Tying Soft Hackle Flies

A Sampling of Hooks for Soft Hackled Flies

A Sampling of Hooks for Soft Hackled Flies

The first choice you have to make when you sit at your vice to tie a soft hackle fly is which hook to use. I have to confess that I am not OCD when it comes to hooks. I tend to use what I have at hand and don’t stress about it. If the fish don’t care about that barbed, curved piece of metal sticking out the back, I doubt if they will consider the shape of the bend or the thickness of the wire. But I believe there are times where those things may make a difference in how well a fly floats or sinks, or how well it stays in the film.

There are any number of hooks from which to choose. Every brand has their own version of a wet fly hook. The hooks pictured above just happen to be in my hook boxes at this time. Click on it to see it full sized and better compare the hooks.They are all size 14 to make the comparison fair.

All things considered, I like a Sproat bend on my soft hackles. I think that shape works the best on swinging flies. Do I have any tests or proof? No. Just one guys opinion. By the way, did you know the term “Sproat bend” comes from W. H. Sproat, the hook maker credited with developing the shape in the 1860’s?

While I write this, March of 2013, my preferred hook is the Daiichi 1530. I really like the heavy wire. Although the package says it is 2x strong and 1X short, when I put them together, they look the same length, but the 1530 appears to have a bigger gape. For use as an emerger or spinner, the 1550 is lighter and may stay in the film better. It is a very nice hook also.

I’ve caught a lot of fish on the Mustad 3906, but I’ve missed a number also. The gape of the hook seems small to me. The longer version, 3906b is also ok, but looks too long for your typical soft hackle fly. Better for a bead head version.

The Mustad 3399 is the classic wet fly hook used for traditional wet flies. It has a large gape and nice Sproat bend. I have a lot of confidence in it and use it on my winged wets. But it would be fine on soft hackles also.

TMC makes fine hooks. But for soft hackles, they are not my favorites. I don’t care for the round bend in their nymph/wet fly hooks. The 3769 looks too long for my taste. I pictured the TMC 100 for comparison sake. The light wire of the 100 makes it good for soft hackles you want to keep on the surface or in the film. But I would still prefer the standard wire Daiichi 1550 for that purpose.

I also included TMC 2488. This nice little hook is described as Straight Eye, 3X Wide, 2X Short, Curved Shank, Fine Wire hook. I’ve used it for a number of emerger patterns and really like it. Soft hackles on it are non-traditional, but they catch fish. You should try some and see if you like the look and if they catch fish for you too.

There are lots of other hooks to use and I believe all of them will catch fish. But I think staying with one or two hooks at first will improve your consistency and skill. After you are comfortable with soft hackle patterns, then branch out into other hooks and creating your own flies. There is no limit you your choices. Have a lot of fun at the vice.

Coming up next: The body material.


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