All About Hooks; The building of a house starts with a good foundation. The same applies to tying flies. The final outcome much depends on the right hook, tube or shank. There needs to be a good balance, a cosmetically pleasing look and good functionality. Too often good fly patterns are tied on inferior hooks or shanks, or on tubes that are of wrong proportions and balance. Inferior hooks lead to lost fish, and unbalanced tubes lead to flies that will not swim well.
In this All About Hooks article I will go over some things to consider when choosing the right hook for your design.
All About Hooks – The Book
A book could be written on the varying types of hooks, their qualities and purpose. Hooks are a key component of our fishing rig. Thousands of dollars can be spent on rods and reels, however none of them are as crucial as a good hook when it comes to landing a fish. Here is some insight into all about hooks.
The first aspect of any hook that needs to be considered is the strength. Hardened steel hooks are stronger than non-hardened steel hooks but hardening hooks makes the steel more brittle. The harder the steel the easier it will break when you hit a rock. However, they rarely bend out on a fish. For this reason I prefer hardened steel hooks when fishing for big fish. Just make sure that if you think you may have hit a rock behind you on a back cast to check your hook. I can’t tell you how often I have stood next to a client when a fish took the fly only to find out that the fish did not get hooked due to a broken hook.
A good example of a place where I like to fish hardened steel hooks is on the lower Skeena for steelhead. The chances of hooking into a big, fresh fish are good and the hook size is relatively small. Many big fish get lost due to bent out hooks. Disappointing and not what you came for…
For small fish a non-hardened hook is fine. They are cheaper and you will have less risk of breaking them on rocks, while the hook is still strong enough to deal with the smaller fish.
Hardened steel will keep the hook point sharper for a longer time. This becomes more of a consideration when the chances of snagging bottom increase.
Bigger hook wire diameter will be stronger than smaller diameter wire. Stout hooks will be stronger and bigger hooks will be stronger. For lower Skeena steelhead, for example, I do not use hooks smaller than 1/0.
This leads us to the shape of the hook. Bigger hooks tend to translate in more hook ups. The wider gap increases the chance of the point catching. However, wider gaps are weaker and more prone to bend out.
The same goes for off-set hooks. Off-sets increase the chance of hooking but are weaker. On smaller patterns the off-set can also unbalance the fly and cause it to spin around the axis.
Longer hook shanks create more leverage on the hook and tend to dislodge easier than bait style hooks with short shanks.
The force vector of a down-eye hook is greater for hook penetration than a straight-eye hook. An up-eye hook has the smallest force vector. However, for fly balance in the water the opposite applies.
To Summarize – All About Hooks
So, there are many aspects to consider when choosing a hook. Generally I prefer short-shanked hooks that are slightly off-set and have a straight eye. I like them to be hardened to keep the point sharp and to prevent bending out.
That summarizes some of the things to consider when choosing a hook for your fly design. Give the hook some good choice prior to designing your fly, taking in consideration the type of water, depth, size of fish you are targeting and bottom structure. Picking the correct hook for your design will make for a more effective fly pattern.