The Jig

The Jig

A little story.

Lately I have been tying the majority of my nymphs using a jig hook. Yep, I jumped on that “Euro Style” bandwagon like the rest of all those flat brimmers. The damn things work pretty well and to be totally honest, I have been using jig hooks since I was a kid. I grew up in SE Tennessee and was no stranger to jigging for crappy, blue gill, sunfish and whatever warm water fish that swam past the lead headed jig I was dangling off the end of Zebco 206.

Later in life I was reintroduced with this crooked hook shank when I was guiding in Patagonia, Chile. One of my clients, Paul, a Veterinarian from Kentucky enlightened me on some other uses for this hook when the fishing was a little slow and we needed to change things up. We were fishing a well known lake in the region called Lago Yelcho. Lago Yelcho is a large, glacier fed lake located in the Las Lagos region of Patagonia and is home to some rather large rainbow and brown trout.

During a lull, Paul rummaged around his gear and produced a lead headed jig hook with a white maribou skirt attached around the collar and suggested we use it. Insulted at the thought of lowering ourselves down to throwing pan fish lures for Patagonian rainbow trout, I quickly dismissed the seemingly senile old man and told him it probably wasn’t going to work. Paul ignored me. He then tied on the panfish jig and proceeded to cast and retrieve the jig headed miscreant through water that we had previously covered. Only this time he was picking up fish and some of them were pretty nice. Quietly the man hooked one fish after the other. I sulked quietly and netted each trout that came in with a pan fish lure sticking out of it’s mouth. They worked. The only problem was the hook. These small hooks were designed to angle in fish the size of a large blue gill and they couldn’t handle Lago Yelcho trout. We eventually ran out of the lures and the jig was up. 

Lago Yelcho. Home to some “big ones”.

I told that story to reiterate the old adage that you can’t judge a book by it’s cover. Or for this occasion, you can’t judge the quality of a fly by the way the hook is shaped. Chew on that for a while.

With everything in life there are advantages and disadvantages to a jig hook. The biggest advantage I have found is how much less I snag the bottom of the river as well as logs, branches, and other woody debris we have grown accustomed to hooking while nymphing deep. The only disadvantages that I can come up with is the cost and size availability. You are going to pay a little bit more for these hooks and beads compared to standard nymph tying materials. Also, it can be hard to find sizes larger than 10’s and smaller than 16’s. I have a feeling that might change down the road after the shine wears off of the jig hook phenomenon. 

Size 16 pheasant tail tied on a jig hook and slotted bead.

The future.

I’m not the only one switching over this style of hook. It has long been used in Europe and has helped the Europeans kick the U.S.A. fly fishing team’s ass for quite some time in international fly fishing competitions. In the last year or so however it seems to be catching on and is somewhat embraced throughout the United State’s fly fishing industry. You are starting to see more and more fly bins in your local fly shops carrying flies tied on jig hooks and fly tying sections are adding room to accommodate the jig hooks and slotted bead selections. As more and more people start tying and using jig hooks, the popularity will grow and who knows we might see a fundamental shift in the way our subsurface patterns are tied.