by Steven Neely


It is not uncommon to lose trout that have been hooked on the hang, in fact, it happens a little too often for our liking. If I had a failsafe method to ensure a landed fish for every hook up then I reckon I could make a fortune selling it to the competition angling fraternity. However, there may be something we can do to help. So let’s look a little closer at these fish that are hooked on the hang.  

Most ‘hang fish’ are caught when we are using sinking lines so here’s our primary focus and what we need to work on. I have analysed this many times, I’m a thinking angler, so I try and look to improve techniques wherever possible. There are a few areas that can be tweaked to increase the ‘hooked to landed’ ratio. Actually, now I’m divulging this knowledge maybe I should be getting a small fortune because this advice is totally golden!

Anglers – most of us perhaps, though not the ultra-competitive types – who pull into a trout at the very last second on the hang, are usually well out of shape. Let me explain. The rod tip, sadly, is at its highest, right up, with stretched arm, ready to be taken into the sweep position and recast. Picture it, there is hardly any fly line out of the tip ring and the trout that is taking the fly does so with very little or no resistance at all. The angler sees the fish take the fly or indeed sees the top dropper disappear as it takes one of the other patterns out of sight. 

The angler then gets all excited, a squeal is let out and there are no doubt all kinds of weird and wonderful things happening with the rod arm. The angler is trying their best – and failing miserably – to gain some semblance of control. The result of all this arm-waving is a hook-hold that is very tenuous at best. As there’s never really been any tension between the rod and fly it’s a losing battle. Without tension, we can’t achieve proper hook penetration.

So, how do we overcome this?

Hang Markers

Well, with sinking lines the first and most crucial point is hang markers. I can’t emphasise enough the benefits of line markers for fishing ‘on the hang’. Some companies already put these markers on their manufactured lines, however, some don’t. If they do it’s often one marker – not enough. I like to make my own, it’s simple and fuss-free. I do this using Gulff resins. Or you can use floss whipped to the line and smoothed over with varnish, or some bright emergency vehicle wrap cut into small sections and rolled onto the line between thumb and forefinger, then covered with clear Gulff. When I do this I tend to have my markers at 10 feet intervals from the tip of my line, 10ft, 20ft, and 30ft. I never need to have markers at anything more than that really, so three markers are enough.

These are what’s needed for ‘the hang’ and here’s how to use them to your advantage. While you’re fishing, as soon as the first mark is visible, it’ll be the one 30 feet from the tip of the fly line, stop and hang the fly. Then again at 20ft and again at 10ft. These stops and pauses are the keys to enticing the following fish. By fishing in this way, you still have fly line in the water, and this is crucial. If a trout takes when these lines are under the water there’s resistance. Now a taking fish is pulling against a length of line that is under the water and this creates far, far more resistance than if you ‘hang’ your flies with a  high rod tip.

It should be noted that when you pause on the markers you must trap your line with your index finger between the rod blank and the top of the cork handle. The trapped line on the join of the cork on the rod also gives tension. If a trout takes on the pause, with the line trapped with your finger, it will be hooked – simple!

The Blind Strike

This little trick was shown to me 100 years ago on Loch Leven. I’ve done it for years, and I still see many boys looking at me funny when I do it . . . the blind strike. It’s a great method for lightning-fast brownies, but it also works on rainbows. You introduce a strike a second or so after the pause when you see the line markers. 

I can’t stress enough how amazingly effective this is at times, especially so when the fish have had pressure – in other words, within a competition environment.

Theory Into Practice

Let me give you an example of putting this theory into practice. Back in 2018, I fished the European Championships in the Czech Republic. Fishing the Boat Session on Kvetnov Lake, I was paired with an Italian angler. The boat is moved three times during each short session and on each move, it is attached to a buoy. Anglers swap positions in the boat on each move. On the first buoy, I only had three takes, small juddering pulls as I slowly inched my flies back to the boat. I only managed to land one fish. The Italian had also landed one fish. However, during the whole session, I watched a Scot’s boy and a Czech angler on our next peg (the hot peg) fishing away and catching loads. It was the Scot’s boy in particular who was absolutely hammering them. The Czech boy was catching them as well but the Scot was definitely taking the lion’s share. Sadly for me, the Scot was on the side of the boat that the Czech angler would be fishing from next.

I watched both of them fixated, both were employing a roly-poly retrieve to catch their fish, super fresh stockies.

I found out later the Scot had 14 fish to the Czech’s 9. It was a real shame that the Italian would have the best side of the boat – typical! As the controller rowed us over to the buoy for the start of the next session I changed my setup completely. I put two small Cormorants (the water was slightly coloured) on droppers and a black beaded lure on the point. All black flies, no colour. My line of choice was a fast glass line as I wanted to fish my flies in the top one to two feet of water, making the most of my black flies silhouetting against the sky.

Having been moved to the quieter side of the boat I wasn’t really expecting much. I expected fish, don’t get me wrong, but I managed my expectations, knowing that the Italian would have the majority.  Right enough,  after only a few casts, I heard the Italian swear as he missed a take.  I was employing a slow-motion roly-poly retrieve – fast doesn’t seem to work for me. After a few casts, I had a take as I began to lift the rod at the end of the retrieve. This happened twice more to me in the next five casts. So I timed my retrieve from the flies landing on the water to the next, which came after 30 seconds, only a few yards from the boat as my 10ft marker hit the tip ring. A few casts later, the same again, a soft take. The fish did not return. However, on my next cast, I stopped at 30 seconds, on my  10ft marker, waited a couple of seconds, and blindly struck . . .  fish on!

In the next 30 minutes I blind struck my way to an impressive 13 fish haul, the most trout landed on the lake for that particular session. My controller, bless him, was like a conveyor belt; fish measured, hook out, fish back in the water, and repeat.

I was constant, it was an amazing session. Funnily enough, the Italian boy on the other side of the boat was apoplectic with frustration by now. He spent the whole session looking at me, trying to see over my shoulder to see which flies I had on so that he could copy exactly what I was doing. It never paid off, he landed one.

I used the same tactic on the last session too, at a buoy that hadn’t really produced all morning. I was lucky enough to get some more fish to take and this gave me a steady 4th place overall.

The ‘hang’ with the aid of my markers was devastatingly effective but more importantly, the blind strike seemed to work wonders.

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