Shank Alternatives

Shank Alternatives

Matt Klara | Sunday, 26 March 2017

A quick and simple fly tying related idea for today.

Shank flies and stinger hook flies like the string leech and Intruder have been very popular among steelhead anglers for a number of years. For good reason, too. The advantages of having a replaceable, short shanked, ultra-sharp hook off the very back end of a very long, wiggly fly are many – more hookups, better hookups, better land ratio, fewer flies ruined when your hook inevitably hits the stones. So, it didn’t take long for trout anglers and others to grab onto the ideas and begin incorporating them into their patterns.

But here’s the thing.  Buying shanks to tie with is pretty darn expensive, and most fly tiers have a perfect alternative already at their disposal.  For years, my number one choice for shanks has been all of the TERRIBLE long and medium shanked hooks that I either collected in my earlier days as a tier or have found in the discount bins of fishing shops or garage sales for next to no $.  You know the ones I’m talking about.  The hooks manufactured using ineffective heat treating processes resulting in downright weak hooks.  The hooks that are so dull right out of the box that you used to spend as much time honing the hooks as you did tying the fly.  The ones with a barb bigger than the hook eye.  Hooks you wouldn’t trust to a 1 pound trout let alone a 100 pound tarpon.  I have a name for all of these hooks.  I call them “CUTTERS”, because that is what I do to the hook bend after I tie my stinger fly onto the shank.

Just get yourself a set of proper wire cutting pliers and you are good to go.  I prefer the type with a proper linkage-type design as the mechanical advantage and super hard jaws will snip through a fat saltwater hook like nothing.  The ones shown in today’s POD ran me about $10 US.  One tip about cutting hooks.  Please wear eye protection and/or make sure that your cutting space is shielded.  Occasionally a hook point with shoot across the room when you snip it off.  Not something you’d want to hit you in the eye or find in the carpet with your bare feet in a few days!

Another alternative to the shanks that are sold specifically for fly tying is… spinner wire.  These are shown on the left side of the POD.  They are made for anglers who like building their own spinning lures using beads, blades, etc.  They come in a wide range of wire weights, and are super long to start with.  You can tie some MASSIVE flies with these.  Another nice advantage is that the types made from super light gage wire lets you tie an unweighted pattern that is truly light enough to swing over the shallows.  When I use spinner wire, I take some pliers and first make a 90 degree bend in the wire so I can easily clamp it into my tying vise.  The hardest part about spinner wire is finding where to buy it.  Not many retail stores carry them, so fire up the Google machine.

OK.  That’s it for now.  Hopefully you’ve got a few ideas to try out this week.  Happy tying.

Take Care and Fish On,

Matt