Salmon Fly Hooks


Hook Choice for Salmon Flies

by John Gray

Salmon Fly Hooks


Trout flies, by and large, have traditionally been dressed on single fly hooks, commonly up-eyed hooks for dry fly fishing and down-eyed for wet flies. Fly hooks have come in various shapes, sizes and weights .... Limerick bend, Sproat bend, Captain Hamilton, Model Perfect, to mention only a few of the traditional styles.  Today, fly tyers have a very wide range of hooks from which to choose, each designed to suit a particular style of fly, imitative pattern or application. The hook bend may be wide or narrow, of fine, medium or heavy wire. The hook point on such fly hooks may be either straight or offset. In theory, the offset bend offers more efficient hooking potential but, in practice, most single fly hooks, regardless of design, will work very well and hook trout efficiently. With the exception of wee doubles, once popular on Scottish lochs, trout flies are rarely dressed on anything other than single hooks.

Sea Trout Fly Hooks

Fly hook choice for migratory species such as sea trout and salmon is not quite so straightforward. In sea trout fishing, single hooks are still used extensively, both for daytime and night fishing, and very effective they are, too, but many sea trout fishers favour double hooks or treble hooks, used either as dressed flies or, more often, attached to one of a whole variety of specialist night fishing lures such as snakes, needle flies, Waddington lures or tube flies. For sea trout, I like to keep things as simple as possible. I generally only fish for sea trout at night. Flies for night fishing can range from flies dressed on singles as small as size 16 to long fish imitating lures of up to six inches. I, however, rarely use anything smaller than a size 10 single or longer than two and a half inches, the longer lures usually simply and sparsely dressed on a needle or tube, armed with a small double or treble hook. For flies up to about an inch long, I tend to use single hooks. My favourite hooks are Partridge Captain Hamilton in size 8 and Partridge Saltwater Perfect, also in size 8. The Captain Hamilton is a down eyed hook. The Saltwater Perfect hook has a straight eye, which is perfectly fine for fly tying. I tend to turn the eye down slightly before use. There may be no scientific logic in this whatsoever but I have the impression that the knot is less likely to slip to the side when fishing, and the fly lie at an angle, if the eye is turned down. I wouldn't worry too much, though, whether a fly hook has a straight eye, down eye or upturned eye. One benefit of an up turned eye, on a salmon hook in particular, is that it facilitates the tying of the popular Turle knot, which helps the fly lie straight in line with the leader. The Saltwater Perfect hook is a well made hook, slightly longer in the shank than a standard hook and with a nice silvery black nickel finish. With no body dressing, it makes for very simply dressed, fish imitating flies.

Like many sea trout fishermen, I also like
tube flies for night fishing. Flies for sea trout can be dressed on all kinds of tubes, home made or otherwise, in plastic, aluminium, brass, copper, steel etc., allowing us to make tubes of all shapes, sizes and weights each for a different purpose and for fishing on or near the surface, often in the early part of the night, or near the river bed, usually later in the night, although there are no hard and fast rules and practices will vary greatly from one river to another and from one part of the country to another.

As sea trout cannot distinguish colours at night any more than we can, we need not worry too much about the colour of our sea trout night flies, except for their tonal qualities. Different colours will be seen as varying shades of grey. It might be reasonably argued that a simple black fly, dressed on a silver hook or tube, will be as effective as anything for sea trout at night. My favourite sea trout lures are now dressed very simply, in a variety of lengths, on Needle Tubes, ultra slim stainless steel tubes with an outside diameter of only 1.5 mm. Being made from polished stainless steel, the kind used in the making of hypodermic needles, needle tube flies sink more readily than aluminium tube flies but fish a little higher, and more attractively, than the heavier copper and brass tubes. Needle Tube Flies would have a comparable sink rate and similar slim profile to flies dressed previously on Waddington shanks, but with the important benefit that the hook is easily changed on the needle tube fly. Needle tubes are also much easier to dress than Waddington or snake lures.

Salmon Fly Hooks

Salmon fly fishing is associated with yet another range of specialist flies and fly hooks. For a long time, throughout the nineteenth century and most of the twentieth century, single hooks were the popular choice for salmon flies. The art of the salmon fly dresser reached its height in the Victorian era, when the earlier rather drab Scottish fly patterns of William Scrope (e.g. Meg in her Braws, Kinmont Willie) were supplanted by a flood of highly complex and exotic creations (Jock Scott, Silver Doctor, Dusty Miller, Mar Lodge), some dressed on very large hooks for fishing the high and cold waters of early Spring. The popularity of these gaudy patterns continued into the twentieth century when they were gradually modified, simplified and supplemented by simpler salmon flies. First the low water style of fly dressing was applied to earlier patterns (Logie, Jeannie, Blue Charm). Then, particularly from the 1950's, began the development of the modern hairwing salmon fly (Hairy Mary, Garry, Stoat's Tail, Munro's Killer), which we know so well today. Double and treble fly hooks are now favoured by many salmon fly fishermen, in preference to the traditional single hooked patterns. In recent years, there have been many developments in salmon fly design, largely based on the use of tubes of different shapes, sizes and materials. Because the use of tubes allows the hook - single, double or treble, barbed or barbless - to be changed when required or when damaged, this adds greatly to the versatility and durability of a salmon or sea trout fly. Most of my salmon flies are now dressed, in varying lengths, on fine stainless steel needle tubes, creating a fly with a similar weight and profile to a fly dressed on low water double, but much more durable, as the hook can easily be replaced when damaged. See also Tube Flies

Salmon Tube Fly Hooks

Salmon Tube Flies can be used with single, double or treble hooks. Indeed, a variety of hooks are now sold, by companies such as Loop, Partridge, Fulling Mill and Ken Sawada, specifically for use with tube flies.

If using a well made treble hook, with all arms of the treble of equal weight, the positioning of the treble will make no difference to the way the fly swims. The treble hook will be in a state of balance, and equally stable, no matter how the arms of the hook lie and will have no natural tendency to rotate to reach a particular position. A treble hook, either dressed or attached to a tube fly, will swim naturally with the bulkiest/most buoyant materials on top.

The attachment of single and double hooks will be more influential in determining the way the fly swims. An undressed single or double hook will, as a rule, tend to swim naturally, and will be most stable, with hook points up. So, when attaching a single or double hook to the rear of a tube fly, it would be advisable to connect it with the hook points uppermost, i.e. hook points towards the bulkiest, most buoyant side of the tube. This will add to the stability of the tube fly, reducing any tendency for the fly to swim upside down or on its side. Other benefits of setting the double or single hook with the points uppermost are a) the hair wing cannot become caught up on the underside of the fly and b) in the Autumn, the hair wing acts to an extent as a weed guard, reducing the likelihood of leaves being hooked while fishing.

The various possibilities - a salmon fly dressed on a slim needle tube, fitted with single, double and treble hooks - are illustrated below ....

salmon tube fly with single hook salmon tube fly with single up facing hook

single hook - point down

single hook - point up

salmon tube fly with double hook salmon tube fly double hook with points up

double hook - points down

double hook - points up

salmon tube fly with treble hook
Undressed single or double hooks will tend to swim with hook points uppermost. If connected in this way to tube flies, with the hook points on the side with the greatest bulk/ most buoyant materials, then the fly will be more stable while fishing, with less tendency to swim upside down or on its side. Also, with the hook points uppermost, the hair wing cannot get caught up on the underside of the tube, as it can with hook points down. See also Salmon Fly Selections

treble hook





Trout Fly

Trout Wet Fly



Sea Trout Needle Tube Fly

Sea Trout Needle Tube Fly



Single Salmon Flies

Traditional Salmon Flies



Double hooked salmon flies

Modern Salmon Fly Doubles



HMH Tube Fly Tool



Grays of Kilsyth

Salmon Flies

Trout Flies

Fly Fishing Knots

Salmon Fishing Scotland

Trout Fishing Scotland

Sea Trout Fishing

Sea Trout Flies

Tube Flies

The Tube Fly Shop

Salmon Recipes

 Slim stainless steel salmon and sea trout flies





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