A Pro Staff Member Explains Why Togen Hooks are the Clear Choice.
I have been fly fishing for trout for more than 40 years, and tying seriously for nearly 30 of those years. I have fished rivers, streams, saltwater, and all manner of lakes and have arrived at the conclusion that lakes and larger rainbow trout are my passion. As someone who fishes seriously, and spends a fair bit of that time chasing large fish, I will tell you that if you want to succeed, you must totally rely on the tackle you are using and the most critical item is often the fly.
In the waters that I fish, large trout are frequently available. By large, I am referring to trout over 4lbs; those fish that will test your gear to the fullest if you are going to stand a chance at landing them. The game gets tougher when the fish are feeding on smaller food items. Landing large fish on size 8 hooks can be challenging, but nowhere near as challenging as landing them on flies tied on size 16 hooks (OK spring creek guys, I know you guys use #24’s and smaller sometimes.). Fish that will routinely take you into the backing can easily straighten or break poor quality hooks, and require everything to go swimmingly even with the best of tackle. The game gets even more interesting if you are catching and releasing because you have a moral obligation to land the fish as quickly as possible so it can be released in the best condition possible.
It is critically important to choose an appropriate hook to tie on, and even more important is choosing a hook with the right wire properties to imitate the food source appropriately, but still allow you to play the quarry firmly, once hooked. Gap, wire diameter, shank length and the chemical properties of the wire are all critical to success, along with sharpness. I am going to ignore sharpness because these days, most decent hooks are chemically sharpened, and are more than adequate on that front.
Gap and shape are critical because they directly influence hooking success. Too small and the hook may not embed in the fish when taken yet if the gap is too large, it may result in injury to a fish that you wanted to release. Wire diameter partially controls the hook’s ability to resist straightening while playing fish. The bigger the wire, in general, the less vulnerable the hook should be to straightening. Larger wire also helps hooks sink, but it can really confound your ability to tie slender flies, or to keep your creation afloat. Shank-length also influences vulnerability to straightening as longer shanks can provide additional leverage on the bend of the hook while playing fish.
Perhaps as important as the wire diameter are the treatments that the hooks receive after forming. These treatments dramatically change the wire, making it less vulnerable to bending and breaking. Top quality hooks are not just shaped, but also forged and tempered to increase strength while minimizing brittleness. I am not a metallurgist, so I have borrowed text from Wikipedia to help explain these processes as simply as possible.
Forging can produce a hook that is stronger than an equivalent non-forged hook. As the metal is shaped during the forging process, its internal grain deforms to follow the general shape of the hook. As a result, the grain is continuous throughout the hook, giving rise to a hook with improved strength characteristics for the diameter of the wire. Tempering is a process of heat treating, which is used to increase the toughness of the hook. For metals, tempering is usually performed after forging, to reduce some of the excess hardness (= brittle), and is done by heating the hook to a much lower temperature than was used for forging. The exact temperature determines the amount of hardness removed, and depends on both the specific composition of the alloy (wire) and on the desired properties in the finished product: Not brittle but with much resistance to straightening. Bronzing and chemical sharpening finish the process; applying a nice finish and a sticky sharp point.
Togen hooks are both forged and tempered to ensure that they are very strong and not too brittle. Keep in mind though that because Togen hooks have been treated in this manner, you cannot use them to bend into other shapes. Leave the hook as is. Bending will result in dramatically reduced shank strength! Similarly, despite those precisely applied manufacturing treatments, using relatively long shank, fine wire hooks such as the living nymph hooks to chase big fish, will result in many straightened hooks as the shank is too long and provides much too much leverage for the fine wire diameters. Choose your hook styles carefully! It’s much less critical with 12” fish, but if you are chasing the big boys...........
A common complaint from many anglers is that they have trouble with smaller hooks breaking. There are several common reasons that this can occur, and it takes some skill to avoid these issues consistantly, Many of us fish barbless and I crimp the barbs on my hooks before inserting the hook into the vise and tying a fly. It’s easier to fit beads without a barb in the way, and if I screw-up crimping the barb, at least I haven’t tied the fly yet! ONLY use fine, smooth needle-nose pliers to crimp hooks, and don’t crimp the barb using your vise. Crimp very gently, applying only as much force as needed and only apply force to the barb, not the rest of the hook. Take special care not to apply a sheering force to the hook shank with the edge of the pliers. It is easy to inadvertantly damage the shank of the hook with the edge of your pliers. Many anglers accidentally damage smaller hooks by inappropriate crimping. The shanks then break right at the end of the point, and often not until you are playing that fish of a lifetime. Learn to crimp properly!
The other common reasons behind breaking hooks are typically associated with the vise that you use to tie your flies. Improperly aligned jaws or improperly adjusted jaws can easily damage hook wire, and again, the hook will likely break while under the stress of playing a trophy! Use a high quality vise with precisely aligned jaws (don’t skimp on your vise!). The vise jaws have to hold the hook firmly in place without damaging it. Also, learn to correctly insert your hooks into your vise. Tying will be easier and your hooks will be less likely to get damaged.
I use several styles of hooks to tie my nymphs, pupae and dries and the choice of the right hook style is still critical, even if you are using the best hooks in the world. It is even more critical in smaller sizes (14 and smaller). I almost exclusively use heavy-wire hooks to get the extra strength for the gap, and I then trust my tying skills to keep my flies skinny. For chironomid pupae and bloodworms, I use the Togen scud hooks almost exclusively. Better still, these hooks are slightly offset which improves hooking, and they have heavier wire (1X strong). For many of my other patterns, I use the 1XL, 1X strong nymph hooks, and the 1X short, 2X strong wet fly hooks. I even use the nymph hooks for tying emergers and dries because lighter wire hooks generally can’t handle the stress and pressure applied by playing big fish.
Over the past 25 years, I have tested many brands of hooks for my own use. I have tried the cheapest to the most expensive and I have field tested for two of the larger fly hook manufacturers in the world. I can honestly say that there are no better hooks for my purposes than the Togen hooks.
The hooks are not the end of the story though. Even after properly crimping the barb and tying my fly without damaging the hook in the vise, there are other issues to keep in mind if you want to be successful. Small hooks are incompatible with heavier rods and lines; lighter and slower-action rods provide more insurance against hook and leader failures. Heavier fly lines cause more drag in the water, so the heaviest lines that I fish in lakes are WF#6, and I prefer #5’s or #4’s. Fast-action rods are fun to cast but aren’t designed to provide that extra insurance and cushioning against violent strikes or headshakes. Finally, silky smooth disk drag reels are the other critical piece of the equation. If the reel start-up isn’t smooth, then that momentary extra jolt can bend a hook or break your leader, Togen reels are awesome, and so smooth when dealing with larger fish. So, check out Togen hooks, but make sure that the rest of your gear is appropriate for the hook sizes and styles that you are using.
Togen Pro Staff Member
Check out this story on Togen Hooks by Rob Bruno. Togens Curved Nymph Hooks