Circle Hooks and Steelhead? [Archive] - Fly Fishing Forum

: Circle Hooks and Steelhead?

10-26-2004, 09:42 AM
I fish a few weeks a year in the NW, if I am lucky. I was testing some patterns using the Mustad Circle Hook, C71, and had three subsurface takes, but the first two never hooked up( one had the fly for 5 seconds before the hook was "let go"). I was deciding that the typical soft take of a steelhead is not compatible with a circle hook, and lamenting wasting two potential hookups, but managed a third take. This time I was able to gently play the fish for over ten seconds and then I was sure that the circle hook had indeed set in the corner of its mouth. It became a monumental fight, down through many rock gardens, but the fly held firmly and was firmly hooked in the corner of the jaw.

Any thoughts on the use of circle hooks? I will try them occasionally in the future but do not think they are the answer.

10-26-2004, 10:46 AM
Circle hooks were never meant to be on rivers. They were designed for longline applications (commercial species such as halibut, sablefish and tuna). It is true that they were designed to keep fish from twisting off a hook. But in a longline fishery, a hooked fish often has several hours to ponder his predicament, to figure out how to get free prior to the gear being pulled. This is not the case in a river and in my opinion, circle hooks for salmonids is all much ado about not too much.

I had an 11 fish morning earlier this month. The fish were steelhead, most of them large, up to twenty pounds. They were hooked on what most of us would call trout flies. These were older flies, tied on # 6 and # 8 down-eye hooks, most rusty from neglect and age. A friend gave them to me and I felt obligated to use them, eventhough I typically use stouter, larger hooks. But those hooks made my trip for me. I put every fish hooked that morning on the beach. I even got my fly back.

What was my deep dark secret that morning?

A hook file.

10-26-2004, 12:07 PM

What was my deep dark secret that morning?

A hook file.

11 steelhead morning with fish up to 20#! The hook file is great, but apparently you were on one hell of a river as well!



10-26-2004, 12:37 PM
Marketic 11 fish-very impressive! way to go dude :o Which one was the prettiest? I don't know about using rusty hooks . I don't know for sure, but it seems like it might not be the best thing for the fish. If anyone knows different please let me know as I have been in the habit of discarding rusty hooks for many years now.

As for circle hooks I spent a couple of years using them on my tube flies. My findings were that they held well and seemed to be very easy on the fish as they didn't seem to tear about like a conventional hook sometimes does. I did find that I would have fish positively crush the fly and swim off with the line over their shoulder only to have nothing once line started to come off the reel. I still use circles very occasionally though when there are lots of leaves in the water or Salmon fishing when the bottom is snaggy. As well I have had good success with guided clients using them for Rainbows feeding behind spawning salmon to make sure nothing gets snagged. An interesting concept that, well designed for an entirely different purpose, has some Steelheading merit.

Brian Niska

Rick J
10-26-2004, 02:27 PM
Wonder about the use on salmon - I fish the Chetco/Smith and when the fish are stacked in many are foulded. I remeber numerous times feeling the line and fly rub on fish - I would just not set up and often they would unbutton - a circle hook might be the answer here?

10-26-2004, 08:34 PM
Circle hooks can be very useful in rivers. They are excellent when fishing salmon in large concentrations. The key is to remember how they were designed to hook fish. When large ocean fish take bait with a circle hook the hook takes hold in the hinge of the jaw as the fish turns. When using circle hooks in rivers you must tailor your presentation to place the hook in the corner of the mouth. Many salmon like pinks, chums and springs will take flies presented slowly to them. I've had great results with circle hooks on salmon but one must remember not to set the hook too quickly. As you feel presure on the line simple tighten on the fish and you'll set the hook. This is why the circle hook isn't useful for most traditional steelhead presentations. As a steelhead takes a fly that is facing upstream and swinging the hook will be drawn straight out of his mouth and not take hold. That being said I'm sure circle hooks would be great with a greased line presentation although I haven't tried it yet. Circle hooks would probably work when nymphing too. I started using them this year for my pink fishing and the results were amazing. This weekend I'm going to put them to work on chums.


10-27-2004, 12:43 PM
When dead drifting though a mass of salmon, or fishing behind a redd, I am sure the circle hook would be a good way to avoid a foul hookup. It is correct that the fish must take the hook down into its mouth so that after the turn, the hook will slide out of the back of the mouth, and catch in the corner of the jaw. Supposedly even when a fish swallows a circle hook, when it is set, it will slide out the gullet and not catch on the gill rakers as well.

But a grab on the swing will certainly result in no hookup. I was trying the circle hook to be able to get a bit more weight to get down a few feet in rivers where weighted flies are not allowed.

Brian Simonseth
10-27-2004, 01:13 PM
Last winter I tried Circle Hooks behind my tubes just for a test study to see what would happen. Most of you know what kind of year it was so I thought it would be a good study of the circle hooks. But I never touch a fish when using a circle hook last year so Im waiting till this year to do my study on circle hooks, if any one would like to donated founds to my study you can get a hold through PMs Thanks! :hihi:

11-15-2004, 03:38 AM
I've caught 3 steelhead on circle hooks. 2 on the swing, and one on a pseudo-dead drift.

One was just a tightening, was hooked very solidly. The other was a slashing grab....hooked very solidly. The third, on the pseudo dead drift...also hooked very solidly.

They werent traditional circle hook, but rather Gama Glo Bug hooks in size 4.

I use glo bug hooks for a small little pattern for small little rivers like the kalama-zoo.

11-22-2004, 01:01 AM
I was just checking out the board for the first time and had to reply to this thread.

Yamamae, Circle hooks absolutely work for steelhead! I tried them for the first this summer because I have had fish ocassionally swallow the small patterns I use. I used the same C71 Mustad hook in sizes #6 and #8.

I managed to catch several steelhead this summer and all were hooked solidly in the corner of the mouth. I did miss at least 2 takes where I possibly tightened too fast when I thought the fish were on. In each case, I could feel the fly being ripped though teeth, and was shredded as the fish had really clamped down on the fly! However, I never lost a fish that I hooked up with. After missing these solid takes, I put a slight offset into the hook (bent point to side) and I didn't miss any more after that. I think that delaying the hookset long enough to allow the fish to turn is important. I would also add that the "hookset" should be nothing more than coming tight to the weight of the fish.

I would advocate increased usage of circle hooks in all aspects of fishing but particularly when C&R of native fish is concerned.

BTW, To answer the questions about foul-hooking. I did some testing at a location where this can be a problem due to high concentrations of fish, and found that my foul hook ratio was far below the average by using circle hooks. The few fish I did foul were either in the tail, or a fin, usually the pectoral. I believe it is virtually impossible to foul hook a fish in the body using these hooks.



12-03-2004, 07:17 PM
thanks for the replies. I will not give up on the circle hooks yet, altough I will be hesitant to use them in traditional down and across greased line methods unless I can get enough slack to allow the fish to "take" the fly. But you are right, that once hooked it is in the corner of the mouth and it will not come out. As Lefty said in an article of a few years ago, why circle hooks have any barb is a mystery.