A recent river session with a good mate found us talking about short grabs - those hits to the swung fly that just never seem to convert into hook ups. My feelings were that they can often be turned into a hook up if the angler simply does nothing, and then a little bit of something. Follow me...
Tap, tap, tap. We have all felt it. It’s the bump of a fish who is following your fly in, engaging somewhat, yet not quite committing to the eat. It can be far too easy to set the hook in excitement at the first wee bump, but how many times does this result in a bent rod? You’re far better off finishing out the swing, expecting (not hoping, the best anglers are always alert and positive) the weight to come on, or resetting and working that run again.
If I’m fishing a subtle enough pattern I might put it straight back out there and work it slower, faster, or with a bit of movement to try and again get some interest while the fish is still fired up. If I was hit on a brighter, more colourful pattern then I’m more likely to take five, sit back and maybe lengthen or lighten my leader if conditions call for it. But in all situations, switch out to a smaller, more natural pattern before methodically reworking the water. In my experience, a winter run fish isn’t likely to spook after grabbing a fly if he’s not stung, and given a little time to settle back in, can often be encouraged to take another crack. It may take a few swings, but if you don’t do anything to spook him you still have the shot.
It can be all too easy to strike at the first feel of a fish, before they have committed to the fly. Sometimes they just need a little bit of slack line so they can take the fly in. Striking early and feeding slack can be resolved both by elevating the rod throughout the swing, or dropping the loop.
Check out THIS PIECE from 2015 for a little more on these techniques and remember to simply wait for the weight to come on.