: Circle Hooks
I just read an article in the RI Saltwater Anglers news letter, which had a study done by the Maryland Dept of Natural Resources. In catch and release circle hooks mortility rate was 0.8 %, conventional hooks was 9.1 %. I have tried tying some patterns on circle hooks, its not very easy.
Very significant numbers, worth considering for flies. At the risk of sounding biased, I think it's safe to say the mortality levels on the high end are predominately due to gut hooking with bait. That's also where the circle hook has the most impact, because of it's tendency to slide out of the gullet and catch on the lip.
I know my mortality rate is no where near 1 in 10. I'd go as far as to say it's not 1 in 50, although long term affect on the fish is unseen after it swims away, I'd even wager one in 100 with regular barbless hooks. Even still the circle hook may have a place in flyfishing. I've tried pogie patterns, sand eels and crab patterns on circle hooks. The pogie patterns were aggravating because I wouldn't hook up - partially because of the way I fish them. Usually fast but always herky jerky and set right away. The sand eels would have fared better but I couldn't get the balance right with those odd shaped hooks.
The crab on the other hand was a perfect match. Stripers tend to swallow crab flies. It's rare for me to have a bunker or eel fly hooked deep, but with crab flies it's common. I believe they put them right on those crusher plates as soon as they swallow them to avoid getting pinched.
It's hard not to set the hook the way we're used to, but the circle crab is a good use for circle hooks in my opinion. Even still the hooks used for bait are not ideal for flies. It would help to have circle hook manufacturers pay attention to fly fishing hooks with the features of circle hooks.
Maybe that could be a project for the FORUM.
Juro, After the first of the year I will send the article. It sounded like it was done very scientifically. They even used the same temperature water, retained the fish for 72 hours, the ones that died they did autopsies on. There was nothing mentioned about flies. It is just my personal observation about using circle hooks. Some other questions we should discuss,Barbless hooks, and stainless steel hooks.
Juro- Eagle Claw makes a black teflon circle hook that's not offset just for fly fishing. I tried them but am not happy with them- lost too many fish. They also tend to rust pretty rapidly. Just my $.02. ronl
Artb- I found that with the black nickel teflon hooks I had to anchor the initial wraps of the thread with super glue or the fly would twist while tying or after the first fish. The hooks don't last long enough for me and I miss too many hits. ronl
I think the real issue for circles is for techniques that put the hook deep in the fish's anatomy. I don't believe fly fishing is in that category. In my opinion, only the crab fly falls into that category for striper fly fishing. Trout - no issue; steelhead/salmon - no; freshwater bass - doubtful; bonefish - nada; etc.
Chunk bait is in tht category because the bait is sliced into easy to swallow pieces, then laid down on the table with the rod in a holder (rarely in the hands). Eels fall into that category because most people wait for the bass to get the weinerschnitzel down the gullet before setting the hook.
The circle hook is a set line hook. Long liners use them because they can't tend to the fish until they circle back around, and circle hooks put the hook in the lips for them. But these same commercials don't use circle hooks on their jigs and hoochies because they hook in the lips anyway. Bait fishing is an individualized set line. Circle hooks really apply there. I'd like to see the regulations require circle hooks for bait fishing.
I went away from crab flies last year because of the deep hookings I had the previous year. Stripers put their crusher plates (throat) on crabs right away and you get no time to set before the fly is too deep. Further experiments with circle crabs will continue next year on monomoy.
Juro, one of the members of crossroads informed me at the last meeting( as I was tying a polarfiber minnow on a circle hook), that circle hooks are not the way to go for normal streamer type flies. you'll miss too many hookups. however, they are great for crab flies and the like, for the reason you suggested. anything that gets sucked down into the gullet area can cause internal injury, so the circle hook is ideal, because it will be more likely to pull out and lip-hook the fish. so crab flies are great on them. I haven't done much with shrimp patterns, is the same swallowing problem common to them? Tom D
It's good to see a lot of people coming around to the circle crab thinking. Not meaning to take credit but as far as I know we're the first to apply the hook design to flies in a way that concluded that crab flies were the right application for them. Lately I hear a lot of folks saying that same thing back to me. That's good!
Last year I noticed many, many people using crab flies out on Monomoy. Gone are the days when people like Steve Robbins were pioneering their use on northeast flats. I also noticed that prior to last year, stripers would be veritable suckers for crab flies. My theory, although unscientific, is that the explosion of crab fly use has conditioned the fish to look twice before eating. They certainly still follow, but the rate of crab fly takes has drastically reduced for me and the folks I have taken fishing last year using the same patterns. It's taught me to be better with sand eels and juvenile squid, which is a good thing too. My flats sand eel trickery has dramatically improved as a result.
To answer your question, I am not big on shrimp patterns although I do use them and carry them in case of a sip-fest. The one time I wished I had one more than any other was when I found a pod of squeteague sipping shrimp at a river mouth. I did not end up hooking up, but am confident that a good shrimp pattern would have changed this outcome.
As far as stripers go, I don't associate shrimp patterns with big stripers... this could be a fault in my thought process but it's an honest admission. Maybe others can answer this question better than I?
01-09-2001, 04:09 PM
When stripers hit baitfish they hit it on the fly. They swim up to their prey grab the morsel between their pallets and turn. Using the force of their momentum and water hydraulics (when water flushes through their mouth) they orient the bait and swallow. Stripers are hooked during the first process because of the tension on the line sets the hook when they turn. They never get the chance to swallow the hook because the initial grab sets the hook. A circle hook becomes inefficient.
Feeding on crabs, shrimp, et, the striper isn't in a chase mode, so basically they feed in a passive position. Hydraulics is used in this case, were they open their mouth and suck in the food. Both style of hooks will hook in this situation but the line of pull for a circle hook will rotate the hook as it is being pulled out, extenting the barb. But the important things is the hooking areas now is outside the gill areas.
01-09-2001, 04:54 PM
I'm just starting up on tying next seasons crabs. Some will be on circles as an experiment, but I've never experienced much of a problem with deep hooking stripers with crab flies. Maybe one or two fish a year that really take the fly down to the crushers.
If you are finding that you're catching fish that deep on crabs I would recommend using a strike indictor. I did this for many seasons and you'll be surprised at how early you can set the hook and how many stripers you can lip-hook with crabs. I like a small piece of neon yarn tied directly to the leader about 4' from the fly.
Try this, it will be an education on when stripers really have eaten the bug.
As for the popularity of crabs, you're making me weep, it used to be so simple. Like every season, the search is on to find a "new" pattern that the fish won't be offered by every other angler on the flats.
I had good luck with shrimp patterns last year, but I'm not certain the fish thought that they were eating shrimp. Steve
01-10-2001, 03:31 PM
I would assume that you're fishing those crab patterns in the upper water column with a floating line? Some of us use these same flies with sinking lines. I think that's the time, in this situation, when fish tend to get hooked deeper into their mouth cavity. They have their mouth to the ground, verus them taking a floating fly and heading toward the bottom.
Once had a fisher friend with a drinking problem. One time a floating empty of a Henkie bottle came floating by. As him why he was thrashing the place? He told me that was his strike indicator?
I account for my high percentage of deep hookings to (1) my relative lack of experience with crab flies and (2) the way I fish them most of the time as a shore schlepper. I started using them about four years ago (?) and like I said the year before last was the apex. When I fished them blind, which I did mostly, they would be taken deep. When I played cat and mouse on Monomoy, they would usually not - although I did experience some deep hookings even when set quickly on sight hooked fish not nearly the same percentage.
I fish them blind by casting them into a hump sequence in a moving tide and walking them up a ridge, then letting them slide down into the next hollow with the current. Absolutely DEADLY. Unfortunately, with the force of the current pushing on the line and the fact that it's a blind presentation, I hooked a lot of fish deep in the crushers and stopped doing that despite it's effectiveness.
When I sight fish the flats, I still use crabs with regular hooks. Last year on Monomoy, my son and I were walking crabs in front of some huge bass one summer day. He had a cow playing cat and mouse with his crab right up to the leader. It was awesome watching him experience the same kind of intense anticipation I do in the same situation! The fish turned away when it saw us.
Steve, your comments make me realize that (a) you are fishing from a flats boat (b) sight fishing afficionado (c) experienced with crab fly fishing. Therefore you are probably getting the hook set quickly upon the take.
It also makes me realize that the deep hookings were from blind crab presentations "in the humps". Therefore I think the application where circle crabs play the most important role is in the latter.
That's a valuable introspection because it will give me comfort in fishing the humps with crabs again using circle hooks this season.
Note: using the deep eel in this situation produces like mad and I have not had any measurable precentage of deep hookings with them. Maybe the shape has something to do with it as well as the eating technique?
01-10-2001, 04:06 PM
Ray, 95% of my fishing is sight-fishing on the flats (Chatham) and for 95% of that fishing I use crab flies. Late April though Early October. The only exception is tiny tuna. I use sinking lines, floaters, and intermediates, but I'm always sight-fishing. You could count on two hands the number of blind casts I make in a season. That's just my preference.
In the early season I often use an indicator, especially if I'm using small flies and clear flylines around pods of fish. With very few exceptions, I've rarely fished with anyone that easily detects that actual taking of the fly -- the opening mouth and the flare of the gills are too early to set the hook with a crab fly, and the tug on the line is too late.
Something happens in between, and I can't describe it. If you watch an indicator you will see what I mean. Most years I've found that "sixth sense" by June, can dispense with the indicator, and can just watch the fish.
I don't see your point about differences in where the fish are in the water column. Some days they won't take a crab unless it's on the bottom, other days I've had fish rise up to meet a falling fly. I've never felt the need to adjust my fishing style too much. If you're regularly hooking fish deeply on flies, in any circumstance, there's angler error involved.
01-10-2001, 04:28 PM
If I haven't said it lately I'll say it again. I have the utmost admiration for wading anglers. I am a terrible and impatient wading angler and I truly think that the way I fish is the "easy" way. I only cast if I see fish -- I leave if I don't. I get to watch how fish react to every cast, every fly, and every retrieve. It's pretty easy to adjust what I'm doing and eventually get it "right."
I like the technique you've described and it sound remarkably similar to the way I fish nymphs on a particular trout stream. Again, I would urge you to experiment with a strike indicator -- I think you'll be surprised at how clear the "takes" become.
I agree that the fish are wising-up. I reassure myself that when the Sulfers are hatching everyone on the stream is trying to match them with a finite selection of patterns and the trout get wise too. Presentation, fine terminal tackle, stalking, and maybe an unusal fly all become weapons.
Still, I've spent all week at the vise and have very few flies to show for my time. I'm desperate to start the season with some "new" crabs. I've eliminated a few directions and have a few more to try. Otherwise it's back to the ol' standards as my tying time is getting short. Steve
01-10-2001, 04:44 PM
With the strike indicator tied 4 feet from the fly, are you watching the movement of the yarn underwater? I think we talk during the summer about Monomoy.
01-10-2001, 05:59 PM
This was the first season I fished with a crab fly and it proved to be VERY effective. I only caught one while sight fishing and it was lip hooked. The other fish were all caught using a controlled swing in the current and above the bottom. The technique seemed similar to skating a fly for stealhead except its underwater. Many of those fish were lip hooked and all of them were hooked clear of vitals (kind of a "deep" lip hook). It seems to me, inexperienced as I am, that the danger of deep hooking would arise most prominently during the slack line bottom presentation and that an indicator could prove quite valuable. I think next season will see me equiped with a couple indicators.
01-11-2001, 03:59 PM
Ray, yes, the yarn gets pulled down by even the lightest of crabs. You can easily see the yarn from quite a distance. I tried freshwater indicators but saw no advantage and you can move/remove the yarn without messing with the fly. Yes, I think we did exchange emails last summer about fishing Monomoy. sR