Part Nine

Check Your Hooks
By George E. Emanuel

One of the dumbest things I have ever done was to tie a beautiful fly on a hook whose point fell off upon being removed from my vice. And while I am some what humbled to admit it here for the world to see, it is true.

But, I can assure you that the scenario has not played out a second time since that very early beginning.

Before you pick up a bobbin, or even mount the hook in your vice, you should always do the following:

  • 1. Make sure the eye is fully closed.

  • 2. Check the point, make sure it is there and looks right.

  • 3. Look at the bend, is it formed properly?

  • 4. Check to see if the hook is really sharp.

    When you get to step number 4, you should try holding the point at a slight angle against your thumb nail and see if it slides across your nail, or digs in with very, very little pressure. If it slides, it isn't sharp. If it isn't sharp it may cost you a fish.

    Personally, I sharpen all of my hooks, right after I smash the barbs down with a pair of pliers I use just for that purpose. These pliers have smooth faces, as opposed to the serration's that you will find on most needle nose pliers. The later can leave little nicks in the metal, which may cause the barb or bend to break later, or might even cut that 8X tippet that you went blind threading through the eye.

    Also coming straight in from the front of the hook with the pliers will put very little stress on the point, and the barb will smash very nicely forming a bump on the shank, not unlike a barbless hook.

    To sharpen the hooks a finger nail file with the "diamond" type dust surface does a great job on freshwater hooks, while a somewhat larger and more aggressive file is employed on saltwater types.

    I personally prefer a diamond type sharpening pattern, but you may feel free to follow the manufacturers style if you chose. Most of them are a triangle sort of shape.

    Now for those of you who are using "chemically" sharpened, and others of the "super hook" variety, I have a simple question. When you hit a rock on the stream bed, or drag your hook along a sandy bottom, or have caught several fish, or have snagged some structure. Do you then sharpen your hooks?

    If you answered yes to the above, then you should be asking yourself, "if I can sharpen a hook in the field, why am I paying some clown a ton of money to sharpen it before I even tie on a fly?"

    I like the plain old Mustad bronze hooks just fine. They sharpen in a jiffy, they are well made, they catch fish, and they are a bargain! Am I missing something?

    Now, OK, I may well give you the point that occasionally a bad hook will get into my box, but isn't that why I look them over before I tie?

    Those of you who are tying for saltwater, and using stainless steel hooks, consider the following: Stainless steel is quite difficult to sharpen, as compared to a cadmium plated hook. They are much more expensive than plated hooks. And if you break off a fish, or hook a fish so deeply that hook extraction is not possible, they take a very, very long time to dissolve, during which time your "released" fish may well die.

    Now you may experience some rusting on cadmium plated hooks, but usually only after they have been used, and hopefully, you caught fish. I can't speak for you, but I would happy to catch only one fish with every fly I tie. I can tie a lot of flies!

    The real tip this week, "get back to the basics" no matter how "advanced" you may be!

    If you have any tips or techniques, send them along, most of this material has been stolen from somebody, might as well steal your ideas too! ~ George E. Emanuel (Chat Room Host Muddler)

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