This is one of my favorite nymphing maxims. It is one of those abstract truths that proves itself worthy of consideration many times over the course of a season — especially if you like to nymph with an indicator. Sure, false positives mean you also end up wearing your line, leader, and nymph rig around your head more than you’d care to. But those comical moments are quickly forgotten whenever hook point finds fishy mouth.
A few days ago, I set the hook for no reason other than my yarn indicator deviated ever so slightly from its course downriver. It didn’t go under. It didn’t stall. It didn’t shudder like it does when the rig is bumping along the rocky bottom. Nope, it just started to move in a way that neither current nor structure could account for. So I set the hook. And there he was, the best trout of the day, a mid-teens wild brown.
The guide I float with on the Salmon River, Jim Kirtland, likes to say, “It doesn’t cost anything to set the hook.” Make an investment in watching your sighter or indicator like a hawk — and watch the dividends roll in.
There was no mistaking the take of this fish, but I’ve had plenty of hookups with steelhead this size and bigger that began without the indicator going under. Once you think you know what you’re looking for — anything that looks like a remotely suspicious move by your indicator — the fun begins. Remember the sage advice of Ken Abrames: “It’s a fish until proven otherwise.”