What's your strike/hook-up ratio with sea run cutthroat?

Discussion in 'Saltwater' started by riseform, Oct 25, 2008.

  1. riseform

    riseform Active Member

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    I've had an enjoyable summer fishing surface and subsurface sand lance pattens for sea run cutthroat. My subsurface fly has evolved to surf candy or flatwing patterns, size 6 or 8, around 3 inches total with the tail about 2/3 of the fly length. I enjoy these patterns over weighted streamers, but recognize they may not appear as injured when retrieved (less bobbing) and may elicit less aggressive strikes. I've used Leland's popper on the surface.

    With subsurface patterns, I'd estimate my strike to hook-up ratio is 20 percent or less, with many fish striking through the body of the fly (often several strikes per retrieve). I have not appreciated a significant difference varying the retrieve, which I only change until finding what it takes to elicit strikes. I think I do slightly better with the surface popper, which is always a steady two handed retrieve with a wake.

    Question #1) Is this ratio typical (go easy on me here)? What would you estimate your ratio is with subsurface and surface patterns? For those with markedly better outcomes, any tips on how to improve (fly choice, design, technique)?

    Question #2) I'm working on tube fly patterns for sand lance. I imagine putting the hook further back on the fly may increase hook ups, but fouling would become a larger issue unless it's in a stinger location. I own the first Tube Flies book, but sadly the majority of the photos don't include the hook or sleeve placement. For those of you tying sand lance (or any bait fish) patterns on tubes, how far back are you placing the hook/sleeve to optimize your strike/catch ratio, while minimizing fouling and deep hook sets?

    As always, thank you for sharing your knowledge and experience.
     
  2. Jake Bannon

    Jake Bannon nymphs for steelhead....

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    Though Im definitly no expert but lately Ive been having the very same problem as you. They will strike and the gear fishing part of me will quickly lift my rod tip really fast to set however that usually leads to a miss. Lately Ive been trying really hard to strip set and its helped me tremendoulsy, since Ive started doing this Ive been hooking up around 70 percent maybe a little more. I also point my rod tip toward the water so that I have good tension between me and the fly and that seems to help too. However these are my results for sub surface patterns, Ive yet to try the popper thing, sounds fun though.


    Jake
     
  3. Roger Stephens

    Roger Stephens Active Member

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    Interesting question! I try to tie my sand lance patterns(both surface and subsurface) with a length of 2 1/2 to 4 1/2". The shorter length is used mid/late Spring with lengths increased into the summer months.

    My hook up ratio with a floating tube sand lance pattern is normally within the 30 to 40% range. Over 90% of the time I am fishing a top pattern during the summer months since both adult coho and sea-run cutthroat are often seen chasing after sand lance which are normally abundent during those months. Early/mid Nov. sand lance start their annual 4 month hibernation when they burrow into sandy bottom areas. Thus, the top water sand lance action dramatically tapers off by Nov. When I do use subsurface baitfish patterns during the summer months my hook up ratio is around 40 to 50%.

    IMHO you should start using tube fly patterns since they will help answer many of your questions. IMHO tube fly patterns have numerous benefits to the fish and fly fishers partaking in the fly fisheries on Puget Sound as noted below:

    Benefits to fish:

    1. Small diameter hooks such as Gamakatsu SC-15 #4 can be used. These hooks are nickel plated and will rust out quickly in comparison to a stainless steel hook. Plus, a small diameter hook should do less damage to the mouth or gills of a fish.

    2. If a fish is hooked in it's throat particularly in gill area, the tube fly pattern can be pulled up the leader. The leader can be cut with nipper near the hook eye. Thus, a small diameter hook will be left in a fish's mouth. It should be easier for the fish to deal with rather than a larger stainless steel hook which may or may not have dumbell eyes.

    3. It is easier/quicker to use a release tool where you only have to deal with a small hook rather than a shank hook pattern which may or may not have dumbell eyes.

    Benefits to fly fisher:

    1. If a hook point is broken off on a fly pattern, it is quick and easy to replace or tie on a new hook onto the pattern.

    2. Tube patterns last a lot longer since a tube pattern will often slide up the leader after a fish is hooked. Thus, the teeth of fish don't have as much of an opportunity to tear up a pattern. Also, when a fish is being released the tube pattern can be slide up the leader so that your release tool or forceps do not impact the tube pattern.

    3. It is usually more difficult for a fish to "throw" a tube pattern particularly when using Gamakatsu SC-15 or similar hooks. These small hooks are able to move around in the hook sleeve at the end of the tube pattern. For example, when clouser minnows are tied on shank hooks, a fish has leverage using the weight of the dumbell eyes and hook shank to "throw" the hook. Four summers ago I lost 9 adult coho in a row when they "throw" a shank hook clouser minnow. I switched to tube patterns almost exclusively and infrequently have coho or sea-run cutthroat come unhooked.

    4. Tube patterns allow a tier a lot of options in placement of the hook. It is just a matter of cutting the tube to the desired length and slipping on a hook sleeve at the end of the tube. I prefer to place the hooks as far back as possible without impacting the appearance of the pattern. This placement will help with short strikes and pattern material doesn't foul around the hook very often.

    The main point is that IMHO using tube patterns give a fly fisher more opportunity to be gentler with less impact on a fish vs. shank hook pattern.

    Also, if you want to some side-to-side motion on your unweighted or little weighted streamer patterns, you should try using a 10mm diameter pearl sequin(available at fabric or craft stores) on the front of a tube pattern. You can do that by cutting a short section(1/4 to 3/8") of hook sleeve material at a 45 degree angle. Slip this section onto the front of the tube pattern when it is completed. Rotate the sleeve so that the 45 degree angle faces to one side. Thread a 10mm pearl sequin on the leader before threading the leader through the tube. When retrieved the sequin will snug up against the angled section and give the pattern 1 1/2 to 2" of side-to-side motion.

    Roger
     
  4. riseform

    riseform Active Member

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    Thanks Roger! I'll continue my efforts to convert to tube flies.

    It's been my experience with the few tube flies I've tied that they tend to want to float (I'm using a floating line with a sinking leader from shore). I assume this is due to air trapped within the tube, or perhaps the tubing/sleeve is a buoyant material. Have you found that you weight your subsurface patterns on tubes or do you just wait longer before beginning your retrieve? (On a fast retrieve, the latter still ends up with the fly making a surface wake in my experience). Ideally, I'd like to preserve that ultra thin sand lance silhouette and suspect I can't achieve it when adding weight.

    Also, I presume (from an aesthetic and perhaps functional standpoint) it is better to keep the tube longer when tying the fly rather than lengthening the sleeve to position the hook toward the rear of the fly, or does it matter?
     
  5. DimeBrite

    DimeBrite MA-9 Beach Stalker

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    Flatwings for cutthroat should be shorter ~2" than the ones you use for salmon. Unless the fish are small, they will attack the head and not nip at the tail. You don't have to worry about tail length, just use some eyes to make the head obvious. A slow retrieve letting the fly settle to a the bottom then lifting up can trigger the savage strike that will give a clean hook-up.
    When salmon or cutthroat are being finicky and just nipping the fly I switch to a Shock&Awe tube patter with the SC-15 hook. I'll often hook these finicky fish on the lower lip or tongue as they are playing with the fly. When cutthroat are not slamming the fly, I'll really increase my stripping speed and make it erratic. This will also increase your hook-up ratio.
    Overall I've found that hook-up % depends on the mood of the fish that day. Sometimes it is 100% or close to it. Other days it can by 10% or less until I find the pattern and retreive that induces them to pound the fly.

    PS- Buy "Tube Flies: Evolution" for more detailed information on local tube fly patterns.
     
  6. Phil Struck

    Phil Struck New Member

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    RF,

    I don't have any experience with tube flies but can offer some observations regarding hook up ratio when using standard bait fish patterns. I think that perhaps the 3" length might be contributing to your problem. That is a good size for coho, but when targeting SRC, I rarely use a fly over 2 in length and would estimate my hook up ratio at about 75%. I typically don't vary my retreive a great deal; sometimes I'll skate it a bit or extend the pause between strips to see if that will elicit a strike. My most important technique when they go "off the bite" - move and find some fresh fish! Good luck.
     
  7. Dale Dennis

    Dale Dennis Formally Double-D

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    I will agree with most of what DimeBright said. I also use the flatwing (for subsurface) most of the time and I tie them from 2” to 3” maximum length and on a SC15 #4 hook. On some days my hook up ratio can be as low as 20% and on other days it can be as high as 95%. I believe the pattern and retrieve play a big role in hook up ratio. If your getting a lot of short takes I believe this is due to the searun not really wanting (eating) the fly and chase and nip out of instinct.

    On those days when they are aggressively feeding and you have matched the hatch (baitfish) and the presentation (strip retrieve) come together the hookup ratio increases dramatically. I’ve done many searun presentations through out the years and one of the things that I try to stress is the importance of hook setting (from a boat); pointing the rod tip at the water during the retrieve and setting with the strip hand.
    Increasing the speed of the retrieve will at times increase your hook ups, particularly if you are getting short takes in the middle of the retrieve (speed it up).

    Tube flies definitely have an advantage with the hook set further back and when fishing a top water floating sandlance it becomes even more critical.
     
  8. Smalma

    Smalma Active Member

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    While I do not spend nearly as much time on the salt chasing cutts as others that have posted here I have found that the problem of converting takes to hook-ups is common to all sea-run fishing whether in the salt or freshwater. While we tend to focus our discussion on where to fish, what patterns to use and how to present those patterns actually to hook those fish willing to "play" maybe as important aspect of the game as any other.

    Without a doubt the single most important tool to aid in hooking fish is a good pair of polaroid glasses. I strongly feel that being able to read the fish and how they are reacting to your fly/presnetation is the foundation to successful hook ups. If you are seeing fish that are stopping well short of the fly you are likely dealing with fish that are not in a biting mood and the best strategy is to look for more aggressive fish but marking the location of the fish with the plan of returning at a different tide stage - it is not uncommon to see those same fish becoming much more aggressive if tidal currents pick up or change direction, etc. With the more aggressive fish you will have harder takes with a solid hook-up rate.

    However more typical is having fish rejecting/turning away while several several inches from the fly. In this case the fish are telling you that either the pattern or presentation is not passing inspection. In those situations I consider changing patterns and/or retrieves. It often pays to stop a moment to look around and see what is happening in the area. Is there active baitfish, what sort of baitfish, how are they behaving. If there are active feeding cutthroat how are they behaving, etc. With that additional input adjust your approach to match what is happening. Again you will likely see more aggressively takes.

    However for some reason our cutthroat (especially those non-trophy size fish) are quick little buggers. We are often getting what appears to be soft takes that are difficult to hook. Whenever I take a newbie out cutthroat this is by far the most difficult of the game for them to adjust to - with my direction they are fishing the right areas, using acceptable flies and fishing them in a reasonable matter but it still is common for them to hook less than 20% of the takes (this holds true for some very good trout anglers). In thinking about the situation and looking carefully at what I am doing different than those fishing with me I have come up with a couple suggestion to impoving folks hook-ups. It seemed to me that generally the difficultity was in detecting the takes; especially the non-agressive ones.

    In this case I'm discussing fishing "streamer-type" flies. When I'm fishing in conditions where I can not clearly see the fly - with a sinking line, broken surfaces, poor visibility, low light, etc the key seems to be to keep as tight as a line as possible throughout the retrieve. Basically I fish the fly as one would a deeply fish fly in a lake. Whether with a dry or sinking line I fish with the rod pointed directly towards the fly. This reduces the line slack helping with feeling the take. However it seems to me that with non-aggressive fish (often those that have been fished on) that a lot of takes are during the pause in the retrieve. Those takes often are not felt until the start of the next strip - which typically is too late. A "trick" that I found myself using is that at the end of the strip I continue to move the fly with the rod tip (often with a slight twitch while pinning the line to rod with my index finger of the rod holding hand). This allows my to re-grasp the fly line with my stripping hand before the pause. As a result the fly is still on a tight line, I'm in direct contact with it while in a position to react immediately to the take. By far the most successful hook set is a strip set.

    In situations where I can easily see and follow the fly I watch the area around the fly closely. I'm looking for fish and trying to read that fish's behave to the fly. What I have found is that those non-aggressive fish takes are very subtle and not easily felt. Instead I watch the fish and set when I see the fish take rather than when I feel it take. In this case it is very important to watch the fish rather than the fly and strike when you see the fish's open and close it mouth and/or turn after detecting that subtle movement of the mouth.

    Yes paying that close attention to what is happening requires constant concentration but I assure you that once you train youself to those details it will become second nature and your hook-up rates those subtle takes will more than double. Of course the more aggressive takes will be a slam dunk though I do recommend that you use strong enough tippets to avoid break-offs from your startled reaction. I typcially use 6# (usually UG max.)

    Hope the above makes sense and helps
    Tight lines
    Curt
     
  9. tim beez

    tim beez beach maggot

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    two treble hooks :thumb:
     
  10. riseform

    riseform Active Member

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    I'd like to thank all of you who took the time to answer and provide time consuming, insightful replies to my questions. Treble hook humor aside, I learned something from every reply to this thread that I can incorporate both on the water and at the vise. I recognize many of these pearls come from years of experience and I thank you for your willingness to share.
     
  11. DimeBrite

    DimeBrite MA-9 Beach Stalker

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    Riseform,

    Please share any new patterns you develop. I'm always looking for a new fly or tactic, especially on days when the salmon or cutthroat are short striking or being extra fussy.
     
  12. Ed Call

    Ed Call Mumbling Moderator Staff Member

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    Tim, good to see you back posting. I'm sure you are joking about them trebles, but that certainly would up your hookup rate.
     
  13. Dale Dennis

    Dale Dennis Formally Double-D

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    Well put Curt, your detailed observation is spot on.
     
  14. Mark Bové

    Mark Bové Chasin tail

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    56.8975% based on my calculations
     
  15. D3Smartie

    D3Smartie Active Member

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    completely depends on the fly/retrieve and mood of the fish.
    Best combo i have found for increased hook-ups is small fly and fast retrieve.
     
  16. riseform

    riseform Active Member

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    Ok, I've tied quick prototypes converting surf candy and flatwings to tube patterns (with Roger's sequin tube attatched anteriorly). Epoxy asymmetry aside, and constructive criticism?
    Original surf candy:[​IMG]
    Tube surf candy:[​IMG]
    Original flatwing:[​IMG]
    Tube flatwing:[​IMG]
     
  17. DimeBrite

    DimeBrite MA-9 Beach Stalker

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    Thanks for sharing those nice patterns. Add an orange hackle on the flatwing (for fall fishing) and it will be even more deadly.
     
  18. Roger Stephens

    Roger Stephens Active Member

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    Nice looking tube patterns! Hope that the tube patterns work out well for you and that you will be another convert to tube patterns vs. shank hook patterns because of their many advantages for you and the fisheries.

    Roger
     
  19. Don Freeman

    Don Freeman Free Man

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    Good looking stuff riseform.

    Only thing I'd suggest is going to a lighter wire hook like the Gamakatsu SC-15. You can even use bronze high carbon if you want, as you can switch hooks freely with tubes. Use something sharper on those hot looking patterns and see if it doesn't help you hook ups and increase the action.
     
  20. ak_powder_monkey

    ak_powder_monkey Proud to Be Alaskan

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    subsurface I probably hook 85% of fish that I see or feel strike, on top about 60% this is of course in lakes during the spring. When fishing dollies in saltwater I hook very few on top cause I don't set the hook till something big hits :D
     

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