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Topher Browne 04-01-2003 10:01 PM

Single Hooks vs. Double Hooks
The logical extension to Malcolm's superb thread on single hooks vs. treble hooks would have to be:

Do you prefer single hooks or double hooks for Atlantic salmon (or any other species), and why?

I fish only singles in New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Labrador, and Newfoundland: it is standard practice in those provinces (in Newfoundland, single/barbless hook is law).

I fish a fair number of doubles in Quebec: it is accepted practice in 'La Belle Provence.' I will only fish a double on a floater or a VERY light tip and only in a good current.

Doubles unequivocally ride better than single hooks in a faster flow. On a floater or light tip in the high water of June, a single (depending on pattern) may be less likely to ride point down. I prefer the solid, twin keel of a double hook in a good push of water.

I like a single hook for all sunk line work: singles dramatically lower the chance of foul-hooking a fish. Canadian Maritime rivers do not generally put out the volume of water of, say, the Skagit in Washington or the Gaula in Norway. A single hook on a Fall-run Canadian salmon river is an important consideration.

For double hooks, I now use only the Loop Down-Eyed Double Salmon Hook (not the same as their Tube Fly Double Hook, which has a straight eye). If you prefer an up-eyed double, Mikael Frodin's 'Salar' double--made by Partridge--is the best on the market.

For single hooks, I use only down-eye hooks primarily by Mustad and Partridge. They have less tendency to skate than a traditional, up-eyed salmon hook; and I have greater confidence in their hooking capabilities.

Do you prefer single hooks or double hooks for Atlantic salmon (or any other species), and why?


Per Stadigh 04-02-2003 01:20 AM

Dear all,

Of course Topher has a point in this being a matter of taste, more than anything else. Still it feels perfectly normal to debate the merits of various hook types, even if this involves a critical view to those authorities and stalwart traditions that might hamper once choice in some regions. As much as the European tradition has been under influence from some master’s, like A.H.E. Wood, whose doctrines when cabled out through various “disciples” often has led confusion and rather poor drills, I am certain that the American/Canadian situation is the same. Every year on the Kola I meet anglers who are obsessed with Lee Wulff and his liking of ultra light tackle. I admire both Wood and Wulff as being exceptional anglers. But both were special men being spoiled with immense chances to catch fish in prime rivers, and that is worth bearing in mind. By going fine the level of challenge was kept up, the light kit preferred by Wulff probably also suited his mobile way of angling.

Without Wulff’s “wade-ability” and great skills in fish fighting, a tiny rod easily becomes a tool of torture rather than a efficient way to make a fish surrender to a quick release. I have seen “sports” that fought 14 pounders for almost an hour on a 7’ #4 rod. To me this is sheer arrogance and shows little respect to the salmon. It might take more than 15 minutes to get such a fish back in shape, whereas on caught on stouter tackle often enough darts off as soon as the hook is removed.

In a way I feel that the noble use of barbless singles comes out of the same kettle. I obey to it whenever needed, but I never feel entirely happy doing so. Maybe it is a flaw in my character……

As for foul hooking I think it is very hard to do so without deliberately attempting to. On the Kola I have caught several hundred June fish on anything from 850 gr. heads to light sink tips. Save one 28 pounder that was snagged in the pectoral fin after me freeing a snag, I have not foul hooked a single one. This has all been a matter of doubles, with few exception where big singles have been used.

Those few fish I have foul hooked through the years all have been when using the floater. Fish that come up and roll over the fly without taking it. It is rare, but that is where it has happened to me.

I will fish doubles, with or without barbs, wherever I am allowed to!!!

As for “science” I agree with BobK. Still, the deductions one can make out of immense numbers of weeks on the rivers, sometimes in situations where half a dozen a day can be caught, must be to some value. When I first fished the Babine I lost a good share of big fish on the 2-2/0 singles much used up there. Whenever a Steelhead became airborne it was risky stuff. Those heavy irons, without barbs, had a great tendency to fall out….. The year after I used short plastic tubes with Owner 1/0 hooks, and like Tyler, landed at least 80% of the fish being hooked. I think the overall reduced weight in combination with far less leverage due to the shorter shank has a lot to do with this.

Someone asked if I only used tubes? No, no without the “real” flies it would get boring! Like Topher I find the Loop down eyes to be great, although the “Salar” hooks mentioned by him are firm favorites, too. They come in silver, as well as black and gold, and a Silver Stoat tied on them looks very deadly.



cohocola 04-02-2003 07:05 AM

I use single hooks for this reason....

I have never hooked myself, (yet) but if I did, I would rather pull a single hook out of my body than a double hook. :eyecrazy:

Willie Gunn 04-02-2003 01:34 PM

Whilst debarbing over the winter, the Spey Fishery Board have asked for all flies to be barbless, I was struck by just how few doubles I have.

Most of my flies are trebles, I think an Ali Shrimp looks lovely on a size 16, esecially with a long tail.

Gardner mentioned the levering effect and I beleive that this levering is predominant with doubles. So in answer to your question, singles rather than doubles.


kush 04-02-2003 02:10 PM

I will say again that I can't really offer much of a comparison between singles and doubles, as by law here in British Columbia I have no choice. What I can do, however, is relate how we deal with some of the issues.

As Per notes, the short shank singles greatly reduce the number of fish that "fall off" on the jump due to barbless hooks. Given the chance to do so, I will fish barbed hooks. This only happens when I fish trout in lakes, to go barbless leaves me feeling a little hadicapped. As for steelhead - I have no choice - so I make do. When I fish Washington State rivers I still fish barbless, I guess it just becomes a way of thinking - it would feel like I was stealing or cheating if I used a barbed hook. Like I say, after so many years it only seems natural. It is like mandatory release of wild steelhead - at first it hurt, but now 20 years later -
I wouldn't dream of bonking one.

The stability issue that Topher refers to with singles is a concern. I am a great fan of GP-type flies. The problem with the traditional shell-back GP is its tendancy to roll over - even in moderate flows - a problem that does not exist with a double hook version. To compensate, my GP's employ a wing design that keeps the bulk of the material on top of the fly. I use clumps of marabou tied in two tying stations, 1/3 of the way up and at the head. This combined with the hook creates an exceptionally stable fly. You can see the flies in the Salmon Steelhead Fly Archives, scroll way down to "Tyler's Tubes"

Smolt 04-02-2003 04:43 PM

I prefer doubles because, like Topher, I feel they ride better -- and I need all the presentation help I can get.

I hooked myself once, on the Renous, in the ear with a barbed, number 10 single. The guide removed it painlessly. Fishing the Penobscot one windy day, I hit myself in the back of the head with a 2/0 double, saw stars and almost keeled over into the water.

I usually debarb my hooks. Frankly, I like the take and a couple of jumps. I really wouldn't be upset if I didn't land the fish thereafter. I also don't like landing fish in nets or by pulling them up on the gravel. Tailing takes too much time, so a long-line release is just fine with me.

As you may have guessed, I don't eat salmon or any finny fish for that matter. Its not a matter of ethics. I don't like the way they taste or, worse yet, smell.

Best to all,


Topher Browne 04-02-2003 11:44 PM

Three giants of the greased line--A.H.E. Wood, Frederick Hill, and G.P.R. Balfour-Kinnear--preferred the single hook to the double.

Anthony Crossley was a dissenting voice:

"Many extremely good fishermen, including two of Wood's own pupils, definitely prefer double hooks. For myself, in the smaller sizes I infinitely prefer them. Why? First of all because I never have breaks of the hook against the bone of the fish's jaw. Secondly, because it is not my experience that in slow water fish disgorge the flies before the current has tightened the line downstream of the fish. Thirdly, because in fast water where the dropper is of such value, I find they are much more likely to get a grip. Finally, the fish which takes the fly immediately below you (always the worst to hook), is, I think, rather more often brought to the gaff than on singles. Nor have I ever found any evidence that one hook levers out the other, and I think this could only possible happen in the very large sizes."

Anthony Crossley, 1939

It would appear that single vs. double hook is not a new debate......

flytyer 04-03-2003 01:49 AM

I very rarely fish doubles because many of the rivers I fish in Washington State have single-barbless hook requirements in effect when I fish them. This makes it a pain to have a fly box with only doubles in it that I must then remember to take our of my fishing vest before fishing where the single=barbless restrictions are in place or run the possibility of a fine.

The doubles do ride very nicely in the water, and we must keep in mind that Kelson spoke of fishing small doubles in low water. Although he fished large singles in high water.

A G.P. tied in the original manner swims much nicer when tied on a double. but again, I rarely tie or carry them tied on doubles anymore.

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