Overview of fly fishing hook sizes and types

11th of May 2023

Fly fishing hooks come in a variety of sizes to cater for the different types of fish species and conditions. The size of a hook is generally categorized by a number, with larger numbers indicating smaller hooks. For example, a size 1 hook is larger than a size 14 hook.

In some instances, you might encounter hooks labeled with a number followed by a slash and a zero (like 1/0, 2/0, etc). These are known as "aught" sizes. The system here is opposite to that of regular hook sizes, meaning a 1/0 ("one-aught") hook is smaller than a 2/0 ("two-aught") hook.

An overview of hook sizes
An overview of hook sizes

Different fly fishing hook types

Just as there are different hook sizes for different species, there are also different hook types designed to suit various fly fishing techniques and scenarios.

Dry fly hooks

Dry fly hooks are designed for flies that float on the surface of the water. They typically have a standard length shank and a light wire, which helps keep the fly buoyant. Dry fly hooks can be used in calm waters where fish are actively feeding on the surface.

Wet fly hooks

Wet fly hooks, on the other hand, are used for flies that are designed to sink below the water's surface. These hooks often have a heavier wire to help the fly sink and may have a longer shank to accommodate larger, more intricate fly patterns.

Nymph hooks

Nymph hooks are used for nymph flies, which are designed to imitate the immature stages of aquatic insects. These hooks often have a down-eye design and can have a straight or curved shank, depending on the specific imitation.

Streamer hooks

Streamer hooks are used for streamer flies, which imitate baitfish or other larger aquatic prey. These hooks typically have a long shank and a heavy wire, allowing them to stand up to larger, more aggressive fish.

Salmon/Steelhead hooks

Salmon/steelhead hooks are specifically designed to handle these powerful fish. They typically have a heavy wire and a larger size, and they often feature a looped down-eye, which provides a secure attachment point for the heavy tippets often used when fishing for these species.

Saltwater fly hooks

Saltwater fly hooks are designed for use in saltwater environments and are typically made from stainless steel or other corrosion-resistant materials (also see the next section). These hooks are often larger and heavier than freshwater hooks and are designed to handle the challenge of catching large saltwater game fish.

Hook materials and finishes

Finally, let's take a look at the materials and finishes commonly used in fly fishing hooks.

Carbon steel hooks

Carbon steel hooks are strong and durable, making them a popular choice for freshwater fishing. They can however rust if not properly cared for.

Stainless steel hooks

Stainless steel hooks are resistant to rust and corrosion and are a popular choice for saltwater fishing. They are typically more expensive than carbon steel hooks.

Bronze hooks

Bronze hooks have a unique color that can make them attractive to fish. They are also resistant to corrosion and are a good choice for freshwater fishing.

Coated hooks

Coated hooks feature a protective coating that can help prevent rust and corrosion. They can be a good choice for both freshwater and saltwater fishing.

Barbed vs barbless

Also see our article on barbed vs barbless flies.

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