We don’t like to express negativity about product because our experience might be vastly different from yours. I’m not so ego-centric that I think my experience is universal. The truth is that most products in the fly fishing industry are quite good. Trouble arises when consistency issues creep in, when you can’t rely on a packaged product like fly tying hooks. If 10, 15, or 20 out of a pack of 50 fail at the precise time you are counting on it to do as it promised (like hold even an 18″ trout with moderate pressure) you have issues.
I began fly fishing in the mid to late 1970s. I grew up without a lot of $ and took what was given. I grew up tying flies on inexpensive Mustad hooks. Back then they were made in Norway and quality was ok. Until just recently I continued to use them because, frankly, old habits die-hard. I still had the mindset that even if you drop a few fish, the price was right. Yeah, I know, a few that read this will see this as me discrediting myself as you think “this guy uses Mustad???!!” Just remember that Amelia & I fish a lot, many years 200+ days on the water. We catch a lot of fish. Because of this, I’ve never fussed up about dropping a few fish to a bent out hook. That is, until this year’s trip, our 10th annual, to New Zealand.
When we bought Fortress Lake Retreat and entered the world of chironomid fishing, curved hooks made so much sense. Mustad’s C49 series look wonderful. There was just one problem. They bent out on any kind of aggressive fish fighting on any fish over 2 lbs. And fighting fish aggressively is needed to keep those brookies out of the heavy timber on the bottom of Fortress Lake. That we caught brookies to 9 lbs in my decade hosting meant those C49s were always a concern. Time told us not to use them.
Amelia & I began to travel annually to New Zealand’s S Island more than a decade ago. As most know, the engaged trout average 4 to 6 lbs on the varying waters. We’ve caught them to 18lbs. My experience a decade ago was that the C49s would hold but you had to really watch to make sure they didn’t bend out while fighting any fish in any kind of current. I almost lost my first trophy trout as the hook was badly bent out. As time moved on Mustad was bought and the factory moved to China. Consistency issues became much broader, affecting the lineup of Mustad dry and nymph hooks that we’ve used: C49; R50/94840; R60/3399A; R30/94833.
A friend mentioned that there is such a thing as intended use – that a Mustad dry fly hook is intended for mayflies and caddis and maybe not a 10lb back country New Zealand brown. I’m not sure that applies here. In the same pack of hooks, a #10 Mustad nymph hook used to tie a dry fly pattern could just as easily hold a hot 8lb brown or bend out on a 14” cutthroat. It’s those consistency issues that leave a guy leery.
We’ve assembled a few scenes to show why we no longer trust Mustad nymph or dry fly hooks. As you begin to watch the first scene, imagine yourself having travelled to New Zealand, to the back country. You’ve found a gorgeous, rising rainbow on a perfect evening and you’re going to get the take. It should be a gorgeous bit of video. Given the time, distance and $ to travel against the minimal cost difference in hook pricing, the scene unfolding as it does simply doesn’t make sense, does it? As it goes… fool me once, shame on you. Fool me for 40 years, shame on me. And there’s the rub. I’m not mad at Mustad. The hooks are what they are. My frustration is with myself, my choices. Again, for so long it didn’t matter to me, but that has changed. And so has my hook choice.
*Special note – all footage shot in 2017 on hooks purchased within the past year.
Here’s our final ode to Mustad dry & nymph hooks:
PS – I shared the joy of the following engagement in video in “This. Is. Me”, what I don’t share in the following video is that the dry fly (tied on the R60/3399A hook) was shattered after this fight. Another one and done. I was lucky to land this fish.