We have all been there. A long while of nothing doing and then as we near the end of our retrieve, 'WHAM!' However we have just lifted our fly away from a lunging fish and blown the chance. With a slow start to our sea run season on our estuaries so far, I'm cautious not to let even one opportunity pass by. Those final moments of the retrieve, where you prepare to pick the line up to recast are commonly where many anglers fall short...
Let me introduce “The Hang”.
The purpose of the hang is to slow the retrieve in the final moments to let any interested fish catch up to your fly, and to pretty much dangle it in their face... if your fly is there, and the fish is right there, there are only 2 things that can happen right? Those both disappear as fast as your fly if you rip it out of the water too soon.
As the retrieve nears its end I replace the length, and speed of the strip by smoothly raising my rod tip, drawing the fly to shore as it slows. My hands remain closer together through short pulls in readiness of the strike: with the rod tip raised, the downward pull of my line hand is what will primarily set the hook.
Once I can see my fly I pause, allowing it to hang momentarily and watching for any last moment lunges from the fish as it dangles seductively across the drop off.
I prefer this method rather than stripping the line right in with a low rod for a couple of reasons:
The rod is at a decent enough angle to instantly absorb the shock of an often savage strike.
Line remains outside of the rod tip to load a quick cast if a fish does show and pulls away at the last moment: often a quick-fire drop of the fly in front of a retreating fish will create a 'half chance' rather than no chance at all.
When you strike and bend the rod, you don’t want to pull the line / leader connection inside of the rod tip, no matter how smooth it is and instantly point load and snap your rod. Point loading is probably the most common cause of a broken rod.
The little bit of slack created from the high rod allows the fish to take the fly in on a splashy eat. Often with a direct contact all you will get is a tug and no hook up.
You simply allow any semi interested fish to catch up to your fly.
Apart from all the above, hanging the fly keeps the angler more alert at a time where concentration often wavers as they prepare for the next cast. At this time of year, in big water, a missed chance could be the only chance.