Publisher's Note: The following is a reply to a question on hook standardization posted on our bulletin Board back on October 14th, 2002. Perhaps it will help you in your fly tying.
Well Pete, you sure have stirred up a hornets nest here. . .
The simple answer is that there is NO standardization with regards to hook sizes. Each manufacturer has their own ideas on sizing. Often, the only time that you will see similar hooks from mfr to another equal is when one company is knocking off anothers pattern. This happens all the time with all the mfr's. Some mfr's even go as far as to use the same model number for their hook with a letter or extra number added.
The problem with trying to generalize hook sizes is that each mfr uses different specifications to base their hooks on. For example, what Mustad considers a 2X long streamer hook may be considered a IX long (or 3X long) by another mfr. Now, this inconsistency between mfr's is compounded by the inconsistencies within a mfr's offerings. If you were to take a "standard" length dry fly hook and measure the length of each hook from the largest to the smallest size you would be surprised. We at Mustad have done this with competitors hooks and we found a lot of inconsistencies. When you went up in size, the length increased by 7%, then 4%, then 14%, then 9% and so on. In theory, when you go up or down in size the tying length and wire diameter should increase/decrease proportionally.
When it comes to hook gap the same issues are present. In general however, if you want a hook with a wider gap, go for a hook that is IX (or more) shorter. This gives you a hook with a wider gap. A size 12 IX short hook will have a wider gap than a size 12 with standard length. A 2X hook would have an even wider gap (proportionally).
So, you have say, a Tiemco hook. Size 4 Salmon/Steelhead hook. You want to find the Mustad, Partridge or Daiichi equivalent. The only real way to do this is be able to physically look at the hooks. A Tiemco #4, will not have the same proportions as a Mustad or Daiichi and so on and so on. Yes, it certainly is frustrating. Hook making is a secretive business. Each manufacturer has their own "top secret" hook making machines. They have their own ideas and opinions on just what a hook should look like. There are some exceptions to this however. There are a few Japanese "Hook Manufacturer's" who are merely distributors. They buy their hooks from the same manufacturer as a few others. In these cases, the sizes and shapes will be identical.
It certainly would make life easier if there was some standardization within the industry but don't hold your breath. I can tell you that the Mustad Signature series hooks are standardized. Every hook within the Signature series is based off one master set of specifications. So, when you go up or down in size, the wire diameter, hook gap and tying length increase/decrease proportionally. If you want a 2X strong, standard length hook you can go with the R70 (2X strong, standard length). If you wanted the same wire, but 2X longer the R72 (2X strong, 2X long) would be the one. If you compare the hooks side by side, the R70 and R72 match each other by size on wire diameter and gap. It took a great deal of time to standardize a series of hooks. We will never see standardization between all the hook manufacturer's.
Just look at fly rod ratings. That was standardized but you can pick up a 4WT from five different mfr's and they all may handle a 3WT line differently.
My suggestion is to try and get catalogs from each of the mfr's and you can then compare hooks from one mfr to another. I'm not sure what's available from the other mfr's out there, but I can tell you that Mustad & Partridge have catalogs that show each hook size in every pattern in actual size. That makes life much easier when comparing brands and determining the style and size of the hook. This certainly can be frustrating and I know I have talked to many tiers at shows who were struggling with cross-referencing hooks.
Hope this sheds some light on the issue. . . ~ Jeff Pierce, (Dr.Fish) If it has fins and swims than I must chase it!
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