Often times when an angler misses a strike or two, they blame their hook set or claim the fish “short striked”. While both of these can certainly be valid, I would argue that far more fish are lost due to dull hook points than most people realize. We live in a time where most new hooks are already sharp when you take them out of the packaging. Those laser sharpened points do not always stay that way however. You’d be surprised how much a hook point can dull as you fish it. Flies take some abuse as they bounce off the river bottom, hit rocks on casts, or even from hooking hard mouthed fish. Often times flies will get put away wet where they can even rust a little, just to be reused on the next outing. I would recommend to always have a hook sharpener near by. There are many different options of hook sharpers that come in a range of sizes and materials from a grooved soft stone to even a fingernail file for smaller trout flies.
When sharpening the point itself, you want to sharpen in a single direction, not in a back and forth motion. I personally like to move the file from the hook point towards the bend. I have met many excellent anglers who sharpen from the bend to the point but I have always felt that moving in this direction can form a small burr on the end of hook point. I do a few strokes flat against the bottom of the hook before sharping the top of the hook where I do a few strokes against the stone or file each side of the barb, this makes the point almost triangular instead of round. I also try to just sharpen the end of the hook towards the point, making a short and steep taper. I find with a longer taper the hook point itself can weaken and be more likely to dull or curve over. Like I said, there are some many different options and sizes of hook sharpeners so there is no reason to not have one with you. Put some extra time into maintaining your hook points and see if you miss fewer hook sets.
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