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The Hook - Part 1

Few flytiers spend much time thinking seriously about the hooks they use.  Most see it as a moot point, trapped by the limited selection offered by the few companies that mass-produce them.  Even among the very best tiers in the world, precious few make or even modify their own hooks.  I see the hook differently, too integral to be dismissed.  It represents the business end of the fly and the foundation on which it is tied.  So when I design a fly, the hook is not an afterthought but the first thought.

Given the hook’s centrality, I knew that for this fly I would need to do something totally new.  After thinking for a long time about it, I decided that the hook itself would have to spin.  In the end, I settled on spinning it from three strands of solid 18-karat gold wire to form a gold triple helix.  To my knowledge this has never been done before.  I’ve learned, however, to be cautious about making such proclamations.  If you want to be pretty sure you’re wrong, just say you’ve done something no one else has.  I have to be especially careful about making such pronouncements, because my reclusive artistic process involves intentionally remaining ignorant of what others have done.  So all I can really say with confidence is that I’ve never seen a spun hook before.

I soon realized as I considered spinning the hook that one of the great difficulties would be how to make the barb.  The simplest solution was to omit the barb, which would be easy to justify as a modification made to make the piece more wearable.  But the omission of the barb would also be to emasculate the hook of much of its dangerous beauty.  However difficult it would be to construct, and however small an accent it may be, omitting the barb was simply not an option.

What made the most sense to me was to cut one of the three strands and turn it into the barb.  That would mean that the cut strand would have to be soldered to the other two strands in at least two different places.  The problem was when to cut it.  If I cut it before spinning the three strands together, then one strand would be shorter than the others, and it would be very difficult to spin the three wires together.  Cutting it after spinning the wires creates an even bigger problem – it can’t be done without cutting into the other two strands, as this crude diagram of the cross-section of a saw cutting into the spun strands demonstrates:

Hook Cutting Diagram 1

Then I thought of a solution:  Before spinning the strands together, I would first partially cut the desired wire around its entire circumference but leave a narrow core in the center.  Then I would be able to spin the wires normally.  Afterward, I would cut the core of the wire without scarring the other two:

 Hook Cutting Diagram 2

I then realized that any shaping of the wire would be difficult after the strands were spun together.  I was best off shaping as much as I could of the barb and strand ends before spinning them together.  So, I would have to 1) Shape the wires as completely as possible, 2) spin the strands together, 3) solder the strands together, 4) cut out the barb, 5) finish shaping the barb and loose end so as to make everything appear seamless, and 6) give the entire hook a final polish.

A few experiments with the method described above quickly demonstrated to me that, as well planned as it was, it simply wouldn’t work.  The problem was that the thinner section of wire where the barb would be cut out bends more easily than the surrounding wire, making it kink awkwardly when the three strands are spun together.  This failure made me realize that the only option was to make the barb from an altogether separate section of wire and solder it on prior to spinning the strands together.

 

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