3 useful nuggets to help you choose the right fly tying hooks.
When it comes to fly tying hooks, the choices are plentiful. There are numerous types, brands and styles out there and it can sometimes get out of hand. Regardless of what brand you choose, there are a few useful things worth knowing when it comes to the style and size of hooks you choose.
Aside from the brand and style you choose, consistency is super important. Good, quality hooks will be good no matter if you use 1 or 5,000 of them. You’ll always have that few that missed the quality control process, but for the most part, all reputable hook brands are going to be consistent with their quality.
Here are 3 things worth noting:
1. Go barbless
There are several good reasons to use barbless hooks, but the most important, to me, is personal safety. Fly fish long enough and you will, no doubt, hook yourself. When you do, getting a barbless hook out of your hand, arm, neck or wherever you’ve managed to hook yourself, is far easier.
Another great reason to use barbless hooks is when you are catch-and-release fishing (which I hope you always do). Barbless hooks are far easier to remove, causing less damage and stress to fish that you’re planning on returning to the water.
Common theory is that barbless hooks will cause you to lose fish. While that probably does happen on occasion, I doubt very seriously it was the hook that caused it. The benefits of using barbless hooks most certainly outweighs the odd chance that you’re going to lose a fish because of it.
2. Know your hook sizes
Fly tying hooks are sized by number. The bigger the number, the smaller the hook. For instance, a size 12 dry fly hook is bigger than a size 16 dry fly hook. So, while a size 10 dry fly hook is rather large, a size 22 hook is tiny in comparison.
Hook size is important in fly fishing, but not nearly as important as presentation. As a rule of thumb, you’re probably going to be tying a lot of your dry flies in sizes 12-18. Nymphs tend to be in the 16-20 range and hoppers are typically in the 6-12 range. This can (and does) obviously differ depending on pattern or situation, but for the most part, these are the fairly common sizes.
3. Know your hook types
When buying hooks for fly tying, you’ll notice different types of hooks, designed for different types of flies. You’ll see hooks labeled for dry flies, nymphs, scuds, etc. Basically, these hooks are designed for the type of fly you’re creating. You’ll also see 1x long, 2x long, etc., which refers to the length of the shank.
While you’ll see certain types of hooks for certain types of flies, it’s important to remember that you can certainly experiment. I often tie dry flies on scud hooks, which I think helps the fly ride the surface better for certain patterns.
It’s also important to note that most dry fly hooks will have a smaller wire diameter than wet fly/nymph counterparts. This is primarily a weight difference, since dry flies need to float on the surface. However, the difference is actually going to be very minimal when talking about hooks in the 12-20 size range.
Any tips you’d like to share about fly tying hooks? Drop me a note in the comments below!