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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Since the super talented fly tiers on this forum don’t often list the hook size for the ties they post, I’m curious what the consensus for hook size for Spey style flies is. Is it right that they are usually tied on 1/0 or 3/0 size hooks? What is the smallest hook you will tie them on? Curious also how you are thinking about hook/pattern size as it relates to fishing location or conditions.

Thanks in advance for your responses,
BB
 

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For me, the hook has everything to do with it :)
My thought process begins with river conditions and how I want to fish, that's what determines the platform.

Sunk Fly : Whether I'm are fishing with a dry line and mono leader, or using tips or full sink line system, I want my fly to stay down and not rise. This is when I tie a fly on heavy wire hooks, referred to as "Irons". The added weight does two things, help sink the fly and keep it sunk and help stabilize the fly on the swing. Often in high water or stained conditions, I use flies with a higher profile, something that I feel the fish can key in on. Also helps to displace water, to be sensed by the fish's lateral line. These irons help balance the fly from the added hydro-dynamic pressure exerted because of the offset mass. Often a top-loaded shank will become over run by pressure and currents and will flip the fly or make it skue, that is not the preferred presentation.

On top : For obvious reasons, using light wire hooks for floating flies is preferred. A platform with less weight will only help the fly ride on top and not over power the selected materials to keep your fly where you want it. Just be selective on which hooks you choose. Often light wire hooks can straighten out on hot fish. I prefer the Daiichi 2131 Bob Veverka series. I have never had any issues with both steelhead here at home, or out east salar fishing.

Somewhere in between : This one is a bit more tricky. It's all about water type for me. Standard medium wire hooks is what I most often choose. Mostly because when I fish my favorite glides and runs, the currents are a bit quicker and I'm targeting moving fish. Therefore I want a hook that helps stabilize the fly on the swing. A bit of weight will keep that fly swinging true and on point. If I move to the softer flows, I select a fly on a light wire hook if I want that fly riding higher in the column. But these fish are holding fish and I like to think they look up more often than not.

I select fly size based on water conditions and flows and it's a confidence thing.
I will fish larger flies during cold water more often. A #1/0 is typical, however I have been known to step up to a #3/0.
For "normal" flows, typical size for me is a #2 or #4. Rarely during an east coast salar hunt, will I venture to a #6.


Mike
 

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flytie09
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I try to always list the hook used when I post. Most often I’m using a Blue Heron #2 which is equivalent to an AJ 1.5. Speys I tie are on an AJ 1.5 down to an AJ 3. If I need a smaller fly I switch to a different fly type all together like a hairwing or sparser simpler pattern.

Mike gives very good advice as well.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Thanks for your thoughtful responses; they are really helpful. I do have a couple of follow up questions:

Mike, when you are fishing higher, stained water, how do you think about the interplay of more heavily dressed flies that will have a larger profile and displace more water vs. sparser flies that will theoretically sink better because they have less drag? Are you thinking that if you size up the hook the heavier iron will offset the additional dressing? Do you ever consider the reverse when tying low water flies, i.e. sparser flies on on lighter hooks that won’t spook fish but that might sink more than you’d want because of the lack of dressing? I hope I’m making sense here.

By top-loaded shank, do you mean shank with significant dressing on top?

When you talk about your fly size selection criteria for salmon, curious if when you fish for steelhead this also hold true?

Flytie, what range of sizes are you tying your hair wings?

To both of you, when you tie the same pattern in multiple sizes, are you scaling everything in the pattern at the same rate for a smaller or larger hook size, or is there any materials or aspects of the fly that scales differently from the rest of it, or even not at all?

Do you have a preferred size for specific patterns, i.e. tying Lady Carolines on 1.5s but not 3s, or Orange Herons in 3s but not 1.5s?

Sorry if I seem at all pedantic, but it is really interesting to me to understand how you are thinking about your tying and how it relates to your fishing.

Thanks again,
BB
 

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Great questions :)
I fish steelhead here in the Greatlakes region most often. I only chase salar on the east coast possibly once a year during the fall ... haven't been in a couple years due to the fallout from covid.
My comments are based on both salmon and steelhead. However my experience with salar is solely based on fall salmon (cold water), that has been the only time that I have fished for them. I have found these fish to be very similar to steelhead in the Greatlakes region, therefore I have the same approach with fly size and selection with both species.

Top-loaded shank is what I consider to be a fly with significant materials within the wing or more so, with characteristics that would add more hydro-dynamic drag that would impact the reaction during the swing. Top mounted saddle wing flies are exempt, due to their ability to compress and allow currents to move through them. Tented style wings can offer more resistance, much like quill winged flies.

My tying style is often referred to as "reduced". I tie sparse 95% of the time, allowing for maximum sink and movement. Heavily dressed flies offer only one characteristic - profile. Other than that, the heavily dressed fly reacts like a wet sock for both casting and fishing. For this reason, I have found tying full dressed on light wire hooks to not present well. Adding mass on top of the shank with no counter balance reduces stability and keeling properties. I do dress a "fuller" fly on medium or standard wire hooks to add counter balance, these flies are for faster flows. If fishing softer water, I revert back to light wire hooks and sparsely dressed flies that allow for maximum movement. The reduced amount of materials do not upset the counter balance of the light wire hook and the drag of the swing keeps the the offering from descending.

Selecting materials for fly construction is the greatest challenge we face as thread pullers. Select and lash materials based on illusion of bulk, depth, movement, contrast and silhouette. You do not need to add mass to achieve those characteristics.

Tying for fishing is my passion. My river journey begins at my bench when designing and constructing a fly. My river time research has lead me to my methods, which has lead me to having success on the river ... the greatest factor created from my journey has been confidence. Confidence is the true key to success when selecting a fly to offer.


Mike
 

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One winter i tied up some Purple Spey's on Partridge Bartleets down to size # 8 (only one in this small size ) .All as Mike suggested/mentioned SPARCE . That #8 got me a Grilse and one Salmon about 10 lbs in mid August on the Bonaventure River . Damn, I just realized that was 32 years ago !!
 

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I agree that we don't talk about hooks here enough, but I cannot help you. You see, I haven't a clue what a spey fly is (it's a river in Scotland). I suspect you mean one of those heron hackled jobs or a Sid Glasso wet. I use a variety of 2XL, up looped eye, heavy wire hooks for those. For standard wet flies and bumbles, Mustad 3399 or 3906B. But, I also have fun turning odd hooks into useful flies, mostly to satisfy my own curiosity. As for putting fancy flies on small hooks, that's a subject for my friend Adrian (Fishnazn). Good luck.
 

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flytie09
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BB

Flytie, what range of sizes are you tying your hair wings? I tie them occasionally from a size AJ 1.5 down to a size 8. Most are on say a size 4 or so. I'm trying to make them sparser and more durable.

To both of you, when you tie the same pattern in multiple sizes, are you scaling everything in the pattern at the same rate for a smaller or larger hook size, or is there any materials or aspects of the fly that scales differently from the rest of it, or even not at all?
I don't tie a lot of the same flies in different sizes. Many times its just one of a kind. I might do 2 or three to dial in a unique pattern......but that's rare.

Do you have a preferred size for specific patterns, i.e. tying Lady Carolines on 1.5s but not 3s, or Orange Herons in 3s but not 1.5s?
I pick a pattern, grab a hook and size the materials according to the hook I've chosen and begin. I like the Blue Heron hooks. The BH #3 specifically but they are hard to come by. So I might step up to a BH #2 or I grab any number of other hooks I might have. I don't fixate too much about it. I have every fly box full and flies everywhere. I'm not really tying as a means of necessity. I have enough.

When I am on the water, the fly I choose is very much a case by case scenario based on water levels, water clarity, cloud cover, fishing pressure, water temps, flows, my personal mood, how many snags there are, etc. After analyzing this (as best I can), I will choose the type of fly I want that I think will work best. If that doesn't work....I'll play around with size or color....but for the most part.....I'm not fixating on the fly and constantly changing it every 5th cast. Whatever fly you choose it simply needs to be fished well with confidence and be in the water.


If you go back through the archives on here, there is a member flytyer with first hand and extensive knowledge of what Syd Glasso and others were using for hooks and sizes. I suggest you read through some of his postings. From there you can research the hooks he mentions and get some more insight than a hack amateur like me.

 

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This is a great thread...

Brindlebug.... You have been given some awesome advice from Mike and from flytie09. I thought I might chime in with a few thoughts and observations.

You will sometimes see posts of flies tied on slightly curved hooks with slightly long profiles.. Examples of these hooks are the Daiichi 2051 "Alec Jackson spey Fly Hook" often referred to as an "AJ". These come in sizes 7, 5, 3, 1.5, and 3/0. These are nice hooks and widely available (for now anyway). Some people like them, some people hate them.
I agree with flytie09's observation that the most useful sizes are the #3 and the #1.5. The AJ 3/0 is a very large hook, and I haven't tied a fly on it in years (or on the BH #1 for that matter).

The McNeese Blue Heron hook is similar, and again.... some people hate this hook, others love them..
They are however sized quite differently than AJs.
For example, an AJ #3 is NOT the same size as a BH #3 which can be confusing...

The AJ # 3 has no BH hook of similar size.
The AJ #1.5 is almost exactly the same size as a BH #3.
There is no AJ the same size as a BH #2...which is larger than the AJ #1.5 .
Finally the AJ# 3/0 is larger still, and virtually the same size as a BH #1.

I have attached a few pictures:
Picture 1 shows AJ's in #3, #1.5, and #3/0
Picture 2 shows the BH #2 just between the AJ #1.5 and # 3/0. This is a great hook
Picture 3 shows an AJ #1.5 and a BH #3 held perfectly together in a wine cork. It is difficult at first to see them both, but the eye of the BH is angled up less. As you can see, they are the same size, a great size to tie these flies on.


[url=ht[IMG]https://live.staticflickr.com/65535/51585391598_1be9626a6a_b.jpg[/IMG]



[URL='https://flic.kr/p/2mApsJo']


Like Mike, I also use a Daiichi 2131 #2 or #4 (the Ververka Classic salmon Hook) when tying flies smaller than this. This is a beautiful hook, with a flatter platform than the two hooks above. If you try it, keep in mind this is a light wired hook.


I think that it is important to recognize that not only each manufacturer, but also each style or series of hooks may be sized uniquely. After a while you will get to know the size of hooks you like to use.


If you like these curvy hooks, a great start would be to buy some AJ #1.5 hooks, practice your proportions, and then move on and tie up some smaller ones on AJ #3's.... these hooks are easy to come by.


If you go smaller than that, perhaps switch to some of the other classic salmon hooks mentioned.
 
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