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Fly Tying Step by Step – Hooks #1 – Which Brand? What Size?

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I’m sure that some who read this blog are going to think this is the dumbest topic in the world, but I’m going to write about it anyway. I’ve had an idea for some time of working back through all the things I learned when I was learning to tie flies. Things that are obvious now. One of these days, I’ll have enough material for a video, then I’ll turn this into a video series.

Selecting Hook Type

Silver fish hook with barb isolated/Fish hook/Fishing hook isolated on white

One of the first things I ran into was selecting hooks. If you take a look at Charlie Craven’s recipe for a Copper John, you’ll notice that he uses a TMC 5262 hook for the CJ. Other sites might specify a Daiichi or Mustad hook number. So what IS a TMC 5262. Here’s one of the most useful cross-references I’ve found. In order to use it, you’ll need a bit of information:

  • TMC is made by Tiemco
  • MC is normally a Mustad hook
  • Daiichi hooks are sometimes referenced with a D such as D1710 (which is what you’d have to use in a Daiichi brand for this fly, according to the table).

So let’s figure out what a CJ is tied on. On the cross reference, we select Tiemco and look for the 5262 (Ctrl-F in your browser brings up search). When you find the 5262, you’ll see the following information:

Streamer/Nymph – Shank – 2XL (2x Long), Weight -2XH (2x Heavy), Eye – TD (Turned Down), Bend – P (Perfect or round)

Notice also that there are no equivalents to this in any of the other brands. Suppose that you have some Daiichi hooks and want to substitute the closest thing. The SHANK and BEND are going to have the most influence on your tying. If you use a SHORTER shank like an S (Standard) or 1XL (1x Long), you won’t have as much space on the shank to tie the fly. If you use a LONGER shank like a 3XL (3x Long), you might have too much room on the shank. Generally, I’d choose a LONGER shank rather than a SHORTER shank.

So if we want to substitute a Daiichi, we might choose the 1710 which is Shank – 2XL, Weight – S (Standard),  Eye – TD, Bend – P.

Selecting Hook Size

Here’s the rule for hook size: Select the hook size to match the bug size. A #12 Copper John (see Charlie Craven’s recipe) is a LARGE CJ. If you use a bigger hook, a finicky fish might decide that it doesn’t look realistic. A #18 is a SMALL CJ (really small). Smaller than this and (a) you’ll have trouble tying it, and (b) the fish may think that it’s too small to be a real bug.

In general, you’ll want to carry each fly that you carry in several sizes. These days, I generally tie at least 6 of a size at a very minimum. These go into the big fly box. For each fishing day, I select a few (based on what I plan to fish) patterns, and carry several sizes in each pattern.

More details about what all of this 2XL, 2XH means in a later post.

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