Fly fishing is an exercise in problem solving. Picture yourself watching a rising fish. Various problems present themselves: drag, fly selection, positioning, canopy, tackle, and presentation to name a few.
Assume you successfully solve these problems. Your fly is floating drag free into the fish’s window. The fish takes the fly, you set the hook and the fish is gone. Many dry fly fishermen set the hook too quickly. It’s best to give the rising trout time to close its mouth and turn its head down.
Photo by Mark Strohl
Among the best fly fishermen I’ve fished with is Gary Borger. Gary watches as the fish takes his fly, then says “Now I gottcha,” and sets the hook. The famous British fly fisherman and fly tier Oliver Edwards says, “God save the Queen,” and sets the hook. One of my students sees the fish rise to his fly, sets the hook then says “aw shoot.” You have to give the fish time to close his mouth and turn his head down prior to striking.
Another technique is the slip strike. Leave some slack between the stripping guide and the reel. When you see the take, raise the rod as if you were making a back cast while allowing the backward motion of the rod to take up the slack between stripping guide and the reel.
When you're fishing the bottom, most folks have a tendency to strike too late. When you see a pause in the drift, use a strip strike by raising the rod as if you were making a back cast and tug the line between the reel and the stripping guide.
Get the feel of your tackle. If you’re going to be fishing with one pound test tippet, attach something weighing a pound (i. e. a can of soda) to your tippet. Now practice moving the object around with the tackle you’ll be fishing with.
Familiarize yourself with your equipment!