I’m tying most of my beadhead nymphs these days on barbless jig-style hooks; certainly the heavier-weighted ones intended for use as point-flies in duo or single nymph setups, as well as the more lightly weighted nymphs used solo that might snag up in skinny water. But I’ve also been using these hooks more often lately also for nymphs with smaller beads to be fished on dropper in dual-nymph rigs and dry-dropper setups (I don’t fish nymphs with floating indicators, other than on dry-dropper rigs where the “indicator” is a fly itself – which may be shooting myself in the foot under some conditions, but I just don’t enjoy fishing this way and seem to do OK without employing that strategy).
– I’m losing fewer flies to rocks and bottom snags (tho still seem to be offering up the same percentage as a sacrifice to the fly-eating vine maples & firs that seem to overhang all the fishy spots);
– Fish are regularly hooked in the upper lip or upper corner of the mouth, a more secure location than the more delicate lower lip — helpful with trout, but especially significant in securely hooking & holding mountain whitefish (a sadly maligned species frequently encountered when bouncing nymphs on the bottom in deeper pools – a few of these in the 16-20″ range on a 2-3-wt outfit can make an otherwise sour day pretty sweet; I like to wistfully think of them as Pacific Northwest grayling);
– I can keep my fly box a bit leaner (more on that later sometime), as I’m not needing to carry similar patterns in both jig- and standard hook variations, and can focus instead on keeping on hand a range of hook- and bead-sizes, all on jig hooks, for each pattern.
– regarding barbless: easier on the fish (esp. regarding release); easier hook set with these super-sharp needles without an interfering barb; retention of all of these hooks is excellent, with their long and often curved needles. & Easier to get out of my thumb (seems to happen …). These hooks are designed to hold without barbs, with their long and often curved needles, unlike a debarbed-in-the-vice barbed hook.
We don’t need no stinkin’ barbs.
Which brings up the question, of which jig hooks to use?
Illustrated here, are hooks that I’ve personally worked with, all #14s. I’ve photographed these on paper with a 1mm grid, for ease of comparison with hooks you may be accustomed to using. I’ve missed a few, and as I discover others, I’ll add addenda to this post to cover these. I should note that Umpqua’s line of “competition” hooks are repackaged and relabeled Hanak products, including the Umpqua/Hanak 400 BL and 450 BL.
I use more #14 hooks than other sizes, so
have illustrated these here; I’ll cover other sizes in future posts. Some stonefly patterns (Like a Rolling Stone) and caddis larvae patterns (Peeking Caddis) call for larger hooks as well, in #12, 10 and a few in #8; and a few mayfly nymphs and attractors call for smaller #16-18. All of the hooks illustrated here are available in #14-#8, and a few offer smaller sizes as well; I’ll run a comparison of the smaller sizes (#s 16, 18), and the hooks I use in my smaller jig-style nymphs, in future posts.
All of these hooks are sharp, hold up well in use, fish well, and look good under a dressing (important, as the fly that catches fish is the one you keep tied to your tippet).
I tie on all of these hooks; I do have some favorites though, & tie most of my nymphs on the Hanak 450BL, the Dohiku HDJ, and the Fulling Mill 35045 (the top 3 in the upper illustration). Do I need all these different hooks? No. Having tied on all of these, I’d be content if I were restricted to any one of them, in a range of sizes principally from #10-#16, focussing on #14. I’d be most content if this were the Hanak 450 BL, the Dohiku HDJ or the Fulling Mill (Hayabasu) 35045 with their wide gapes and long, curved needles; as I slowly use up my inventory of #14s, the first two of these will be the hooks I restock.
Dohiku HDJ hook –
These are insanely sharp, with a long curved needle that penetrates well and seems to avoid snagging in use. This and the Hanak 450 BL, below, are rapidly becoming my standard hooks for #14-#16 jig-style patterns, with 2.5-3.5 mm beads. The wire on the Dohiku HDJ hooks is a tad finer than that of some of these others; a hard snag can bend these, so be certain to check (as you should anyway) after retrieving from a snag.
Hanak 450 BL
These have an exceptionally wide gape, and very sharp long curved needle, with heavier wire than the Dohiku HDJ. I’m particularly fond of the wider gape on these, especially on my bulkier #14s & esp.#16 flies.
The Hanak 470BL is new on the market. I’ve just started tying on these, & have yet to get one wet. Comes well-recommended for good hooking penetration & holding power.
Fulling Mill (Hayabasu) 35045
A good hook – similar to the Hanak 450 BL, of similar weight; the curved needle is slightly shorter and gape nearly as wide.
Hanak 400 BL
Troutline (Demmon) ST300 BL
Akita AK 651 B
The gape on these three hooks is not so wide as the Dohiku, Hanak 450 or Fulling Mill hooks,
but these have long curved needles and excellent hooking/retaining properties. I use these hooks more commonly in their larger sizes, #12-8, where gape is not as significant an issue, and on leaner, thread- or quill-bodied #14s. I find these particularly suited to longer-bodied patterns, such as the Peeping Caddis, in sizes 12-8.
The Tiemco TMC 403 BLJ is a very nice hook, but is considerably more expensive than the others considered here; I don’t perceive anything it brings to the table to justify spending the extra for it. It is a tad smaller than the other 14s listed here, while still larger than their #16s.
The Hends BL154,
and FishOn 90º jig
represent a recent trend to produce jig hooks with the eye turned in the horizontal (perpendicular to the plane of the bend of the hook), rather than the vertical, plane. This is apparently of concern in the competitive circuit (not of interest to me, tho adherence to such regulations may be important for others – check your regs if so). I don’t perceive any distinct advantages or disadvantages of this hook geometry in ordinary use, but personally have a slight preference for having the eye in a vertical plane for ease of threading. Just a small personal preference, others may well find otherwise, and I do tie on these hooks as well as on those with vertical eyes. The Dohiku SPR is constructed of lighter wire than the SP, & is marketed “for smaller fish”. Finer wire = easier hookset, but the SP is an insanely sharp hook to begin with.
A number of suppliers provide theses European-designed hooks; I commonly obtain mine from:
Performance Flies (Kevin Compton; Pennsylvania)
Blue Quill Angler (Colorado)
Unique Flies (UK)
Tungsten-Beads Plus (UK)
Flies Factory (Czech)
FishOn Productions (UK)