Tip of the week: check those hook points

It’s easy to tell I’ve been steelheading. All you need to do is look at my right thumbnail.

That’s where I test the sharpness of my hook points. (You do know that a sharp hook is the single most important thing in fly fishing, yes?) There’s nothing more important than a sharp hook. This becomes self evident with any bottom-style presentation. The fly tumbles downriver, bumpety-bump, over sand, rocks, boulders, sticks, and whatever other things might be lurking down below. Contact — especially repeated contact — with any of them can result in a dull hook point.

So when I snag the bottom, the first thing I do before the next cast is check my hook point. Even without a snag, I am constantly checking my hook points. Every ten casts should be a no-brainer. Maybe you want to check after every five. Do it every three or two or even one and I still won’t call you crazy. Au contraire. You, dear sir or madame, are being a savvy angler.

You’ve heard of striper thumb? This is steelhead thumbnail. To check sharpness, you drag the hook point across your nail. The point should stick to your nail like Scotch tape. If it doesn’t, the hook isn’t sharp. Off it comes. Most steelhead are won and lost at hook set. Be ruthless about the sharpness of your hooks and you’ll catch a lot more fish.

Steelheading isn’t fair. You can do everything right and still drop fish. I know I am going to lose steelhead due to an occasional sloppy hook set. I know I will lose steelhead because sometimes the fish bests me. I know I will lose steelhead for no other reason than plain bad luck. But I will never lose a steelhead because my hook points aren’t sharp.

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