Understanding Hook Eyes Pt 1: Orientation
Up, down and straight… How do hook eyes differ and does it even matter in the long term? Our aim is to break down the function and purpose of hook eyes for the tyer and the angler. The first section will be on orientation of hook eyes.
Down eye hooks are the most popular with trout anglers, most of all dry fly anglers. The down eye provides fast, strong hook sets and the orientation of the eye pulls inwards during the set. For the dry fly angler, the down eye puts the tippet under the surface film making it less visible then being on the surface or above the water. Another feature of the Down eye also allows for hitching and Snell knots. On the down side, in smaller sizes a down eye may restrict the hook gap. This is less of an issue with modern wide gap hooks. Offset or reversed bonds were a once common fix for this issue but have unfortunately fallen out of favor.
Straight eye hooks are very popular for saltwater, predator and most larger size fly hooks. They maximize the hook gap with no obstruction and offer good hook setting with the point getting pulled straight with the line. These hook eyes are ideal for loop knots, however they are not ideal for snell knots or hitching. Straight eye hooks are often considered not ideal for Dry Flies as the tippet will sit in the film. This can cause the surface tension of the water to magnify the tippet.
Up eye hooks are a favored choice for salmon and steelhead flies as well as swung trout flies. These hooks are ideal for hitching knots and snell knots. They also have potentially weak hook sets because the orientation pivots the point slightly away, though this is a small amount and less of a factor on salmon and steelhead sets. For subsurface flies they produce nice swim profiles. Nymphs and wets benefit from this. On dry Flies, the tippet can start slightly out of the water before being caught in the surface film. This is not the most ideal as it still makes the tippet more visible from shadow or surface tension. This style of hook was once extremely popular for midge flies. In addition, they are excellent for skating dry flies with a turle knot as having the hook eye off the water makes the flies skate better.
When all is said and done, it is hard to day and design is best. It all comes down to application and angler preference. The variation of hook eyes serves in both practical application for fishing flies as well as a design and style perfect for tyers who like to dabble in the art of fly tying and presentation.