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How to sharpen a hook

There's an essential product that every fly fisher should carry but almost no one does. I know because I'm always checking with my fishing buddies. This product will guarantee that you hook more fish that take your fly, and land more of the fish that you do hook. The product: a hook sharpener.

Hooks are pretty sharp when they leave the hook factory, but they get knocked around in your fly box, they pick up minute amounts of rust (look at some of the flies in your box with a hand lens), and they get nicked on rocks all the time. There is a huge difference between a hook that is sorta sharp and a hook that is really sharp—a really sharp hook is so sticky that many fish hook themselves, yet few people realize it because so few sharpen the hooks on their flies.

Step 1. This Letort Hopper fly looks fine from a distance and most fly fishers wouldn’t notice a problem with it.
Step 2. Oops. It must have been put away wet. Notice how rusty the hook point has gotten. You’d be lucky to hook and land a trout on this fly.
Step 3. Draw the fly with the hook point forward across the hone.
Step 4. Take a few strokes on each side of the point as well as the bottom.
Step 5. The point is now shiny and sharp.
Step 6. Draw it across your thumbnail to test it—if it sticks your fly is now ready to fish.

There’s no voodoo to sharpening a hook. Draw a hook sharpener against the point of your hook a few times (parallel to the shank) on the bottom, and then take a couple of quick strokes to each side of the hook. Check it by drawing the fly across your thumbnail at a 45-degree angle. If it sticks into your thumbnail instead of sliding across it’s sharp enough. It takes just a few seconds and it’s really so easy to do that I think most anglers don’t sharpen hooks because they can’t believe it’s as easy as this.

You can buy hook sharpeners especially made for fly fishing like the Diamond Hook Hone, which works well for everything from tiny trout flies to big saltwater patterns. You can also use a fine emery board, a fine ceramic or Arkansas stone knife sharpener, a fine diamond file, or in a pinch a piece of fine emery paper.