The humbling chase for returning salmon has kept anglers enthralled for decades. The earliest recorded evidence of fly fishing for salmon goes back some 200 years. The beauty of targeting these beasts is that it takes skill, understanding, and sheer persistence to come close to hooking one.
|#2 to #8
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One thing I love about salmon on the fly is that it has a modern approach but is still so steeped in history and tradition. I love this!
Besides the tweed attire and flat cap to match, one of the most important parts of salmon fishing is the fly and hook choice, namely the size and style to use.
You may not know, but salmon flies or salmon fishing makes use of three types of hooks and two styles of flies. The hooks that are used are singles, doubles, and trebles. Each hook has its purpose, and there are many opinions as to which works best and why.
The two styles of flies are one tied straight on the hook and then the tube fly, which came to light later on but has completely transformed how we can target salmon and the variety of which we can choose from.
The art of tying the salmon fly has also taken what was once just a method to catch fish to an actual art form that exceeds all other fly tying. Some of the older salmon patterns are works of art, and I would much rather have it in a frame on my mantelpiece than at the end of my fly line. The tying of these creative flies not only gives inspiration to others but is a constantly evolving art form.
In the below section, I will go through what we choose to use and fish, and it is completely up to you how you decide to target these beautiful fish.
Want More Salmon Fishing
- Learn how to rig up your fly rod and more in – How To Fly Fish For Salmon
- Stop wondering about what fly to tie on. Read my article 15 Best Flies for Catching Salmon
- Fly Fishing for Silver Salmon talks about Alaskan tips and techniques.
Does Hook Size for Salmon Matter?
As with all other types of fishing, the correct hook can make all the difference. Too big, and you may miss the fish. Too small, and the hook may pop or miss the set. The correct size hook is also important for the fly pattern and how it swims in the water.
For salmon, the hooks tend to be heavier/ larger in the colder months and run-off times and then lighter and smaller in the warmer summer months. This is just a general rule, and things get swapped around continuously.
What’s more interesting about salmon hooks is the three types that can be used. They all have their own pros and cons when using them, with each category having anglers who swear they are the best.
Single hooks are where it all started, with one hook point to penetrate and fight the fish off many believe this is where it started and where it should end in the hook discussion. I tend to lean this way as well.
But there has been some very clear research done by some hook companies as to why the double hook may serve better and cause less damage.
Double Hooks have come into play with the argument that a second hook point gives the angler more of an advantage in hooking and keeping the fish hooked to land it.
Guide Pro Tip: In theory, more pressure can be applied to the fish to land it faster and give it time to rest before release. The two points also mean more contact, so the hooks are generally thinner gauge wire causing less scaring to the salmon when compared to a single heavy wire gauge hook.
Some make the point that the hook then has two points to leverage from, thus making it a little weaker than originally thought.
Treble Hooks are widely known for their use on lures and stick baits. There is a stigma associated with using them. There are also those that argue the point of using them over a single or double.
Some states and water systems have ruled against them and only allow single and sometimes double hooks in the waters. I haven’t had the most experience with them and have only really fished them on a lure, and even then, I ended up changing the trebles to two back-to-back singles.
The one advantage of the treble is that if you are permitted to fish it, it does give the fly a very balanced swimming motion in the water, especially if the hook arms are balanced. This is particularly true with a tube fly.
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Do Tiny Hooks and Salmon Mix?
You could catch a few smaller ones on tiny hooks, but fighting the fish could be tricky, and you may lose it from the hook popping.
What’s interesting to remember is that Atlantic salmon return to the rivers to spawn, and they don’t intend to eat; they actually can’t swallow as their digestive systems go through a transformation to get them ready for the spawn.
Why the fish ‘EAT’ the fly is still a mystery but make no mistake; they eat with vigor and aggression. These aggressive takes are often induced by the large, colorful patterns we swing past the fish, with the size of the pattern being largely the reason for the attraction.
The Details for Salmon Hook Sizes?
The best hooks for salmon are all dependent on the style of fly you choose to fish for them. From Single hooks on a tube fly to a double hook on a classic hair wing pattern, they all have their reasons and purposes.
Higher, colder waters call for heavier flies and hooks to get down to the passing fish, while the summer months call for lighter and maybe even smaller patterns and hooks.
Singles- have a variety of styles, from the low water hooks to the heavier gauge wires. They are available in sizes #2 down to #8
Doubles- the doubles have the same thought-out design process as the single hooks, with the added factor of stabilizing the fly better when the pattern swims. The longer shanks are for, the bigger patterns, and the shorter shanks are for the tube flies. However, a longer shank fly is recommended for a larger tube fly. To achieve this balance, hook sizes from size #8 to size #4 are recommended.
Trebles- Treble hooks have a controversial side to them, but this is not what we are here to discuss. They have been used for years and have a love-or-hate relationship with anglers. Arguments are that they inflict more damage to the fish with three points, while others say that they can confidently fight the fish with more pressure, bringing them in faster than when on a single hook. If you choose to fish them, it is best to fish them in sizes #2 down to size #14
Tube patterns- tube flies have changed the way salmon anglers think and fish they allow us to change patterns by simply sliding a new tube fly down the line and seating it near the hook. The added benefit of the tube fly design is that the hook sits in the rear end of the fly, getting more hookup when the fish nibble from the back.
When to Change Your Salmon Hook?
Changing hook size or changing fly pattern can be done for a variety of reasons. When it comes to salmon fishing, there isn’t much consideration into scaling down a size or up a size as there is with trout fishing. But if you keep missing fish on the take, that could be because of hook size.
The gape and its size are very important. Too small and you may miss some fish, especially the large fish.
Salmon Hook FAQs
When to Use Barless Hooks?
Barbless hooks have become a norm in many fisheries over the past years. It is a good thing and a move to more sustainable fishing practices. The counterargument is by not having a barb.
We tend to fish the fish with less aggression in fear of the hook slipping and taking longer to land the fish. The longer fight leads to an exhausted fish which has less chance of surviving if it isn’t revived correctly.
When to Sharpen Hooks?
Keeping the hook sharp is important. You can use those little gully hook sharpeners to keep the hook point as sharp as possible. Alternately I change the fly to a new, shaper one, keeping the pattern the same.
One Last Cast for Salmon?
With such a traditional element to chasing salmon on the fly, there is a very clear way of how things are done, and for a good reason. Don’t feel intimidated as a beginner.
Ask questions and learn as much as you can from your guide or local shop. Remember, hooks are a very important part of the puzzle, and one shouldn’t overlook them.
Fly fishing has been my passion and pursuit for the past 20 years. I am a South African based fly fisherman who loves nothing more than spending a day on the water. Fly fishing is more than catching fish, being in the outdoors with good friends and family is what it is all about.