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Hooking Snakehead on Poppers

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Paul Arden
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Hooking Snakehead on Poppers

#1

Post by Paul Arden » Sun Sep 12, 2021 5:20 am

Eight years in :whistle:

I’ve been getting a lot of success this year with slower retrieves. I’ve modified my flies so that they have pronounced frog legs. Gary gave some excellent advice on tying pencil or dislocated flies, which I’ve been experimenting with (but they land heavily and I need some shorter shank hooks).

In the last month I’ve had some eats very close to the boat, where I haven’t been retrieving but have in effect had the opportunity to time the strike. Over this month I’ve gradually been lengthening the delay, up to at least four seconds. And sometimes still pulling the fly out of their mouths!

Now I am letting them eat and swim off with the fly. 10 seconds strike. This is exactly how I used to fish floating fly patterns for trout!

I assume what happens is that they inhale the fly, turn around and don’t actually expel the air through the gills until very much later. And this is when you want to strike. If you strike before they’ve expelled air it’s very much a hit and miss affair. The hanging (dislocated fly) hook can help, but the better option seems to be either not to strike but to keep a tight line or else strike after a very long delay. Ashly not striking I think seems to prove this!!

It’s fishing well at the moment but now I’m heading to another part of Malaysia for two weeks.

Cheers, Paul
It's an exploration; bring a flyrod.

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Mangrove Cuckoo
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Re: Hooking Snakehead on Poppers

#2

Post by Mangrove Cuckoo » Sun Sep 12, 2021 2:20 pm

Paul,

Here is something that I have witnessed when flyfishing for snook, especially the larger ones. We do not use wire bite tippets, but ya gotta use at least 40# mono or they will chew off the fly during the fight. One problem seems to be that when the snook close down on the bite tippet their rough lips essentially hold it from slipping. Another problem is they have very large mouth caverns and I envision that the fly is just floating around in there.

So if your hook set is timid, or worse, multiple "trout sets", the snook feels something weird vibrating in its lips and simply opens its mouth and the fly comes out.

Now here is some conjecture, but it is something I have noticed and have had some success with...

I often have witnessed anglers with me not realize that they have had a snook take their fly. It is really bad for smaller snook as the fly usually gets into their gills, but the angler who has been missing fish after fish due to trout sets is usually happy... because they have finally hooked one, even though the small snook is now commonly bleeding.

On the flip side, I have often found that I commonly "hook" larger snook around the gill rakers. These are the filter-like parts of the gill that are not blood red. This is the best case situation for both the fish and the angler as the fish does not bleed but has no chance of getting off the hook since it is not about hook-point penetration. The bend of the hook simply encircles the raker. This commonly happens when using smaller flies.

So, here is what I think is happening: the snook somehow realizes that the fly is not food and attempts to eject it. But it does not spit it out in panic, instead, it tries to flush the fly out through the gills, as it would for any other non-edible bycatch. That is when the hook bend gets around the raker.

So... a long deliberate strip set with a straight line to the fish, and no rod bend, is the ticket for hooking these fish. Often it requires a few "is he there" strips to get tight to the fish. I want to feel either the fish's tail beat or his head shaking before I "set" the hook.

How long that takes is not something on a clock face, it depends on many things.

I don't know if it will work for you, but ask yourself a simple question:

How many fish have you missed because you struck too soon, and how many fish have you missed because you waited too long? Apparently, the answer depends on what species of fish you are after. I have heard that trout quickly reject a fly, and I know permit can, but with snook (and maybe Snakehead) I know what my answer is!

BTW... I spoke to an angler last night who mentioned he was doing real well on our local Snakehead, and he had photos to prove it. They were the largest I have seen. His "secret" was he fished them at night. Have you tried it?
"Technique is the proof of your seriousness"

Wallace Stevens

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Paul Arden
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Re: Hooking Snakehead on Poppers

#3

Post by Paul Arden » Sun Sep 12, 2021 3:14 pm

Last things first Gary! That’s a great question. Yes have tried but had no success… yet. I am sure I’m missing something but not sure it’s with Snakehead. Adults with babies very obviously sleep the night and get up quite late – I’ve followed them “home” and been there when they’ve woke up in the morning. So it’s also very possible that adults without babies do the same. There are definitely behavioural differences between the species and even between locations. Jungle Perch I have caught at night. Gourami not, and that’s what I think I’m missing.

Waiting too long is a problem – I just think that that’s a lot longer than I originally thought. In the case of positively buoyant flies and trout (for example, which is where I have far more experience) it’s not that they try to expel the fly through their gills, but that they try swallow the fly! I definitely do not want to wait too long. I can’t recall ever having a Snakehead hooked in the gills, deep yes, and thats even with setting the hook. How many seconds before Snook expel the fly do you think? I find a huge difference between buoyant flies, unweighted flies and weighted flies. The heavier the quicker the spit! Buoyant flies on the other hand are often swallowed in my experience. Boobies, floating dry, suspender buzzers…

Certainly it could be the wire and very strong mouth closure (and teeth!) that they have. My current thinking is that they expel air late, after they have turned away and relaxed, and before this they still have a mouth full of air! I don’t know how long is too long or what happens when it is “too long”. This is an experiment I need to try when back on the lake.

It’s very hard not to set the hook, especially when stripping, but this is what I’m training myself to do to see where it leads.

Thanks,
Paul
It's an exploration; bring a flyrod.

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