Watching, waiting, anticipating, I can feel my heartbeat reverberating in each breath. I stepped into the river intending to wash away a stressful week, instead I carried my anxiety with me. My movements felt forced, agitation flowed from my brain and pumped through my veins. A slight tremble in my hand became visually apparent in irregular pulses in the bright chartreuse line marking the path of the submerged nymphs. Even with an unsteady drift, the bright line momentarily hesitated and my grip on the rod tightened.

Late Afternoon on the River

Like a rubber band under tension, my right arm snapped back over my left shoulder. Through the line I felt the hook penetrate. The resistance against my pull coincided with a flash of bright yellow and white. My jittery presentation fooled a small brown trout. Within seconds, the pressure on the line released and the fish disappeared. A smile crept onto my face as a combination of relief and frustration followed a few deep breaths. 

My jerky hook set could not hold the fish, but thankfully helped me alleviate my stress. Instinctually I looked upstream and downstream to see if anyone witnessed my cartoonish movements, feeling like a caricature of an overzealous angler. Nearly jumping out of my waders to set the hook on a small fish felt silly and slightly embarrassing. Taking myself too seriously is an affliction that too commonly impacts me.   

A Riffle Run Transition

At an early age I struggled with controlling my emotions. “Exhibits self-control” became the main category on my report card that my parents monitored in elementary school. Eventually I adapted my behavior to compartmentalize feelings and bury any anger. On the outside I appeared calm, but inside I was like a bouncy ball in a Crate & Barrel. Most times I couldn’t even tell how I was feeling.        

Stress built up inside me and leaked out slowly, and occasionally all at once. In the last decade or so, I learned to communicate better, to be more mindful, and to appreciate more than judge. Often righteousness or helplessness in my mindset is an indication that I need a break. Being outside, hiking or fishing gets me out of my head and focuses me on the present. Late Friday afternoon, I needed a dose of unintentional silliness to dislodge my growing funk.    

Catching a fish relies on many factors. Books, blogs, podcasts, videos, and classes abound on all the different elements of fly fishing. Setting the hook is often overlooked beyond the saying, “Hook sets are free.” The saying infers that often anglers miss fish that feed on a fly and quickly spit it out, reminding the angler to set the hook more often. The other common discussion is the comparison of a trout set (lifting a rod or pulling against the current to create a tight line against the hook) to a strip set (keeping the rod parallel to the water and rapidly pulling the line through the guides of the rod). Strip sets are used when streamer and saltwater fly fishing. 

A wildly aggressive trout set is what I am calling “The Yank”. Effectively pulling the fly away from the fish, the amped up hook set results in the fly ending up in tree branches and body parts or broken off in the fish. A flailing arm and full body twist can appear like the third swing and a miss of Mighty Casey at the bat. 

A Brown Trout in the Net!

A short, quick movement of the forearm and wrist is all that is needed to set a hook. Under control, the off hand can quickly move to the line or reel to retrieve excess line and fight the fish. With calm breathing and subtle movements an angler can prevent slack from entering the line and maneuver the fish into an advantageous landing position. 

After laughing off my “Yank”, my mood lightened, my breath steadied, and my mind cleared. In the last hour of daylight, I was able to bring a few fish to net and wash away my stress. A silly moment, even an unintentional one, can be the cure for an uptight mind. 

Keep mending…   

One Reply to “The Yank – The Silliest of Hook Sets”

  1. I totally enjoyed you as a child! You had a super imagination! You were content to play quietly by yourself! I could add more wonderful traits but I have embarrassed you enough!
    Yea to destressing!
    Yea to making a funky cast! You turned a funk into funky! Way to go!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *