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One of the things that I see on a regular basis from visiting overseas anglers is a tendency to set the hook in a dry fly take far to soon resulting in the fish going “what the”, the angler repeating something very similar as the trout slides under a rock, spooked – a great opportunity has been missed.

As subjects of the Queen of England for many years a common phrase used by many NZ anglers to get the timing of the dry fly hook set right is to say:

“God save the Queen”.

This quaint saying allows enough time for the trout to take the fly and start heading back down, closing it’s mouth before the angler lifts the rod tip setting the hook – battle on!

NZ Fly Fishing Expeditions - Trout Opens Mouth

NZ Fly Fishing Expeditions - Trout Opens Mouth

NZ Fly Fishing Expeditions - Trout Closes mouth

NZ Fly Fishing Expeditions - Trout Closes mouth

NZ Fly Fishing Expeditions - Battle on!

NZ Fly Fishing Expeditions - Battle on!

This simple approach of a phrase can be adjusted accordingly to “God save the President” which was much better when GWB was in the hot seat.

There are of course some variables to getting it right and really only personal experience will teach it. No matter how well you’ve got it figured out, sometimes you still miss out – that’s why it’s called fishing!

Here are some of those variables:

Smaller trout will need less of a pause than larger trout.
The speed of the water is a factor in the take – slow water, slow take – fast water, faster take.
Rainbows are often a faster take than Brownies (who can be extrodinarly slow at times).
A downstream take is slower than an upstream take.
Certain food sources such as Cicadas can make a complete mockery of the above.

An example of conditions that would result in a super slow take may be a 5lb brownie in a very slow, deep edge beside an undercut bank picking off random blowflies.

The first cast is on the money (you proably won’t get a second). The sleek golden submarine sees your black gnat late, it turns and siddles lazily downstream to follow it. Lifting from about 5 feet down in the water column it’s already moved 3 yards downstream when it’s snout finally comes to the surface. You see a gaping white cave as the trout’s mouth opens and the fly is gently sucked in. Right now you start saying the mantra (with a twist) “God save the ex-president and all his henchmen”.

While you have been whispering the trout has had the time to head down, close it’s mouth and turn back into the current before you begin lifting the rod purposefully to set the hook – you are on and the fish is hooked well!

On the otherhand I have seen big brownies in seam edges fly 3 feet sideways into the main current to slam a cicada like a sidewinder missile smashing a tank and the appropiate timing has been more like saying “Holy Shit”