"Well," I asked my roommate Al Keller (also a guide) as I walked in from a long day on the water, "How was your day?"

His response, "You know, they just barely got it away from them today."

Translationhis anglers lifted their rods when the fish ate the fly, which is better known as the "trout set" or the "pre-mature e-jerk-u-lations." Unfortunately, this accounts for more missed opportunities at a fish than anything else.

Now I have to assume that the majority of those reading this column are in fact saltwater fly fisherman considering the masthead of this publication reads Texas Saltwater Fishing Magazine. And, I therefore have to conclude that you are familiar with the term "strip-strike" or "strip-set." However, after spending years with anglers that I know have and also those that claim to have years of experience fly fishing, I have to wonder if people actually know how to properly set the hook while fishing in a saltwater environment.

You see, when fishing for trout up north and a fish eats, you tend to lift the rod fast and high to set the hook. The reasoning for this is two-fold. First is that the fish can spit the fly just as fast as it ate it and secondly, you usually fish much lighter tippet which mean the softer tip of the rod has more give therefore, it protects the tippet from breaking during the hookset. The problem with this israrely is this method going to result in a hookup with the species that we pursue in the brine.

In regards to the fish that we chase, there are some things to take into consideration. For one, they are usually bigger and in some instances, have a much harder mouth. Add to that, we are using much larger hooks in which even the sharpest of the sharp are dull in comparison to the itsy-bitsy hooks used for trout fishing. In addition, because the hooks are larger and the fish are usually larger, it requires more pressure to bury the hook deep. Hence the need to learn to properly "strip-set."

The funny thing about the strip-set is that it cannot be done properly if there is slack in the line. This means that the cast needs to be laid out straight with no slack and the fly should be retrieved with the rod tip in or, at least near the water pointed directly at the fly.

As for the strip-set, I cannot emphasize the following enough – DO NOT REACT TO WHAT YOU SEE. Actually, this is not 100% true but for the time being, let us stick to that rule.

So the cast has been made, the rod tip is low to the water, pointed at the fish and the fish eats. The proper way to react to this is to keep stripping or, better yet, make a long hard strip. If the line does not come tight and you KNOW that the fish has eaten the fly, make another long strip. If and only if the line begins to stretch, then it is time to put the rod to work. The proper way to do this is not to lift the rod but to pull the rod butt into your waist and then rotate your body utilizing the lower, more powerful butt-section of the rod to bury the hook point home. If you are fishing for tarpon or larger offshore species, you might want to hit them two or three times with the butt section of the rod. It is that simple however, it is a lot easier on paper than in a real fishing situation.

The problem with doing a strip-set in a real fishing situation is that the excitement of a fish eating can sometimes be overwhelming. Anglers tend to react to seeing the fish eat by immediately lifting the rod. The only way to overcome this excitement well actually I hope none of us ever actually overcome the excitement however, it is important to be able to control the excitement.

Now for the few times that a strip set will not work. Unfortunately, there will be times when a fish will eat coming at you fast enough that it creates slack in the leader. When this happens you have to get the slack out fast. The only way to do this is to do exactly what you are not supposed to. The trick is to lift the rod and hope the fish feels the hook and turns. Once the fish turns it is important to keep stripping and get the rod tip down to then drive the hook home with the rod butt.

Remember, it is important to feel the line come tight before rotating the body on the strip-set. And, it is important to use your body and not you arm alone.

Case in point, I recently had an angler tear the tendons in his elbow trying to set the hook on a tarpon. He did everything perfect, right up until the line started to stretch. At this point he pulled the rod up using only his arm. I heard a scream and watched the fish leap high into the air, and his rod and reel fall to the deck of the boat. Fortunately the hook did not find purchase and his rig stayed on the deck. This might not happen on a smaller redfish, however. It is important to learn to do it the right way so when that fish of a lifetime appears, it is all just second nature.

Until next month best of tides and stuff like that.