I realize it’s hypocritical for most fly fisherman to speak of minimalism, unless you’re a Tenkara angler and even then I’d wager you have more than one rod and one fly. I’m no different; I tie, carry and fish several pheasant tail nymph variations with the most minor changes in legs or flash assuming the discerning fish will recognize the difference. So my hook assortment is more an exercise of moderation (in type, not volume) than simplicity. The amount of hooks to choose from is overwhelming; straight or down eye, heavy or light, standard length or 1, 2 or 3x, black or bronze, then you match those variables to type; nymph, dry, wet, streamer, hopper, popper….you get the idea. While I understand the need for specialized hooks (in specialized cases), I think we get carried away at times. To simplify my tying I narrowed my hooks to one style per type with some playing double duty.
- Nymph/Wet: 12-22 (If I need a longer shank I use a small streamer hook - if I need it smaller I use a dry fly hook)
- Dry: 12-24 (If I need something bigger I use a hopper)
- Scud: 10-18 (Doubles as curved caddis)
- Streamer: 2-12
- Hopper: 6-14 (Doubles as a curved nymph hook)
Unless you are using exotic materials, hooks are the most expensive component of a fly. I control my cost by limiting my selection and buying high quality affordable hooks. The advertisement in Fly Tyer priced the hook at 28 cents, calculated out that is $7 for a pack 25 hooks. I found two great resources where you pay the same amount for 100 hooks. Allen Fly Fishing and Fly Shack both offer high quality hooks for great prices. There may be differences between a 28 cent and a 7 cent hook, but it can’t be 4 times better, can it? That said I tie and fish these hooks exclusively and have never had one fail. It’s like my education, I didn't go to a state school, spent 4 times as much and I am not sure I got a better education. Remember, more money for school means less for beer. Same with fly fishing; more money on hooks means less for gear. Fly tying is one of my favorite parts of fly fishing and I tie hundreds of flies a year. I wouldn't be able to do so if I was paying $7 for 25 hooks. If you’re like me you experiment with patterns and I don’t mind wasting hooks on a few prototypes when the cost is so minimal. Not to mention those lost in a day fishing. I’m all for supporting your local fly shops and this is not a paid endorsement, but the next time you need hooks check out Allen Fly Fishing or Fly Shack and get a hundred of your favorite style. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised. Worst case scenario is you spent less dialing in that super-secret nymph pattern you’ve been working on before tying them on your high priced hooks. The day my affordable hooks become “cheap” I’ll let you know, but for now my motto is tie more, spend less.