly. As you are retrieving your fly, always keep the line in contact with your free hand. When you feel the fish take your fly, your free hand (and arm) will instantly jerk 3 feet straight back. In most situations, you cannot react too fast or too hard. Your free hand will move past your hip as you straighten your arm, accelerating the strip even faster. This is an instant, violent movement of your free hand and arm straight behind you. As you perform the Strip Set, the minimal slack in your line goes instantly taut, and the hook is buried before the fish can spit out your fly. Lift your rod tip high and keep at least some pressure on the fish so your rod has a nice bend in it. From there you can manually strip line for smaller species (while maintaining a high rod tip and moderate pressure), or larger species quickly reel up the slack line to get the fish on the fly reel and let the drag do the work.

Strip Set (or Strip Strike) Technique:

  1. Always keep your rod tip low pointed directly at your fly while retrieving
  2. Keep the fly line in contact with your free hand
  3. Be ready to instantly and violently jerk your free hand (and arm) straight back behind you
  4. Lift your rod tip (not too hard) to remove all line slack to keep pressure on the fish

Congratulations, you have mastered the Strip Set and significantly increased the number of fish hooked and landed each time you hit the water!

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