When our guides at Alaska West are fishing the Kanektok one thing you will notice is the constant adjustments that they make to an angler’s fishing setup. Most of the time those adjustments are things like switching tips on Spey setups or working on leaders and changing flies. One thing not so obvious is the amount of time spent on tweaking hooks. By tweaking, we mean anything from smashing barbs, slightly offsetting the hook point from the shank, changing hook style and of course changing the hook size.
All this tweaking is great, but you have to understand the “why”, “when” and “how” to do it too. Hooks for “Swinging Kings” have come a long way in the last 20 years. It wasn’t that long ago that the Gamakatsu Octopus hook was pretty much the only choice we had for use on tube flies and flies with mono/braid/wire loops. Most other king flies were being tied on traditional salmon fly hooks in multiple sizes. Now we have multiple very good hook options on the market specifically designed for swinging up kings and other nasty anadromous fish. Below we have listed a few of the good swing hook options on the market today.
- Aqua Flies – AquaTalon Hook size 1
- OPST – Swing Hook size 1/0, 1
- Owner – Barbless No Escape size 1/0, 1
One thing we like in the new hooks is the barbless option or hooks with a much smaller barb than you will see on a typical octopus hook. Less damage to the fish is a good thing so go barbless as much as possible. Another feature is either straight or slightly upturned eyes and an offset to the hook point. The offset can help in the initial take and the hookset almost happens by itself, with a bunch of help from the fish turning away. All these hooks come ultra-sharp, but never forget to check the hook point often, especially if you know you’ve touched bottom.
We also like to go with a smaller hook rather than a larger one whenever possible. Being able to drop down in hook size will help some anglers quite a bit. Those large king hooks can definitely conflict with your casting at times and when it comes to letting the fly “swim”, less hook is more. So the smaller hook will let you cast a bit further, but the big bonus is what it can give to the fly in movement. Also, the smaller hook will always cause less wear in the fish’s mouth therefore less chance of that barbless hook coming out and minimal damage to the fish.
Something else to highly consider on smaller hooks; if you do hang up you have a better chance to bend a smaller hook out, therefore retrieving your fly. When we see the effort and cost put into some of the flies we fish at Alaska West, our own, and our guests, it’s nice to get some of them back before their time!
A little trick; Many of the swing hooks have a very slight upturned eye. When you run a stiff wire loop off your fly and you loop through this type of hook it will cause the hook point to upturn towards the loop. In a way it’s in a “cocked” position, when a fish comes up and eats and turns away it will immediately hook him up. No set needed really, just come up solid with the rod and they are on.
We could probably come up with a few more “points” on swing hooks for kings, but for now we will let it rest… Tightlines!
Other Tips and Tricks: