Beginning Fly Fishing & A Slip Strike: When you are using a sinking line, the rod tip is best kept at the surface or even a few inches under. You are attempting to remove slack, which will maintain a straighter connection to the fly. When the fish hits or taps at the fly you are more likely to feel it.
When you fish a floating line and dry/emerger fly pattern, you are accustomed to raising the rod until you feel the fish is on. This is even more pronounced if you developed that hard hook set as a gear guy. Your well honed reactions to raise the rod to set the hook are not as productive when fishing a sunken line. Yes, you will sometimes hook the fish, but often you will pull the fly away by a considerable distance.
It is better to use a modified slip strike technique used by saltwater fly fishers and guys that throw big streamers at fish with big teeth. This short video explains the technique for an angler that is standing. When you are seated in a tube or pontoon boat the concept is similar but more confined.
Keep the rod tip down at the water or slightly submerged. The rod hand always has the line secured between the cork handle and the stripping/retrieving fingers (except when casting and shooting line). The retrieving hand should attempt to be always in control of the line (there is that vulnerable moment where one retrieves and lets go of the line to then reach forward for the next retrieve). Side Ways Slip Strike
When the angler feels the hit, resist the temptation to elevate the rod. Instead point the rod to the fish and pull back toward your belly. Often you will set the hook. If you miss the set, the fly has maybe only moved 1-2 feet versus the greater distance of a raise the rod/pop the hook set. Once you feel the pulse of the fish raise the rod up to play the fish against the rod. This releases some of the tension of a straight pull/fight against the leader/tippet’s strength.
If it is a big fish, it will often take line up through the guides. That line on your apron needs to shoot up through the guides. Use just enough tension with your rod hand to control the rapid movement of the line upward…not too loose, not too tight. Enjoy the fish at this point. Is the drag set too tight, too lose? This is ideally done in advance, but truthfully you won’t know how that drag is until you hook enough bigger fish to feel the surge and know how your reel’s drag performs. But do know how it is adjusted and think…how would I tighten or loosen the drag if I needed to (will you have to momentarily switch hands?).
If it is a smaller fish, you can strip line down the guides, onto the apron and in essence strip the fish toward you. If the fish is a bit stronger than you figured the line, pinched against the cork handle and your rod hand, can be gently allowed to slide upward through the guides for an unexpected run.
Wind from the east, fish bite least.
Wind from the north, don’t go forth.
Wind from the south, fish will take it in the mouth.
Wind from the west, fishing is the best.