Hitching part 3: fishing the hitch

Anthony

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Part 3: fishing the hitch

When you should fish the hitch:
There's a lot of falsehoods out there about this method of fishing:
- hitch is a low water method: False. I have no idea why this is a widely held belief?
- hitch is for clear water: False. I've found water that is too dirty for conventional flies can be a very productive time. Many times in these conditions I pick them up very close to the bank.
- hitch is for water above 9 degrees. I'm uncertain about this one. I have had kelts attack the hitch in 5 degree water. Whether their fresh counterparts would do the same is still a question.
- Hitch is only good for fresh fish: False. I've caught all sorts of colours of salmon
- only small lightly dressed flies work: False. Great big tubes will also take them to the surface.

Fishing the hitch:
I believe the most important factors in hitching are size of the wake and speed. With the latter being the number 1 consideration.

For a number of seasons I aimed to get a reasonably slow swing on the hitch. Casting at narrow angles and mending in faster water. I had quite a bit of success. For two seasons I caught my last fish on the hitch in mid July. I put it down to the fact that the river temperature went over 14 degrees by then and warmer water dissolves debris easier.

Like clockwork on the third year I was getting nothing after that date.
That's when I threw out what I've heard and sped up the fly.Casting straight across . Trying different retrieves firstly figure of 8 and slowly speeding up in an area I was confident held fish. Nothing happened until I hit a retrieve speed that was more akin to fishing for Tuna.
I've read a blog from a steelhead angler with a similar experience. He used the bear analogy: you should never run away from a bear because their predatory instincts will automatically kick in.

Since then I've caught them in all sorts of manners. Casting upstream I've caught them just as the fly came whipping around. Even in the fastest of waters it took at least a medium retrieve to turn them on. Pulling too fast in heavy water will drown the fly, so it is a matter of finding the right speed without pulling it under.

When fishing the hitch with a straight forward swing or even a figure of 8 you can keep the rod low to speed up the swing. Lifting the rod and dragging the line when the fly slows down.
Casting upstream in order to get a large downstream belly may be necessary when fishing with irons in certain water speeds.

A low rod when doing a conventional retrieve will cause the fly to dip under the water between retrieves. For this reason a high rod should be maintained, the bow in the line will keep the fly on the surface during the retrieve stop.


Missed fish:
Many times a salmon will miss the hitch. When this happens I wait for a minute or more before repeating exactly what I did the first time. More often than not a risen fish will come again , occasionally 4 or more times. Only rarely has the fish not connected before staying down.

Hooking technique:
Do nothing at all.
It can feel like forever between the time the fish rises and you feel the line tighten, but this will be your only clue as to whether the fish has connected or not.

I judge my fishing on action. Memories of salmon breaking the surface and missing my fly are indelibly etched on my mind whereas I barely remember the feel of a large fish taking my conventional fly.

I carry two rods to the river; a single hander with floating line and a switch rod with intermediate line. I usually fish the hitch through the pools first. I have occasionally caught them on the below the surface fly when the hitch didn't work at all. But since I've started varying the speed of the hitch I have a number of times out fished the sunk fly.


I hope these posts have encouraged people to try this method, not just when all else fails.
Dial into the right speed and it will provoke an involuntary sound of excitement from you.

Be warned , it's highly addictive!!
 

iainmortimer

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In relation to using a bow in the line to keep the fly on the surface, and possible going back to the point about the method being most useful on smaller rivers, what is the maximum distance at which the hitch can be successfully used?
 

Anthony

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I'm mainly fishing on small rivers.
But I believe if your fly is hitching it doesn't matter how far away it is.

Art Lee had said people were against the hitch when it was too windy, which he proved false.Maybe for the same reason , if people can't see the wake they think it won't work.

I could be wrong on this one as I've not had experience in fishing the hitch on big rivers. But 70ft wide pools were just as effective as 20ft wide pools.
 

tenet

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I mentioned previously that perhaps a Foam Arsed Blob (FAB) or booby could give the same effect. Would be interested to know if anybody has used this method rather than a hitched fly.

 

nickolas

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I'm mainly fishing on small rivers.
But I believe if your fly is hitching it doesn't matter how far away it is.

Art Lee had said people were against the hitch when it was too windy, which he proved false.Maybe for the same reason , if people can't see the wake they think it won't work.

I could be wrong on this one as I've not had experience in fishing the hitch on big rivers. But 70ft wide pools were just as effective as 20ft wide pools.
I would say a warm wind was about as good as it gets especially on slack pools or lochs. Size of river is irrelevent in my opinion, what about skating dapped flies on a lochs they can be big espances of water and they like a wind.
 

Anthony

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I mentioned previously that perhaps a Foam Arsed Blob (FAB) or booby could give the same effect. Would be interested to know if anybody has used this method rather than a hitched fly.

I've only ever tried a booby on sinking line. With no joy.
 

Laksedreperen

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I agree with most of what has been written here regarding the hitch. I’ve caught salmon on rivers more than 2000 km apart here in Scandinavia. However, in my experience you catch as many fall salmon as springers on the hitch. In my book salmon do not miss the hitch and when they show interest for the hitched fly they can very often be lured to eat a smaller offer, or a bigger one (exactly like when fishing the dry). If a salmon wants to eat your hitch it won’t miss it - caught salmon in turbulent, white water as well as on slow glides. Salmon do even take the upstream hitch, exactly as Art Lee describes. I fish larger rivers, mostly using a spliced Sharpe 12’ cane rod. Starting to use the double-hander was a major breakthrough. Water temperature, water level or clarity do not seem to be of any importance. Generally, in my experience the hitch catches larger fish than the dry. does.
 

Anthony

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I agree with most of what has been written here regarding the hitch. I’ve caught salmon on rivers more than 2000 km apart here in Scandinavia. However, in my experience you catch as many fall salmon as springers on the hitch. In my book salmon do not miss the hitch and when they show interest for the hitched fly they can very often be lured to eat a smaller offer, or a bigger one (exactly like when fishing the dry). If a salmon wants to eat your hitch it won’t miss it - caught salmon in turbulent, white water as well as on slow glides. Salmon do even take the upstream hitch, exactly as Art Lee describes. I fish larger rivers, mostly using a spliced Sharpe 12’ cane rod. Starting to use the double-hander was a major breakthrough. Water temperature, water level or clarity do not seem to be of any importance. Generally, in my experience the hitch catches larger fish than the dry. does.
Cheers. I just missed one today . Good tip thanks
 
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