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Keep Your Hooks Sharp

Posted on September 20 2012

Sharp Hooks
Looks like Spencer kept it sharp.

Spencer Dixon was a first-year guide at Alaska West this year, and everybody who met him was blown away by his skill, his work ethic, his enthusiasm and his fishiness.

Turns out Spencer can write too!  Here’s the first what we hope will be a long series of posts from him.  Thanks, Spencer!

The Importance of Sharpening Hooks

It’s the first cast of the morning at Alaska West, your fly is swinging thru a juicy slot, and it gets crushed…Grab, Grab, Slam, Slam, Shake, Shake……Gone.

What happened? What did I do wrong? Did I forget to set the hook?

All valid questions, but the truth is simple – you are probably suffering from Dull Hook Syndrome (DHS).

DHS affects thousands of anglers from Alaska to the Bahamas every year, but fortunately it is an easy problem to cure.  Check your hooks, and if they are dull, sharpen them!

It’s that easy.  You don’t skimp on the quality of your rod, reel, lines, leaders or flies, so why assume your hooks are sharp and ready to go? The last thing you want is to hook into Mr. Big, and lose him because you didn’t take the 30 seconds to sharpen your hook.

Here are a few things to remember that should greatly increase your landing rate.

  1. Sticky hooks are sharp hooks. If you take a brand new Owner SSW out of the package and try to run the point along your finger, something happens. The point sticks to your skin, starting to cut, almost immediately. This is what we are looking for when it comes to hook sharpeness. You should be able to effortlessly scratch a fingernail with the point of your hook, as well as stick it to your skin. If you cannot, get out that file!
  2. Fish have hard mouths. You know when you land a fish, and you have to use your forceps to remove the hook, because it is stuck in the cartilage of that fish’s mouth ? That very same cartilage is one of the causes of hooks becoming dull. The point is essentially rubbing on bone, dulling with every head shake and tail-walking run that fish has made. I have landed countless fish that have practically destroyed a hook during battle. So after you land a fish, do a simple ‘sticky check’. If it’s not sticky, get out that file.
  3. If you’re losing fish, check your hook!  It may seem obvious to some, but as a guide at Alaska West, I can tell you first hand that people lose a lot of fish due to dull hooks. The hook is what is keeping you connected to that fish. Without the hook there is no glory shot, high fives, or laughs all around. If you have hooked up and lost more than 2 fish back to back, reel in, check your hook, and guess what? If it is not sticky, get out that file!

Take this advice and use it. Go to a hardward store and pick up a small metal file and keep it in your tackle bag. Sharpen your hooks before your trip, both loose trailing hooks and fixed hook flies.

Remember, one fish hooked, landed, and released can turn a brand new hook, into a dull useless hook. Keep those hooks sharp and get those hero shots!

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