Hitching part 1: hitch irons

Anthony

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Hitching:

These posts are for anyone interested in fishing the riffled hitch method for salmon.
An extremely exciting means of fishing for salmon.

In my first post I'm going to discuss hitching with Irons. By Irons I mean flies tied directly on hooks.

We hitch irons using a Portland hitch knot close to the head of the fly. We can place the Portland hitch knot on the side or the bottom of a single hook. The idea is to create a planner effect on the fly forcing the head of the fly towards the surface, similar to a kite.
This creates a wake on the surface that visually can look like a v.

The fly will swim differently depending on where you have placed the hitch. A widely accepted belief is that you should place the hitch on your side of the hook I.e. pointing the hook upstream place the hitch on the hook side facing you. In doing this the hook point will point towards you, with the thinking that a salmon will attack the fly from your side and then move away from you hooking itself.

Hitch placed under the head of the fly will get rid of the need to change the hitch position when you change the side of the river.

As mentioned before the fly will swim differently depending on where you place the hitch. Hitch placed on your side of the bank will have the fly swimming with the hook point towards your side of the river, hitch placed under the throat will have the fly swimming straight with an upturned angle.
The salmon will get much more fly profile when the hitch is on your side of the bank, giving the fish a visual cue as well as the wake stimulus.

Another consideration is the speed a fly will be travelling. A hitch creating too much frizz will scare fish. I find the hitch placed under the throat has a tendency to create this undesirable effect quicker than one placed on the side.

Creating the Portland hitch:
Attach the hook to your leader using your preferred knot.Holding the hook point between your thumb and forefinger. Extend your middle finger.
Put a loop of leader around your middle finger, pull it off the end of your finger, reverse it and place this loop over the head of the fly before pulling tight. A single hitch has a real tendency to slip during fishing, so creating a second hitch behind the first gives you that bit more security.
A clockwise loop will make the line come out below the hitch knot, whereas an anti clockwise loop will make the line come out above the hitch knot. Line coming out above the hitch knot will make the fly ride higher in the water, desirable in slow water. Line coming out below the hitch knot will make the fly ride lower in the water, desirable in faster water.

Flies and hooks:
Hitching iron is much easier with low water lightweight hooks. Hooks with a reasonably short shank or small sizes will mean the hook
Is more likely to be in the vicinity of the salmons mouth when they attack the fly or v.
You can hitch behind the head of the fly, but the Portland knots can destroy hackles. Leaving a little space between the eye of the hook and the fly head will allow you to create a hitch without destroying your fly.

Patterns:
The idea of any hitch pattern is to increase the surface area using materials that wont absorb too much water. A doubled and wound cock hackle will help create the surface area needed to push the fly to the surface.
Art Lee recommended flies no bigger than the hook, with the suggestion that the fish will come in contact with the hook before getting a mouth full of hair. On the other hand many people nowadays hitch with allys shrimps with great success.

Advantages:
Removing the hitch knot allows you to quickly change to a conventional fishing fly.
A single hook will create a wake much smaller than can be achieved with even the thinnest tube. Sometimes a smaller wake is more desirable to the fish.
I may have just been lucky. But I find salmon are more accurate with hitch hooks. I've not had nearly as many missed takes as I do with hitch tubes.

Disadvantages:
Hooks require a good push of water or constant working by the angler in order to keep it on the surface.




Disclaimer:.
All this is based on my own experience and research. Feel free to correct any of my mistakes.

If people are happy enough with this then my next post will be about the European method of hitching, using tubes.
 

Potbellied Pig

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I'll be following this post with interest, not a technique I usually try on my local spate rivers
But I have tried it a couple of times with no success on my week away where I have more time to experiment
 

Anthony

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I'll be following this post with interest, not a technique I usually try on my local spate rivers
But I have tried it a couple of times with no success on my week away where I have more time to experiment
Hi,
I'm intending to do 3 posts on this. The third one will give you some information on fishing it. It will hopefully get your first salmon breaking the surface. From there you are buggered lol. It's just so addictive
 

Anthony

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Hi Anthony
I have hitched for salmon in Canada and Iceland.

I would be interested to know where you come from and where you fish.

Thanks

Pete
Hi Pete,

I'm fishing in Donegal Ireland. Mainly on a small spate river called the owenea
 

iainmortimer

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That's a brilliant post Anthony that gives a lot of food for thought as the traditional method of hitching seems to have been relatively forgotten with the advent of tubes.
 

Andrew B

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What a great thread and series, most helpful.
I’ve used the method on the river Dart a few times with some brilliant sport, taking the first fish of the season in June where I hitched a wee tube and took two perfect grilse from the same lie. Fish took almost immediately and I must of raised and missed a few more.
From my limited experience I’ve found that the method suits steep rivers like the Dart, Lyn ect as the method suits the classic pools with a narrow neck. Some pools would be ignored by the fly angler which is a mistake as they nearly always hold fish and they can be approached with a hitch fly without alerting the fish.
 

Tony Mac

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Hi Anthony, I'm very interested in this method and I will be trying it this season.
Would it be possible to add some pics showing the knot and their placement please
-Tony
 

keirstream

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Hitching in it's various forms up to and including medium sized sunrays from micro tubes is my favourite and by far most successful method in the Northern rivers. There are some rivers where rising fish to the hitch is like shelling peas up there and is an absolute joy to perform. Loxie swears by beetles which is a method I haven't used but have a practical demonstration lined up late June on the Borgie Covid and Nicola allowing of course.:( As you move further South and certainly below the Findhorn it becomes much more difficult to encourage suicidal tendencies in a fish although sunrays on tips still work just fine.(y)
P.S. not to intrude too deeply on the O.P. and his 3 posts on the subject a word about the weapon of choice which for me is a 6 or 7wt. single hander with a soft-ish action, certainly not a fast action as that tends to pull a hook hold free at the point of contact.
I have just acquired a new 7 piece 10 footer to stick in my back pack during my planned hunting trips.:D
 

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iainmortimer

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Hitching in it's various forms up to and including medium sized sunrays from micro tubes is my favourite and by far most successful method in the Northern rivers. There are some rivers where rising fish to the hitch is like shelling peas up there and is an absolute joy to perform. Loxie swears by beetles which is a method I haven't used but have a practical demonstration lined up late June on the Borgie Covid and Nicola allowing of course.:( As you move further South and certainly below the Findhorn it becomes much more difficult to encourage suicidal tendencies in a fish although sunrays on tips still work just fine.(y)
P.S. not to intrude too deeply on the O.P. and his 3 posts on the subject a word about the weapon of choice which for me is a 6 or 7wt. single hander with a soft-ish action, certainly not a fast action as that tends to pull a hook hold free at the point of contact.
I have just acquired a new 7 piece 10 footer to stick in my back pack during my planned hunting trips.:D
That's a really interesting observation Keir. Do you think that is mostly due to the size and nature of the river as mentioned by Andrew or some other factor?
 

keirstream

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That's a really interesting observation Keir. Do you think that is mostly due to the size and nature of the river as mentioned by Andrew or some other factor?
You know what Iain, as Ronnie used to frequently say to his beloved 1st Lady, "Gee Nance, that's a toughie":unsure::unsure:
However, I honestly believe that it is something to do with the chemical balance contained within individual rivers and the low incidence of human generated suspended solids and waste matters contained therein.
In other words the less human impact, the clearer and cleaner the water and more natural conditions existing.
I also find up North that by far the best hitching rivers all flow through a loch which may act as a filter for peat stained floods coupled with a course through natural bedrock. The less silt, the better.
So, picture a crystal clear, natural watercourse with lovely flowing runs, riffles and tails, not too deep and with no human influence and to me, you have your perfect hitching river.Think West Coast Norway, think North Eastern Canada, think Northern Scotland, think HITCH.(y)(y):D:D
 

Nigel Passmore

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Patterns:
The idea of any hitch pattern is to increase the surface area using materials that wont absorb too much water. A doubled and wound cock hackle will help create the surface area needed to push the fly to the surface.
Art Lee recommended flies no bigger than the hook, with the suggestion that the fish will come in contact with the hook before getting a mouth full of hair. On the other hand many people nowadays hitch with allys shrimps with great success.
Hi Anthony

Really interesting post. On single flies, deer hair spun flies are also popular. The two obvious candidates are Muddler (tied on an up eyed salmon iron) and Bombers. Do you ever use these? Both are examples of flies, to your point, that are also fished tied conventionally, the Muddler to make a disturbance in a different direction, and the Bomber to fish like a giant Humpy dry Fly.

Clearly, hitching 'collies' works in some circumstances. Not sure if it would make much difference between a single iron or a tube - hair is still trailling. Spinning with Kynochs, Raps etc (hook position) tells us salmon often take big baits predator style across the bait.

Regards

NHP
 

Pete V

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You know what Iain, as Ronnie used to frequently say to his beloved 1st Lady, "Gee Nance, that's a toughie":unsure::unsure:
However, I honestly believe that it is something to do with the chemical balance contained within individual rivers and the low incidence of human generated suspended solids and waste matters contained therein.
In other words the less human impact, the clearer and cleaner the water and more natural conditions existing.
I also find up North that by far the best hitching rivers all flow through a loch which may act as a filter for peat stained floods coupled with a course through natural bedrock. The less silt, the better.
So, picture a crystal clear, natural watercourse with lovely flowing runs, riffles and tails, not too deep and with no human influence and to me, you have your perfect hitching river.Think West Coast Norway, think North Eastern Canada, think Northern Scotland, think HITCH.(y)(y):D:D
That is a brilliant observation.
I have caught lots of fish with a hitch in Iceland.
I really surprised my guide when I fished a hitch on a river in the Gaspé area of Canada. He thought I was crazy to try it until the first cast when a fish jumped clean out of the water to attack the fly.
I have had no success whatever on the Scottish and Irish rivers that I have tried.
 

nickolas

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I can see why hitch fly would take salmon, have had them as above in counties mentioned, have tried it on the Tweed and yet to move a fish let alone hook one, but could be just me. Then you go to Rio grand, I had them on a skating fly there + mouse patterns in Alaska. I know that a tube on the Tamar skated/dibbled though the fast water below croys will take fish. What I can’t get my head round is a floating static fly, yet to try and yet to catch. I think my pal and I must have been one of the first with a muddlers on the island of islay back in the late seventies. I don’t think it matters what form of hitch it’s just so it creates a disturbance, even it’s very small as the case of Derek knowles with his yellow dolly Or a 3inch collie.
 
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Anthony

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Hitching in it's various forms up to and including medium sized sunrays from micro tubes is my favourite and by far most successful method in the Northern rivers. There are some rivers where rising fish to the hitch is like shelling peas up there and is an absolute joy to perform. Loxie swears by beetles which is a method I haven't used but have a practical demonstration lined up late June on the Borgie Covid and Nicola allowing of course.:( As you move further South and certainly below the Findhorn it becomes much more difficult to encourage suicidal tendencies in a fish although sunrays on tips still work just fine.(y)
P.S. not to intrude too deeply on the O.P. and his 3 posts on the subject a word about the weapon of choice which for me is a 6 or 7wt. single hander with a soft-ish action, certainly not a fast action as that tends to pull a hook hold free at the point of contact.
I have just acquired a new 7 piece 10 footer to stick in my back pack during my planned hunting trips.:D
My next post
I can see why hitch fly would take salmon, have had them as above in counties mentioned, have tried it on the Tweed and yet to move a fish let alone hook one, but could be just me. Then you go to Rio grand, I had them on a skating fly there + mouse patterns in Alaska. I know that a tube on the Tamar skated though the fast water below croys will take fish. What I can’t get my head round is a floating static fly, yet to try and yet to catch. I think my pal and I must have been one of the first with a muddlers on the island of islay back in the late seventies. I don’t think it matters what form of hitch it’s just so it creates a disturbance, even it’s very small as the case of Derek knowles with his yellow dolly Or a 3inch collie.
I have had any joy on dries either. But once I dropped a hook over a small bridge by accident. It stayed on the surface and got halfway down the pool when a salmon came clean out of the water for it.

This year I think we're going to try it in a tag team. I will locate the fish with a hitch and then my mate will step in with a dry fly.
 

sewinfly

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Hitching in it's various forms up to and including medium sized sunrays from micro tubes is my favourite and by far most successful method in the Northern rivers. There are some rivers where rising fish to the hitch is like shelling peas up there and is an absolute joy to perform. Loxie swears by beetles which is a method I haven't used but have a practical demonstration lined up late June on the Borgie Covid and Nicola allowing of course.:( As you move further South and certainly below the Findhorn it becomes much more difficult to encourage suicidal tendencies in a fish although sunrays on tips still work just fine.(y)
P.S. not to intrude too deeply on the O.P. and his 3 posts on the subject a word about the weapon of choice which for me is a 6 or 7wt. single hander with a soft-ish action, certainly not a fast action as that tends to pull a hook hold free at the point of contact.
I have just acquired a new 7 piece 10 footer to stick in my back pack during my planned hunting trips.:D

Great article, have been fishing hitch a few times last season if you could call it a season. Did not move anything and also tried a Bomber to.
I know it works on our beat as one guy done well one season.


I need a Welsh one with Dragons.

Sewinfly
 

keirstream

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That is a brilliant observation.
I have caught lots of fish with a hitch in Iceland.
I really surprised my guide when I fished a hitch on a river in the Gaspé area of Canada. He thought I was crazy to try it until the first cast when a fish jumped clean out of the water to attack the fly.
I have had no success whatever on the Scottish and Irish rivers that I have tried.
The only river I found it to work O.K. ish? was the North Esk at Morphie with grilse spanking clean straight out the tide.
I was never overwhelmed with the interest but it was there, no doubt. I did get a few as did Easky on this forum who posted a video from the Breach Pool on Morphie Dyke. Rivers East and South of the Findhorn (excluding the North Western spate streams) don't generally work for me although I suspect a throw on the Southie at the right time would produce some goods as it has many of the correct attributes required.(y) Over to Mows and Westie for that one.
When I frequented the Ould Country my trips were concentrated on the Finn, 3 or 4 times a season. At that time I hadn't started to fish the hitch but I'm hoping to get across again before I can't and plunder Bonnar's and the Ivy Bridge. I would say there would be suicidal fish in there all right.:D
 

SalmoNewf

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Interesting comments. As you may know the hitch originated here in Newfoundland on the west side of the Great Northern Peninsula. Lee Wulff wrote about it extensively and gave it the name “Portland Creek Hitch” because Portland Creek was the river where he first saw local anglers using it. My experience in many rivers here in Newfoundland and in Labrador is that the fish in some rivers will come willingly to the hitch, in others will come ONLY to the hitch or a dry fly, in yet others not at all. It doesn’t seem to be dependent on conditions either; some rivers are clearly hitch rivers while others aren’t and for the rest, it’s maybe yes/maybe no. . For me, it’s just another arrow in the quiver of techniques to try. I do like the takes on the hitched fly as they seem to be quite predatory, quite often with a very splashy slash at the fly versus the often quiet sipping take to a dry fly.
 

nickolas

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Interesting comments. As you may know the hitch originated here in Newfoundland on the west side of the Great Northern Peninsula. Lee Wulff wrote about it extensively and gave it the name “Portland Creek Hitch” because Portland Creek was the river where he first saw local anglers using it. My experience in many rivers here in Newfoundland and in Labrador is that the fish in some rivers will come willingly to the hitch, in others will come ONLY to the hitch or a dry fly, in yet others not at all. It doesn’t seem to be dependent on conditions either; some rivers are clearly hitch rivers while others aren’t and for the rest, it’s maybe yes/maybe no. . For me, it’s just another arrow in the quiver of techniques to try. I do like the takes on the hitched fly as they seem to be quite predatory, quite often with a very splashy slash at the fly versus the often quiet sipping take to a dry fly.
That’s interesting I don’t know of a single river in Europe Iceland or Russia when a fish will only take a hitched fly. When Wulff came to the uk and fished the Tweed Dub, Im fairly sure he used a sunk fly all be it on one of his tooth picks.
 

Jockiescott

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Hitching is something I've tried but never really took to. I never managed to get any interest in my hitch flies from the fish in the same way I did from a sunray for example. Even though I've yet to even touch a fish on a sunray either by the way. 😂 But I've had them rising, rolling and boiling at them.

I think I'll stick to my small flies for the most part. I will undoubtedly try hitching again at some stage as a last resort but I'm not really expecting much.
 

iainmortimer

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Hitching is something I've tried but never really took to. I never managed to get any interest in my hitch flies from the fish in the same way I did from a sunray for example. Even though I've yet to even touch a fish on a sunray either by the way. 😂 But I've had them rising, rolling and boiling at them.

I think I'll stick to my small flies for the most part. I will undoubtedly try hitching again at some stage as a last resort but I'm not really expecting much.
Not enough sea trout around for you maybe to keep the interest up? 😉🤣
 

easky

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Great threads Anthony and I know you do well on the hitch on your local! 👍 :)👍

As Keirstream mentioned I have had success with it on the lower North Esk and following that on the River Finn. Years ago I had dabbled with it on the Moy town beats and Balisodare and had some success.. but only really got 'the bug' after Morphie. It really is hard to beat seeing the visual take and something nice about fishing light and fancy free if that makes sense, as I find it allows you to fish little spots, pots and runs that are much harder with sunk lines and flies.

Here's a vid from last season that I've posted before but is quite topical:

 
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