By Captain Chris Sheeder
A single hook rig for billfish is not anything new or earth shattering, but in the flyfishing community it is a somewhat new concept and seems to be a hard switch for many. Guatemala was at the forefront of the circle hook revolution and one of the first to push its beneficial results onto the rest of the world. I happened to be a part of that effort and I’m here to push another one…the single hook rig for flyfishing.
Obviously, a circle hook doesn’t work in this application since a fly is more of a lure than a bait, but why does everyone insist on a double rig? I have been using a single hook rig for some time now and exclusively for over a year. I have found that my hook up averages have not dropped at all, in fact they have increased slightly! I started by putting a single hook back at the end of the fly, like you would in a trolling lure.
With this system, we had almost all outside the mouth “snags” and a slightly lower hook up ratio. I took a bunch of photos of bite shots and found that the sails were absolutely biting down on the fly’s head and the hook being outside the mouth, would snag the outside of the bill or outside of the mouth…makes sense. I then decided to put the hook well within the fly, almost as far forward as possible.
This made a huge difference! Most fish were now being hooked inside the mouth and ratios went up, way up! We now had the same hook up ratio as using double hook rig. So, “Why not just use a double hook rig?” you might ask. Using a single hook keeps a secondary hook away from secondary parts of the fish – its eyes, for example. It also keeps from locking a fish’s mouth shut – i.e. one hook on top and one on the bottom jaw If you break off a fish with this, he has a hard time breathing and eating. Also, this keeps hooks out of mates’ hands.
A mate can now just reach down and start grabbing bills without fear of getting the second hook buried in their hand. This cuts down tremendously the time the billfish is boat side and keeps the stress levels much lower for a cleaner release. It is a win-win system, you get the high hook up percentage and it is safer for both the fish and your mate…why wouldn’t you give it a try?