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Thread: Circle Hooks

  1. #1
    Premium Member Wyo2AK's Avatar
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    Default Circle Hooks

    So in the fly fishing "off season" I've been giving thought to circle hooks. I'm just curious to hear some thoughts from the rest of you. Does anyone have any experience using circle hooks for flies?

    I've been doing a lot of reading on the subject. It seems to me that circle hooks, in regards to fly fishing, are most popular in the saltwater circuit. And it seems a large part of using circle hooks for fly fishing originated there in response to heightened concern with conservation and promoting healthy catch and release. (one short article on the subject http://www.flyfishinsalt.com/techniques/basics-and-rigging-tips/circular-logic-32542.html)

    And the other day I read an article about the Moffit style of fly fishing. This is basically using a "hookless" fly tied up the leader above a hook. Pretty much like bead fishing. Well Moffit uses a circle hook, with the fly on the leader up to a foot above the hook. Now my first thought is the 2-inch rule with beads, and can't help but immediately think of a bunch of foul hooked fish. But supposedly this system - using the circle hook - leads to less foul hooked fish. The article that got me reading more on this subject is here... http://www.fieldandstream.com/articles/fishing/fly-fishing/how-fish/2009/03/look-ma-no-hooks

    So has anyone ever used circle hooks with beads? Do you think it'd cut down on the random foul-hooked fish (saving an eye here and there, for instance)? Would it make any difference?

    I've read about people having poor luck with small circle hooks. Supposedly it has to do with the size of the gap compared to the size of the fish's mouth. It may be that to work as intended, circle hooks have to be a bit on the large size - which is why they seem more common in streamers and nymphs to some regard. And maybe why they've hit off so well in saltwater fishing. But I've also read about circle hooks being popular for Czech nymphing and other deep water nymphing where maintaining good contact with the fly and/or detecting strikes may be difficult. This points the other direction to the size of the fly not being such an issue. Any thoughts?

    Then today I was checking out the bouncer flies website, and noticed that they had a half-page discussing using circle hooks for salmon in Alaska. Specifically, it points out the benefit of reducing foul hooked fish where salmon have really stacked up. My initial impression is this would relate especially to sockeye. The page is here if you're interested. http://www.bouncerflies.com/bouncersforalaska.html So this got me thinking about using circle hooks for lining reds. Would circle hooks "set" themselves? Would they spare fish from the "Kenai twitch?" Would there be any change in hook up rates? Has anyone tried this?

    A while back I picked up some Mustad C51S N circle hooks on sale in size 4, 6 and 8. I think I'm going to try out a few patterns for trout and salmon next year. Until then...
    Pursue happiness with diligence.

  2. #2
    Member ak_powder_monkey's Avatar
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    I'm interested in using them with beads, seems to make sense
    I choose to fly fish, not because its easy, but because its hard.

  3. #3
    Member 6XLeech's Avatar
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    Default Do salmonids "eat" or "mouth" food first on the bottom?

    Missed takes: I have a friend who is one of those guys who can just catch fish and does so 3-5 fish to my one. Watching him, I figure it's somewhat the gear but mostly technique. He's learned through all the years what I have yet to learn that results in all those missed takes for me. I think that the biggest difference between more-experienced and less-experienced fly fishermen is often missed takes.

    Two kinds of takes: Maybe this is too much generalization, but takes on the bottom seem different to me than takes higher up in the water column. On the bottom, salmonids seem to mouth the fly first, before they eat. If I don't detect this pickup, I miss the chance to hook the fish. Higher in the water column, it seems fish chomp/eat the fly more often; they're less tentative. It's one reason I like leeches/streamer patterns, which I more often fish on the swing instead of drift, and so higher in the water column.

    Circle hooks might work higher in the water column because of the way fish take a fly there. But on/near the bottom, a drifted fly seems less likely to succeed. Circle hooks depend on rotation or pivot to engage. Unless the fish bites, the circle hook doesn't pivot or turn does it? If a circle hook's effectiveness depends on the fish biting down/chomping on the fly, I wonder if it could be as effective, especially with a fly (egg pattern) that's usually drifted.

    Moffett's description...includes quite a few steps. Maybe it works, we'll see, but out of the gate, it seems complicated. The idea of fishing a fly with no hook, really no hook, I could do for an afternoon. Once they take the fly and I tighten the line, I always enjoy the satisfaction of having fooled the fish. Of course, the photos aren't as interesting

    Good winter topic.

  4. #4
    Member AK Ray's Avatar
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    We tried circle hooks this fall on silvers in a Su drainage and missed a lot of hookups. After coming home I looked for info on how to use them. Turns out you are not supposed to set the hook. You are supposed to let the fish run which will allow the hook to turn and slide into the corner of the mouth forcing a hook set with no action by the fisherman. Trying to erase over 40 years of setting the hook is not easy.

    I am interested to try them on the Russian. Over the years I have learned to not set the hook unless it "feels" right which has prevented a lot of foul hooks, but still get some if I am in fast water.

    Based on what I read about saltwater fishing in Cali with circle hooks I don't see why they would not work well when lining Reds.

  5. #5
    Member 6XLeech's Avatar
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    Default When cohos turn to swim away...

    AK Ray, I think it was Chad Valentine, who suggested (in a Will Rice book) waiting to set the (standard) hook when fishing surface flies for cohos when they were following the fly in...waiting until they turn away to avoid pulling the hook out of their mouths.

    Seems like the rationale there is similar - with a silver swimming away, a circle hook can pivot and "present" the point to the fish. Waiting gives the circle hook a chance to perform maybe.

    Once hooked, seems like circle hooks would be harder to spit or dislodge?

  6. #6

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    Avoid longer shank circle hooks at all cost! The shorter the shank the better. In order to take them out of a fish, they have to be spun around and backed out. Long shanks make that just about impossible, and you're sure going to tear up a lot of fish with them, trying to get the hook out. Think of the halibut circle hooks and try to find fly tying hooks with shanks proportionally about that same length. Mustad brought out a longer shank circle hook a few years back, and they were a certified disaster for fish. You see them on sale cheap now, and for good reason. Pass them right on by.

  7. #7
    Member G_Smolt's Avatar
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    I tried some mustad circles on swung flies about 10 years ago...as long as you have a tight-line take on species with a natural "grab and turn" instinct, they work ok, and you ALWAYS get the fish in the corner of the jaw. Steelhead and rainbows have the "swat" instinct in freshwater, whereas most salmon and dollies seem to accelerate into the presentation without the violent turn at the take...I say MOST because there are exceptions to everything.

    Having said that, I gave them up about 10 years ago, too. The hookup ratio was definitely down, by about 20-30% for steelhead and as much as 60% for cohos.

    As for use with beads, it seems like the "sip n spit" take of most beaded fish would negate the effectiveness of the circle - remember, they were designed for fish to be hooked from inside the mouth, in the act of turning away.

    What the hell, if you have time to burn, give it a go. The fish always give the best answers to questions like this.

  8. #8

    Default Circle Fan

    I first started using circle hooks after many long hours of flycasting for king salmon over 20 years ago. Like everyone else I used the good old J hook for years, but after losing kings to hook sets I turned to circle hooks to solve that problem. Of course, I had to suppress that ingrained reaction to get a quick hook set. But I have found that for fish other than kings and other salmon the fish will hook themselves. If you do use circle hooks on salmon or other large fish you will need to give the fish a couple of good pops to get the hook knitted into and through the jaw/corner of the mouth. I must disagree with the gentleman concerning the Mustad C51S or the C71S circle hooks and I have added 2 photos as proof. These are long shanked hooks C51S for freshwater and the C71S for saltwater. The difference being a heavier wire on the C71S which is more suitable for salmon since the C51S is a light wire and will bend out. As for the short shank circle hooks I have found it to be very effective on steelhead, dollies and rainbows with flies or beads. The photo of me holding the stringer of reds is from this summer's first run of reds. My proxy's 6 fish and my 6 reds for the day. In the second photo you can see my red fly tied on a Mustad C71S and that is the same hook used in the first photo too. As you can see I am a big fan of circle hooks. Tight lines and catch and release unless your a salmon.
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails P1010089.jpg   P1010076.jpg  

  9. #9
    Member 6XLeech's Avatar
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    Default Pearls of wisdom!

    Quote Originally Posted by G_Smolt View Post
    ...The fish always give the best answers to questions like this.
    True dat!

  10. #10
    Member scott_rn's Avatar
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    I'm sure they make great scuds

  11. #11
    Member 6XLeech's Avatar
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    Default c51s, c71s...

    akriverman,
    After reading your post (and seeing the pics), this changes things.

    Maybe tie up a few myself... Thanks.

  12. #12
    Premium Member Wyo2AK's Avatar
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    Default

    Wow... interesting stuff. Thanks for the thoughts, everyone. It's definitely cool to hear people's take on circle hooks and get some first-hand experience.

    Quote Originally Posted by G_Smolt View Post
    As for use with beads, it seems like the "sip n spit" take of most beaded fish would negate the effectiveness of the circle - remember, they were designed for fish to be hooked from inside the mouth, in the act of turning away.
    That's the thought that makes me skeptical of using circles with beads. Just doesn't seem to have the right mechanics. But maybe I'll still try them out some time.

    I agree with 6X - the Moffit set up does seem a bit complicated. But sometimes the extra effort is worth it. Either way, it's a novel concept and a bit intriguing.

    I've been tying up a few nymphs on circles to try out this spring. And I'm definitely going to experiment with using circle when flipping for reds. That's one situation that jumped out at me where circles might work pretty slick, and akriverman's post is definitely testament to that.
    Pursue happiness with diligence.

  13. #13
    Member 6XLeech's Avatar
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    Default Flies on circle hooks...

    Interesting thread from last winter.

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