Alberto Calzolari’s Blog for fly fishing

Salmon hook making and reshaping

Salmon hook making and reshaping

There was a time in fishing history where hooks were not yet produced commercially. Like everything else in our tackle box, on the other hand.

Before mass production, craftsmen, local artisans and simple fishermen were producing small quantities of hooks, by hand, one by one. Often, needle makers were able to manufacture also hooks. If you want to learn how to make a hook starting from a needle I suggest you to visit one of the fly fishing exhibitions where my friend Ken Reinard dresses his clothes of Ye Olde Colonial Angler. Or simply buy his book “The Colonial Angler’s Manual”.

When I started my journey with classic salmon flies the biggest problem I had was to find the right hooks. Even more than finding those precious feathers that all salmon fly tiers search for. You can still do a superb salmon fly with very common and cheap feathers but definitely you cannot expect to achieve good aesthetic results if you don’t craft your painting on the right canvas. I consider hooks as the canvas of our tying art and I see many other tiers nowadays share this same concept.

Many years ago I started to reshape my own hooks to reproduce those models of the past as it was so difficult to find them original and antique. For the finishing I went through every sort of experiment and I finally I settled with the most classic formula of Japanning method, followed by a correct baking. My experiments with the Japanning formula would be worth an article by itself. It is enough to say I almost burned down my garden toolshed. So, be really careful if you start playing with turpentine and fire. They don’t really marry well.

By the way, whichever is your hook finishing coat, paint, lacquer or real japanning, you should protect it from your vise jaws. Scratches on a mirror finish is not nice, neither is to scratch antique hooks. If hook protection is your aim please take a look at the Cottarelli vise section of my website or simply ask around to all the people who are using now this vise to tie salmon flies (or any other fly you can tie on a vise).

For several years there was only a bunch of fly tiers crafting their own hooks. In Italy we were really few friends and for long time only the late Claudio D’Angelo, Michele di Berardino and my mate Fabrizio Gajardoni, who is still creating superb pieces. Even a smaller number of professionals with a real production cycle were existing, such as Ron Reinhold and later on Ronn Lucas, which is still commercially producing hooks of the highest quality and with surely the most complete range of shapes and sizes.

Now, it is nice and amazing to see so many people playing with steel and tools to reproduce beautiful specimen of antique irons.

This is a real resurgence. You can find excellent examples of hand made hooks everywhere around the globe, from the Americas and Europe to Russia, Far East and Australia.

I am amazed by the level of quality reached by some of these craftsmen, although most of them still produce hooks for their own use and without commercial purposes.

Some of these hook makers are creating new and modern interpretations and original shapes, somehow thinking out of the box and making real piece of art. Take for example the unique hooks made by Yasuhiro Ogasawara, a Japanese maker who combines Japan laquers and gold leaves to create real piece of art.

We have to admit that today the amount of information is huge compared with what we had many years ago. Now, you can simply go to Face Book and find personal pages and even groups who are willing to share their knowledge and experiments.

It is not surprising that this hook making resurgence pushed a world renowned fly tier and author, Mr. Paul Rossman, to write a dedicated book about Salmon Fly Hooks (this is the title, by the way), which includes profiles of most of the hook makers, professionals and amateurs, which are spending part of their “lives” curving on a hook barb with a file in their hand. A book worth of keeping in our libraries.


Leave a Reply