Hitching part 1: hitching with irons


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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.

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.

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.

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

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.


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Nr Newbury
You have gone into great detail regarding hitch methods. 3 years ago fishing with Reuben the ghilly , he suggested fishing a small 20mm plastic alister tube, after a few casts he suggest we change to a skating fly, I was about to take the Alister of, he no said leave it on and we can pop a small piece of loon biostrike on the front, worked a treat and caught fish. Clever guy that Reuben, you never stop learming.