Sharp Hooks are Happy Hooks.

KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid).

It often strikes me that there is so much information about fly fishing available and so much debate about the various merits of different methods, tackle options and which fly to use that we lose touch with the basics. I have to keep things basic, I’m not smart enough to make them complex but even if you are a rocket scientist the same holds true.

For me the most basic improvement that anyone can make to their tackle set up is to be using sharp hooks. After all that is pretty much the business end of things and driving for hours in your multi million dollar 4X4, casting with your shiny new ultra modern, super light  graphite rod and mending your hand crafted degressive flourocarbon leader isn’t going to be worth a jot if the darn hook falls out or fails to penetrate when you eventually get a strike.

You see hooks and their sharpness become all the more critical when you are fishing ultralight gear and for most people fishing a Cape Stream that is going to mean rods from triple “ought” to #3 weight and tippets down to maybe 8X. With that gear you can’t exactly wrench a doorstop of a hook into the mouth of a fish and failings in your terminal tackle show up like the proverbial dog’s wedding tackle.

Barbed Hooks are by definition blunt.
We all use barbless hooks if only because those are specified in the rules on the catch and release waters that we fish, however there are plenty of other compelling reasons for converting, even if the rules don’t expect that you should.

Firstly barbless hooks are undoubtedly better for the fish, and even if you intend keeping some of your catch you are still going to hook the “young-uns”  and fish that you don’t want to keep so it is only reasonable that you use barbless patterns.

The more compelling reason is that you will catch more fish because barbed hooks are always effectively blunt. Barbless hooks are far, far more effective at hooking fish and keeping them hooked, particularly noticeable when you are fishing light. The barb on a hook probably at least doubles the frontal area that needs to penetrate on the strike and that quadruples the force required to drive it home properly. Requiring a force to drive it home that will rapidly exceed the pressure exerted with a two weight rod and 8X tippet. Barbs are in effect wedges that PREVENT the hook going home so removal of the barb or using barbless hooks is the first step to improving your hook up and catch rate, no matter where you fish. The second step and it is important to remember that even new hooks aren’t really sharp, is to sharpen them.

If you don't carry a hook sharpener, and use it you aren't being serious about your fishing.

Most (although not all) barbless hooks are manufactured in the same manner as the barbed ones with the simple skipping of the step where the barb is cut into the metal. That means that the hook is generally far thicker than it needs to be at the point and you can remove a goodly amount of hook before affecting its strength in any significant way.

Further the strength of the point isn’t that important, what you want is the hook to penetrate all the way to the bend, when penetrated to its full extent the hook is remarkable strong. If it only goes part the way in then the forces of fighting a fish can and will open up the hook.

We have all heard the stories of “it was a huge fish, straightened the hook“, you cannot straighten a hook that has penetrated all the way to the bend, it is a virtual scientific impossibility unless you are using tippet more properly designed for hand lining giant tuna. Hooks that don’t penetrate properly are the problem and the number one reason that they don’t do so is the barb, followed by the fact that they are not sharp.

So when I tie on a fly, that is EVERYTIME I tie on a fly I sharpen it, no matter that it is new, no matter that it is chemically sharpened or whatever, ever hook gets the same treatment. I like to triangulate the point if possible and thin down the point such that full penetration requires minimal force. My favourite tool for this is an EZE Lap Model “S” ™ diamond dust hook sharpener.  The tool  has a parallel rounded file of diamond dust with flat side and a rounded side in which there is a groove.

To sharpen the hook I first file the sides of the point at approximately 45 degrees using the flat side of the file and then give a few strokes with the grooved portion of the file backwards over the point.

If you would like to experiment or test the effects you can try the following.

An experiment that you can do for yourself, particularly useful if you are something of a doubting Thomas. Probably all of my clients have at one time or another been forced to have a try with the following test, it is proof that sharpened barbless hooks penetrate better and catch more fish as a result at least when using light gear which is pretty much the norm around these parts.

Take a barbed fly from your box and pull it through a piece of thin card or stiff foam, the card from a cigarette box is about the right stuff to use.

You will feel the resistance and probably get a distinct “pop” sound when the barb finally pulls through the card.


Remove the barb from the hook or fly and test it again, you will almost certainly feel a considerable difference in the force required.


Then sharpen the hook carefully and repeat the test once more, the difference between the untreated barbed hook and the carefully debarbed and sharpened version should be enough to convince you for ever. If it doesn’t the number of fish that you hook and land once you have changed your habits probably will.

Oh and if you liked the graphics and the information keep your eyes on Smashwords because they are from a new E book that will be published soon on various tips tricks and techniques that you can use to improve your fly fishing. There are already a couple of free downloads on there that you may like to take a look at but there is more in the pipeline. You can see the books published by myself simply by clicking the link Smashwords

Don’t forget to leave a comment if you enjoyed this piece, it all helps to keep the motivation going and thanks for reading. Paracaddis aka Tim Rolston.

Advertisements

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

5 Responses to “Sharp Hooks are Happy Hooks.”

  1. Paddy Says:

    I had a day on a dam in January when I lost 16 hooked fish, and landed only 4, for no apparent reason. I then literally found my EZE Lap at the bottom of my kit bag and had a eureka moment. Haven’t lost a fish since!

    One question, though it may be too nerdy to deserve an answer. Is there a simple test to check whether a hook is still sharp? For instance after snagging on wood or weeds? Or should I just give it an automatic half dozen of the best every time? Its very tempting to just get the fly back to work during a hatch!

  2. paracaddis Says:

    Ah Paddy, I love it when people agree with me.. 🙂 I just test against my finger, you can usually feel it, if you feel nothing and draw blood then it is perfect.. Keep your eye out for my next post on modifying your Model S so that you don’t lose it.. Tim

  3. Tom Says:

    Thanks Tim, i purchased a cheap generic sharpener last year and it’s no good, nice to know which one to get next.

  4. Rex fey Says:

    I’m convinced. Great article. Been fishing for 25 years and keeping things simple and relatively effective but I think my next purchase will be a hook sharpener. Never really thought much of the debate. Just thought you guys were maybe a bit inclined to be a “fish hugger” and were more interested in fish welfare than catching fish. I fish very seldom fished waters and like to keep a fish or two, usually those badly hooked. But this article and the recent Facebook debate has me convinced. Thanks tim

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: