When I first started tying flies, I put very little thought into the anatomy of the hooks I used. I grabbed whatever I could find, and as long as the hook had a point and fit in my vise I was happy. But I quickly learned how important the right hook was on a saltwater fly. It had to be resistant to corrosion, sharp, reliable, and of adequate shape and size to compliment the materials and action of the fly. I also learned that regardless of their quality all hooks require sharpening sooner or later, and knowing how to correctly sharpen a hook is a fundamental angling skill. Over the years I have used many different hooks but I keep coming back to a few that have become my favorites. Here are a few of those hooks and why I like them.
The Tiemco 800S is a heavy wire stainless steel hook with a short shank, large gap, and slightly upturned point. One look at the 800S and you know it means business. The 800S is a high quality and heavy duty hook (needle sharp out of the box) with a large barb and the strength to subdue the strongest inshore fish you can find. It has a large eye that will accommodate oversized bite tippets with ease. The 800S is a good choice for large streamers, sinking patterns, sliders, or flies with designs that require a "keel" effect from the hook. When tying flies on the 800S, anglers should remember that although the heavy wire and solid stature of this hook make it seriously tough, they also make it heavy. The 800S lands with a moderate thud and therefore is a poor choice for flies requiring delicate or soft presentations to spooky fish. The 800S is available in sizes 2 to 8 and a 25-count pack costs around $12.00.
Gamakatsu SL45 Bonefish
The Gamakatsu SL45 Bonefish hook is a strong, thin-wired hook with a standard-sized shank and gape, and an incredibly sharp hook point oriented parallel to the shank. The SL45 has a slick black finish and unlike many other saltwater hooks the wire is actually plated high carbon steel rather than stainless. This means the SL45 is very stiff and strong in relation to its weight. The SL45 was designed specifically for bonefish, which demand a small and light but very strong hook. But it's also a great hook for fly patterns used on the Texas flats. The black SL45 blends nicely with dark-colored wing materials and has become my hands-down favorite hook for black drum flies. The SL45 hook is available in sizes 4 to 8 and a 12-count pack costs around $3.50.
The Mustad 34007 is a standard-sized stainless steel hook. It is one of the most widely available and commonly selected hooks for inshore saltwater flies. There are two reasons for this- performance and price. Although the 34007 is relatively inexpensive, it does many things well. It is an ideal hook for most redfish flies, short poppers, and Clouser Minnows. And, the 34007 can be safely bent and shaped with pliers, turning it into a suitable hook for spoonfly patterns. The only weak features of the 34007 are its crude barb and fairly dull point which always requires an initial sharpening (except for the "Z Signature Series" version which has a small barb and needle point). A typical 50-count box of 34007 hooks usually contains 1 or 2 shag hooks that look like they went through the press sideways, but I still tie most of my fly patterns on this hook and I like its simple no-frills design. The 34007 is easy to re-sharpen and has a reliability I have come to trust. Although I have bent a few of them up on rocks and big fish over the years, I have never had a 34007 rust, break, or otherwise let me down. The 34007 is available in sizes 8 to 2/0 and a 50-count pack costs around $10.00.
The Mustad 34011 is the long-shank version of the 34007. Like the 34007, the 34011 is stainless, economically priced, and yes it requires sharpening. The 34011 hook is a good choice for bendbacks, long streamers, big shrimp patterns, Crease Flies, pencil poppers, and Gurglers. Fly tyers who stock up on the 34011 along with the 34007 are essentially outfitted to tie nearly any inshore saltwater fly pattern. The 34011 hook is available in sizes 6 to 3/0 and a 50-count pack costs around $14.00.
Remember to put some thought into the hooks you choose for saltwater fly tying. Don't skimp. Selecting the right hook is crucial to getting solid, consistent hook-ups and good hooks are fundamental in achieving the right action, longevity, and overall success of any fly pattern you tie.