Written by: Shawn Brillon
You may love competition fly fishing, you may hate the idea, or you may be indifferent to it. The one thing I think we can all agree on is that competitive fly fishing has added flies, techniques, and equipment that has challenged the status quo and made fly fishing that more diverse and interesting. Some of the more useful artifacts to come out of competitive flying are new hook styles. We have developed an exclusive line of Tactical Hooks, but they are definitely not just for competitive fishing.
We love these new hooks, and our guides and fly tiers have gone crazy over them. When I first started getting samples for testing over a year ago, guides who found out about them drove me crazy, and I had to ration them out to people who I knew would give them the best evaluation. Now that we have them in stock, it’s not so bad, but I am working on developing some new styles—and don’t ask me for any. You know who you are.
Competitive anglers, who need to catch the most fish in a limited time, need to hook every fish they catch but need to get them off the hook quickly once netted so they can get their fly back in the water. You may not care about catching piles of fish, but I bet you also like to hook nearly every fish that takes your fly, and you like to get them off the hook and released with as little handling as possible. The hooks are barbless, with a long and very sharp claw point, so not only do they hook and hold well, but they are especially designed to hook trout firmly when you’re using light tippets. The black finish has a stealth effect, and the shape of these hooks lends itself well to the grub-like flies preferred by competitive anglers. Plus the wide gape and short shank allows you to get a bigger hook for sink rate and holding fish, with the profile of a smaller fly.
All of these hooks have a similar look, and many people have trouble identifying which hook they should use for certain fly patterns. I’ll give you a little detail on each hook and the fly styles I prefer on each one.
Tactical Jig Hook
Jig hooks have become wildly popular for tying deep-sinking nymphs. The jig-hook profile, when combined with heavy wire or a slotted tungsten bead, sinks quickly but is less likely to snag than a normal hooks because of the way the fly rides along the bottom. All kinds of nymph patterns can be used on this hook style, but this is the hook to use for those flies you want to get really deep. A good idea when using this hook is to tie your fly sparsely, because any bulk to the fly itself will hinder sink rates.
Tactical Heavyweight Hook
This is the best hook for getting nymphs down deep, with or without a bead, and the shape of this hook works best with bigger mayfly and stonefly nymphs. 3X-heavy wire means that compared to a standard size 12 wet fly hook, this hook has the wire diameter of a size 9 hook (halfway between an 8 and a 10). It has a classic sproat bend, so it looks better with more traditional nymph styles.
Tactical Wide Gape Hook
This hook is my hands-down favorite for emergers because it is 3X-short. This means that when I tie on a size 14 hook, I get the holding power of a size 14 hook but the shank length and profile of a size 17 fly. Perfect for tying PMD emergers! It has a slightly finer wire, so you can also tie dry flies on this hook, giving you, again, a smaller fly with the biting power of a bigger hook.
Tactical Czech Nymph Hook
This one is the classic European nymphing hook that started it all, and is the perfect hook for grubs, larvae, and pupae imitations. It has a continuous bend, so you can achieve the curled, natural-looking shape of many insect larvae as they drift. I also like to tie some of my emergers on this hook, and I can tell you from experience it makes a killer hook for tying Klinkhammers.
Hooks are such the most important part of the fly tying materials we use. Not only are they responsible for hooking and holding fish, the right hook style has a big effect on how the finished fly looks and what its proportions will be. Plus as a fly tier, I just take pride in tying my flies on such elegant little pieces of wire.