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Fishing Hooks, Lines And Leaders

( Originally Published 1912 )

FISH HOOKS have been in use from prehistoric times, but what they were like in these early days, or what they were made of we do not know. But hooks of metal were in use in early Bible times and bronze fish hooks have been found in the ruins of the ancient city of Pompeii. The fish hook of today the carefully shaped and tempered article originated in England in the early days of the Eighteenth Century. At that time there were certain fishing centers on the various rivers and the several dealers in fishing goods each had their hooks made by local workmen, after a given pattern. These hooks were named after the towns where they were made, and the same patterns are made today, as well as others of American patterns,. which were also named after the place of manufacture, or the place where first used.

Of the old English patterns we have such as the Aberdeen, Limerick, Kendall, Carlisle, etc., and some of our later hooks are the Virginia, Cincinnati Bass, and others that suggest their origin by their names. As will be noted by referring to the illustration which shows a few patterns only (there are hundreds of patterns), all differ in some way, either in length of shank, style of bend, side bend, or shape of point. Each angler has his favorite style of hook for each kind of fishing, and while some are better than others there is not as much difference in catching and holding qualities as some imagine.

There are two distinct styles of point and barb; the spear point and the hollow point. The latter is preferable and is used on all first-class hooks. Cheap ringed hooks that sell for five cents a hundred or thereabouts, all have spear points and are formed entirely by machinery. They will do for such fishing as chubs, sunfish, catfish, suckers, and that kind, but they are not as strong as the hand-forged hook and heavier and larger ones must be used. A hollow point hook has the inside of the point, between the extreme point of hook and point of barb filed out to a nice curve and the hook below the barb is also shaped by filing or grinding. The cheap ringed hooks are invariably japanned black, but the good hooks are blued or bronzed.

The length of shank makes this difference; it weakens the hook if too long, allowing it to spring and let the fish slip off, but it also enables the angler to extract it readily without getting his fingers in the fish's mouth. They also save bait when using worms, as the bait slips up the shank of the hook and is less mutilated by the fish. The longest shanked hook is the Carlisle. It is rather weak and not good for heavy fish; also has a strong side bend which few anglers approve of.

The end of the shank may be finished in several ways; it may be ringed, by turning the end of the wire so that it forms an eye; it may be tapered and marked with little cuts; or it may be flattened out at the end. The marked hooks are used for snelling with silkworm gut and for making flies with snells. The gut is thoroughly softened by soaking in water, and is laid along the shank of the hook and bound on by winding tightly with fine silk thread. The winding is then shellaced.

Ringed hooks are used for what are called "eyed flies" and are tied to the end of the leader by certain knots which are described elsewhere. They are also used for common fishing by tying direct to the line. The flatted end hooks may be used either way, with gut or to the line itself.

One style of hook is known as the Pennell. The eye or ring of this hook is turned over towards the point and this makes a fine shape and one of the very best of hooks. The shanks are tapered, the hooks finely tempered and finished in bronze. Another very popular hook, especially for the smaller kinds of Ash, is the Sneck pattern, also called Kendall-Sneck, or Sneck-Kendall. They are finely tempered and blued. The O'Shaughnessy is also a favorite, especially for sea-fishing.

For tarpon, tuna and other very large and powerful fish the Van Vleck hook is the kind most used. These hooks are eyed and the eye is formed by flattening the end and punching. The point and barb also differs from the regulation pattern. The Improved Van Vleck has a double barb and it is set on the outside of the point instead of the inside. The smallest of these hooks is numbered 8 and this one is about the same size as the No. 1 or No. 1-0 of the other hooks. Sizes 7 and 8 are for black bass. The Captiva is a tarpon hook similar to the plain Van Vleck.

There are several styles of hooks which have no barbs. One is the Williams Barbless hook, which has a peculiar bend to prevent the fish from shaking it out. This hook is said to be a very good one and is liked because it does not injure the fish as much as a barbed hook, so that the small ones may be returned to the water none the worse for the catching. The other barbless hook is the Edgar, which has a tongue to prevent the fish from getting off.

Many hooks have been designed for bass and for other surface feeding fish, with weed guards, to prevent the hook catching weeds and grass. Some of these are good and do their work well, but others are so constructed that they turn over quite often when the fish takes the bait and thus prevent the hook from catching. Some of the best kinds are shown in the illustration. It will be noted that they are all weighted; this is to make them ride point up. Quite a novel idea is shown in the Doddridge Automatic Weedless hook, which is weedless only while being drawn forward, the tension of the line tripping the weed guards up to the point of the hook and the guards dropping down out of the way the instant the line is slacked.

There are also double hooks, made by forming hooks on both ends of a piece of wire and bending it in the middle. This form is not used much but nearly all artificial baits are furnished with one or more treble hooks, which are made by soldering a single and a double hook together so that it forms three hooks on the same shank, each standing out in a different direction from the shank. These are sometimes used plain and sometimes covered with a bunch of feathers or deer hair, to conceal them and ward off weeds and grass.

As with hooks, so also it is with lines. There are many kinds and each has its use. For instance there are lines of cotton, twisted and braided, both braided and twisted linen lines, soft braided silk lines, oiled or waterproof braided silk tines, and enameled silk lines.

Twisted cotton lines are used only for catching catfish and such bottom feeding fish. Braided cotton lines are used for the same purposes ; also for ocean fishing and for trolling. Braided and twisted linen lines are very strong and are used for all kinds of salt-water fishing and lake trolling.

The sizes of twisted linen Cuttyhunk lines are shown here, the numbers showing the number of threads of which they are made. Each thread is tested to stand a strain of two pounds, so a thirty-thread line will stand a strain of sixty pounds ; a nine-thread line will stand a strain of eighteen pounds, etc. These lines are very hard and smooth.

Some of those made by the Kingfisher people are waterproof, and all of them make excellent lines for all-around fishing. A No. 6 Cuttyhunk linen line is no larger than an ordinary thread, but will stand a strain of twelve pounds.

A line that is excellent for trolling and also good for salt-water fishing is made by braiding silk over a linen center. It is a very strong line but rather stiff and rough for casting. Pure silk lines are not durable when used in salt-water.

The plain undressed silk lines are the kind for bait casting. They are numbered differently but the sizes are a trifle larger than the twisted linen lines of the same strength. A soft undressed braided silk line about the same diameter as a No. 9 twisted linen line will stand a strain of sixteen pounds, and the linen line will stand eighteen. This size is generally known as G, but different brands of line are numbered differently and you must know this before you order a line of this kind. This, and the E size, which is larger, are the sizes most used for bait-casting for black bass.

The oiled silk lines are made for general all-around fishing, but are not specially adapted for any particular use. They make durable and useful lines for the average fisherman, as they can be used for fishing with worm, for bottom fishing, trolling, etc.

For fly casting there is only one kind and that is the enameled silk line. Here is where quality counts and the finest are none too good. These lines are covered with a flexible enamel and not only covered but saturated with it as well. It makes the lines very smooth and increases their weight, both of which are desirable qualities for fly casting. It must be stiff enough to run nicely through the guides without drooping enough to bind, but must not by any means be stiffer than this—some of them are too stiff and none are too pliable. The enamel must be of the best so that it will not break, wear off or get sticky. The sizes used mostly for fly-casting for trout and bass are sizes E and F. The E size is used most, but for a very light rod the F size should be chosen. For salmon the size C is right.

The fine enameled silk lines have the dressing applied in a vacuum at a high temperature. It requires six months to enamel and finish one of these lines. When buying such a line double it sharply and pinch and roll it between the thumb and finger; if it turns white or softens or weakens at the place it is not a first-class article. See also that the line is flexible, and not sticky to the touch.

Of these enameled lines there are two kinds, known as level and tapered lines. The level lines are of even thickness throughout, but the tapered lines are two or three sizes smaller towards one end, if a single taper, or at both ends if a double tapered line. Tapered lines are better for fly-casting, especially for use on lakes and still water; the heavy center pushes the lighter end out more readily, and the line falls more lightly. A double tapered line can be changed end about when one end gets bad.

A fishing line should be of a color that will not show plainly in the water. For muddy or cloudy water it may be amber or tan color. The "pepper and salt" kind is good in grassy waters, so also are the green and yellow kinds. It should be remembered that the fish usually sees the line from below, outlined against the sky.

For deep trolling wire lines are used. These may be a single strand of copper wire, but such are likely to get broken as they kink very easily. A line of braided copper wire is better. Lines of other metals, rust-proof, are also made for this purpose. Their advantage over other styles of line is that they require no sinker and sink to the proper depth of their own weight. They are used for muskellunge and lake trout, especially the latter, which are nearly always found in very deep water.

Leaders, for fly fishing and for use with bait at times are made of metal or of silkworm gut, depending on what use is to be made of them. Those for trout, bass and salmon are always made of silkworm gut.

This is really a product of the silkworm. Most of it comes from Murcia, Spain, but some comes from Italy. It is made from the substance that the silk is made from, but it is taken from the body of the worm before he spins his cocoon from which we make silk. This raw product is found in a little sack and sack and contents are drawn out into a thread a foot or more in length, and allowed to harden. The sack is then removed and a strand of silkworm gut remains; a hard, semi-transparent and very strong substance. It goes through a bleaching and polishing process before it is ready for use, and some of it is drawn through holes in metal plates, like wire, to make it an even thickness and of equal strength. Nearly all of the fine, light-weight gut is drawn this way. Undrawn gut is not treated this way.

The leaders are made by tying these pieces together into lengths of three, six, or nine feet, with loops at the ends for attaching line and snelled hook. There are single gut leaders for light fishing and double gut leaders for heavier work. The double or treble gut leaders are generally twisted. If more than one thickness of gut is used it is better twisted as twisting equalizes the strain. Six and nine-foot leaders are now made mostly of three-foot lengths looped together and the loops make good places to attach dropper flies without tying additional loops to the leader. The loops are shoved open, the end of the snell passed through, and the loops drawn tight again. There must be a knot on the end of the snell.

Single gut leaders only are used for trout fishing and unless the fish are very large the lighter weight will answer, is really best, especially for lake fishing. For streams where there is always more or less motion to the water a heavier leader may be used, and as the leader is subjected to a greater strain in stream fishing it must be strong. It should be of even thickness from end to end, though for lake fishing they are sometimes tapered so that they fall more lightly on the water. Some leader makers, in order to get longer spaces between knots, use the light, inferior ends. As the strength of a chain is gauged by the strength of its weakest link, so also a leader is just as strong as its weakest spot; and of course there should be no weak spots. It should be round and transparent, of equal thickness throughout, and without kinks, frayed or split spots or blemishes of any kind.

For salmon the heaviest nine-foot single leaders should be used. For bass the leader should be three or six feet, heavy single, or light twisted double gut. An amateur needs a stronger leader than an expert.

Gut leaders are sometimes stained to a bluish or yellowish color, but it is doubtful whether this makes them any better or less conspicuous and many anglers believe that the coloring weakens the gut.

Wire leaders are made for trolling and sea fishing. They are usually made of steel wire, tinned and have swivels on the ends. Piano wire is sometimes used, also specially tempered steel, and phosphor bronze. One end should be fitted with a coupler for attaching the hook or bait. They are made in various lengths from six inches up to five feet. Twisted wire is also used for this purpose.

When going fishing the gut leaders should be carried in a small case or leader box between moist felt pads. This softens the leader and strengthens it. Never use a dry gut leader for fishing; soften it before you commence to fish.

Science of Fishing:
Science Of Fishing

Fishing Rods

Fishing Reels

Fishing Hooks, Lines And Leaders

Fishing Flies

Artificial Baits For Fishing

Landing, Nets Gaffs, Tackle Boxes For Fishing

Bait Casting

Fly Casting

Surf Casting, Trolling, Still Fishing

Read More Articles About: Science of Fishing

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