Years ago, decades I guess, I learned to turn my own bugs at the same time as I learned to toss them. The two skills went hand in hand for me. And tying my own flies did save money. Don’t let anyone tell you that it doesn’t. If you keep the patterns to a minimum, and you fish a lot, you’ll break even very quickly.
But as I bought my first half-dozen boxes of hooks, I encountered the confusing, confounding and ridiculous world of fly tying hooks. There were just a few brands available at the time, and the fly shop guys explained right away that there was no set standard for sizing. So a #10 Mustad was a little shorter than the TMC equivalent. Likewise, this was the expectation for wire diameters, gap length and more — no consistency between brands. Furthermore, there was no list available with the actual measurements for each hook and each manufacturer. Instead, every hook builder used the X system.
So I learned what 1X strong and 3X long meant. But would a 2X gap be the same between brands? Nope. That was expecting too much, I suppose.
I remember feeling buried by all the nomenclature for a while. And I took the advice of my fly shop friend behind the counter to stick with one brand — the numbers would start to become familiar, he said. That was good advice, and the model numbers surely did become familiar, but they never made sense. What the hell is a 3906B anyway? Well, it’s a 3X strong wet hook that is also 1X longer than the standard 3906— with a sproat bend. And yes, that’s kind of a silly choice for a call number. I’m sure it made sense to some Mustad engineer, but to the world of fly tyers — the target audience for these hooks, it only served to confuse.
TMC100. Now that made a little more sense. And maybe that’s why I was attracted to those hooks for my dry flies. They were a little pricier but were damn strong for a lighter wire. And they were the first chemically sharpened hooks that I’d bought. There was a difference.
When the internet changed everything, the availability of other hook brands stared all of us in the face. I bought Daiichi, Gamakatsu, DaiRiki (I miss those), Umpqua, and a multitude of off-brands or cheaper alternatives that claimed to be just as good as the expensive hooks. None of them ever were, and none of them ever are. But I’ve learned the hard way, every time. You will pay for cheap hooks, eventually. The inferior metal will bend on a good fish or it will shear off and break under the strain of the best fish in your lifetime. As that swimming tank rounds the corner in the current and you lower your rod tip . . . snap. Goodbye trout. Damn you, cheap hooks.
Amusingly, most of the lousy hook brands seem to take on the random number generator approach to most of their offerings too. Maybe there’s some logic in there for model number choices, but most of us don’t see it. If there is a reason for the numbers, how about sharing that information, so we can all make the connection? Actually, that brings me to my most pressing point . . .
Years ago, we all gave up on any idea that there might be an industry standard developed for what a #10 hook is. That’s not coming. I have hoards of hook boxes laying around because I bought the wrong size. Or more specifically, I bought the same size as the other brand, but tried a different model in a second brand. Wrong size. Do you know how frustrating that is? Yes, you probably do.
So, if there will be no industry standard on sizing and strength for hooks (and there won’t be), can we at least have the dimensions for each hook that we’re sold? Give us the measurements: hook length, wire diameter, gap width. Why is this so hard?
Given the proliferation of hook brands — many of high quality — this seems the only logical thing to do. Give your buyer the information. Tell them what they are buying. This is the information age, friends! Yes, we can handle this!
I brought this up with a friend yesterday who cynically reasoned that companies don’t give out those stats because they don’t want to be held to a standard on what wire diameter, for example, their 1X nymph hook is. Sadly, I think he might be onto something. I’ve bought hook packs that were clearly different measurements than the previous pack that I’d bought a year earlier, and these were from reputable companies.
I understand more why the cheaper companies and the knock off brands won’t provide the measurements. Because they don’t manufacture their own hooks. They source their hooks from sometimes multiple manufacturers, so quality and consistency is not a hallmark. But longtime, leading companies can certainly build hooks to persistent specs. So why not list those?
Surely I’m not the only fly tyer who wants to see this. Right? Or am I so far down in the weeds here, that I don’t realize that no one else really cares about hook dimensions?
I looked around. I talked to fly shop managers. I emailed companies, and I received similar replies:
— We don’t make that information available to the public.
— The hook specifications that you are requesting are not listed for the consumer.
— Those dimensions are a company secret.
I disagree with this. A lot.
Hook dimensions are not proprietary information. It’s not a secret sauce or recipe that we’re asking for. It’s the mere dimensions of what we are being offered to buy. We are not asking for the specifics to the metal alloy or the tempering process. It’s the size of the damn things.
These dimensions are, of course, measurable for anyone who has the hooks in hand. So how much of a secret can this be?
I believe that since there is no industry agreed upon standard for what the measurements of each hook size should be, then every company should provide information about what they are selling.
In my search, I came across just one manufacturer that lists the specifications for each hook.
Thank you, Ahrex.
For this alone, I’m buying and tying on more Ahrex hooks. If there’s another manufacturer out there that I missed, who actually lists their products with measurements like this, please let me know. And I’ll support them too.
I think we can have nice things. We can handle good information. So give us the hook dimensions!
Fish hard, friends.
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