Essential Trout Flies: Hooks

April 8, 2018 By: Dave Hughes

Hook sizes in the range useful for tying trout
flies get smaller as their numbers get larger. Those
shown are standard dry-fly hooks, (from top) size
16, 14, 12, and 10.

Hooks in the size range used for trout flies get smaller as their numbers get larger, from size 2 at the largest down to size 24 at the smallest. Even-numbered hooks are used in today’s standard numbering system on our continent, for example sizes 12, 14, and 16, which happen to be the core set of sizes for trout fly hooks.

It’s possible to buy hooks in odd-numbered sizes, for example 13, 15, 17, and so on, which are more common in the U.K. and Europe, but there will be no call for them in this book. You’ll tie occasional streamers and rare big nymphs on large size 2 and 4 hooks. Most of your tying in the large range of trout flies will be on size 6, 8, and 10 hooks. Average drys, nymphs, and wet flies are tied on those core size 12, 14, and 16 hooks, because that’s the size range of the most common trout foods imitated with flies. At the small end you’ll use size 18, 20, and sometimes 22 hooks if you do much hatch-matching on the smooth currents of spring creeks and tailwaters, over selective trout feeding on tiny insects. Hooks, and flies tied on them, come both larger and smaller, but they don’t find a place in an essential set of trout flies.

Parts of a Fly Fishing Hook

Parts of a hook. Material lengths are usually related to features of the hook on which you’re tying. Examples are a tail the shank length, which would be shorter than a tail the
full hook length, and a hackle collar that is usually one and a half to two hook gaps long

Hook models are defined by the length of the shank and the diameter of wire from which that shank is made. A hook with standard wire and a standard shank length would be about right for a wet fly that you wanted to sink a few inches. Dry flies are more often tied on standard-length hooks made with light wire, nymphs on heavy-wire hooks. Streamers are tied on hooks with standard or heavy wire but extra-long shanks.

Trout Fly Hooks

Hooks of different lengths serve different purposes in tying trout flies. In general, the hooks shown (top to bottom) are used for: 1X long standard nymph and wet flies; standard length, for drys and some wets; 2X long, nymphs and drys; 3X long, streamers, nymphs, large drys; 4X long, streamers.

The variation from standard length and weight is described in Xs. A 1X short hook has a shank the length of a standard hook one size smaller. A 1X long hook has the shank of a hook one size larger. A 2X long hook has the shank length of a hook two sizes larger. A 3X long hook has a shank the length of a hook three sizes larger.

A 1X fine hook is made with wire that would be standard for a hook one size smaller, a 2X fine with wire for a hook two sizes smaller. A 1X heavy hook is made with wire standard for a hook one size larger, a 2X heavy with wire for a hook two sizes larger. A 1X fine hook is excellent for dry flies; a 2X heavy hook is good for wet flies and nymphs. (Various manufacturers refer to X-heavy hooks as X-strong or X-stout. They all refer to the same thing: a hook tied with wire standard for the next larger hook size.)

Throughout this book, hooks will be referred to in dressings by their description, such as 1X long, 2X heavy, not by specific brand name. More often, they’ll be described as standard dry fly or standard nymph, etc. Following are descriptions of hooks for the most common uses in tying an essential set of trout flies.

Dry-Fly Hooks

Hooks for Tying Nymph Flies

Hooks most commonly used for tying nymphs (top to bottom): 2X heavy curved scud hook; 1X long standard nymph; 3X long curved shank; and 3X long straight shank.

Standard dry-fly hook, as listed in dressings in this book, will refer to a hook model with a standard-length shank and 1X fine wire. Examples are the Tiemco TMC 900BL (barbless) and TMC 100; Mustad R50 (was 94840); Dai-Riki 305; Daiichi 1180 (standard wire) or 1100 (in sizes 16-24 with a slightly larger than standard eye, for ease in threading a tippet); The Fly Shop’s TFS 100.

Many dry flies tied for emergers, with the after end submerged while the front end floats, suspended by a parachute hackle or CDC wing, are tied on light-wire curved hooks, often referred to as scud hooks. Examples are Tiemco TMC 2487; Mustad C49S; Dai-Riki
125; Daiichi 1130.

You’ll find standard dry-fly hooks useful in sizes 10 through 20, curved dry-fly hooks in 14 through 20.

Nymph Hooks

Standard nymph hook in this book refers to a hook that is 1X long and 1X or 2X heavy. Examples are Tiemco TMC 3761; Mustad S82 (2X long, 3X heavy; was 3906B); Dai-Riki 060; Daiichi 1560; The Fly Shop 3761.

Many large nymphs, for example those tied to imitate Salmonfly nymphs and Golden Stones, call for 3X long, 1X or 2X heavy hooks. Examples are Tiemco TMC 5263; Mustad R73 (was 9671); Dai-Riki 710; Daiichi 1720; The Fly Shop 5263.

Nymphs tied for some scud and caddis pupa patterns call for curved shank hooks with 1X or 2X heavy wire. Examples are Tiemco TMC 2457; Mustad C068; Dai-Riki 135; Daiichi 1120; The Fly Shop 2457.

You’ll find use for standard nymph hooks in sizes 10 through 18, long-shank hooks in sizes 6 through 12, and curved hooks in sizes 12 through 18.

Wet-Fly Hooks

The standard wet-fly hook has a standard-length shank made with 1X or 2X heavy wire. Examples are Tiemco TMC 9300 (1X heavy) and TMC 3769 (2X heavy); Mustad S80; Dai-Riki 070; Daiichi 1550; The Fly Shop 3769.

To keep your initial hook purchases down, you cantie wet flies on 1X long standard nymph hooks without deleterious effect. If you tie and fish wets as much as I do, you’ll want standard wet-fly hooks in sizes 12 to 18.

Streamer Hooks

The standard streamer hook is 3X or 4X long, made with 1X or 2X heavy wire. Examples are Tiemco TMC 5263 (3X long, 2X heavy) and TMC 9395 (4X long, 3X heavy); Mustad R74 (was 9672); Dai-Riki 700; Daiichi 1720 (3X long, 1X heavy) and 1750 (4X long, 1X heavy); The Fly Shop TFS 5263 (3X long, 2X heavy) and TFS 9395 (4X long, 3X heavy).

Your streamer tying can be accomplished, for a core set of them, on hook sizes 4 through 12.


Excerpted with permission from Essential Trout Flies by Dave Hughes (Stackpole Books, 2nd Edition, October 2017).  All rights reserved.