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Salmonfly.Net Salmon and Steelhead Fly Tying Guide  In Memory of Scotty Howell In Memory of Yuri Shumakov

Salmon and Steelhead Hooks

Salmon and Steelhead Hooks

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Salmon and Steelhead Hooks

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Salmon and Steelhead Fly Tying Hook Chart

Click to open fly hook chartThere are many hook conversion charts on the web, though this may be one of the only ones with links to sites for purchase. The problem with them, however, is that like most other fishing tackle, hooks tend to change in size and shape, go out of production, or be renamed. This is not necessarily a bad thing because new technology in hook design has changed the quality of hooks, but it does make it hard to keep a hook chart current. With that in mind, click on the image to the left to open up the chart, and please notify us if you notice any dead links, that we have not noticed.

Another problem is that there are many standard naming conventions for the parts of the hook, but not every company uses the same standards. Thus, it gets a little confusing when trying to figure out whether a 1XS, for example, pertains to the length of the hook shaft, or the strength of the hook. You will see what I mean. With that also in mind, we will be using the following key to designate the size, strength, etc, of the hooks in the chart. The hook chart link above will open in a new window, so you can refer back to the key.

  • Shank: S-Standard; XS- Extra Short; XL-Extra Long
  • Weight: S-Standard; XF- Extra Fine; XH-Extra Heavy; XS- Extra Strong
  • Eye: S- Straight; TU-Turned Up;  TD-Turned Down; L- Loop; R- Ringed;
  • Bend: C- Continuous; L- Limerick; O- Oversize; SW- Sweeping; Y- York
  • Size: Sizes are listed from largest to smallest

Hooks come in so many shapes and sizes, even for tying flies, that they are too numerous to mention. There are several that are mentioned in the chart that should be discussed, though. The image to the left will give you a general idea of the parts of the hook you will see in the hook chart . The parts that are common to, and that delineate the different styles of salmon and steelhead hooks are the hook eyes, the shank, and the bend. The rest of the parts are important, of course, but you will not see them referred to in the hook chart .

Weight and Length

The weight and length of a hook are pretty self explanatory. You will see weight mentioned in the hook chart as either XF, XS, or XH, meaning extra fine, extra strong, or extra heavy. A 1XH is 1 times as heavy as a standard hook, a 1XF is finer and thus, lighter than a standard hook, and so forth. You may want to choose heavier hooks for fishing deep water and lighter for low water, so it helps to know these codes when you choose your hooks. Dry flies are also made of lighter or finer wire to allow them to float on the surface.

Eye Shape

1.   2.    3.     4.

As you can see from the diagrams above, eyes are also made for different purposes and this is only a few of the many. We'll discuss the ones you will see in the hook chart . 1. Ringed eye hooks that are not closed are usually found on cheaper hooks as a opposed to a brazed eye (closed and brazed) hook. 2. Brazed eye hooks are made that way to be stronger and less likely to cut a leader after hooking a fish. 3. & 4.  Looped eye hooks are usually not brazed because the head of the fly is tied over the end of the loop as in salmon and steelhead wet flies. Most looped eye hooks are tapered (which aids in tying a smaller, neater head), but they may also be purchased un-tapered.

Eye Curvature and Hook Bend

The York style hook with a turned up eye is probably one of the most common of the wet fly salmon/steelhead hooks. Many manufacturers, for good reason copy the style. It makes a beautiful, yet effective fly. You will also find these hooks with a straight eye, which is said to improve the hooking ability of the fly. Imagine your leader pulling a straight eye vs. a looped eye hook. The straight eye is on the same plane as the leader, therefore it theoretically will hook faster and truer.

The Bartleet hook has a sweeping bend that gives it a very beautiful, classic look. Alec Jackson Spey and Dee Hooks are made with this sweeping bend and as the name implies, they are often used to tie classic Speys and Dees. Partridge manufactures Bartleet style hooks that have for a long time been the standard for classic salmon fly tying.

The Limerick Bend hook with a turned down eye was for many years, the standard in shorter sizes for wet flies and longer sizes for streamers, but they are harder to find these days. Many of the older steelhead and salmon flies that were tied on these hooks are now tied on York or Bartleet style hooks. Pick up any salmon fly tying book over 20 years old, and you will see flies tied only on limerick style hooks. You will not see them in the newer literature.

As I mentioned earlier, hooks with a straight eye are usually used to tie flies where a better hook-set is desired. Hooks with a straight eye, a straight shank, and a continuous bend are common in salt-water flies and streamers. They are usually durable, stainless steel, or nickel-plated hooks, made to withstand harsher conditions than other salmon hooks. Take a look at the eye, though. The open-ringed varieties are not the best quality hooks for saltwater salmon flies.

Hooks with an oversized bend and hook gape have a variety of purposes. The one you see to the left is a short-shanked hook used for tying salmon egg patterns and Glo-bugs. The wider gape allows room for the materials and a for a good hook set. Other hooks with over-sized, rounded bends are often used for bead-headed or cone-headed flies. Beads or cones can be slipped over the point and barb, and over the shank to the eye of the hook. Then materials can be tied behind them.

Don't Stop Here

This discussion is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to varieties, sizes, and styles of hooks, though it covers a good majority of what you will see in Salmon and Steelhead hooks and in the hook chart . Don't stop with this discussion if you want to find out more. There are many fine books, magazine articles and Internet sources with excellent descriptions of the many hooks and their uses. One of the best places to start is the websites of the manufacturers of the hooks.


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