Far too many anglers insist on only using the smaller sizes of hook for all their fishing. By doing this they are putting unnecessary restrictions on their chances of hooking and landing good fish. The size of hook used should be chosen to suit the size of bait, and the species of fish to be caught. If you restrict all your fishing to tiny hooks and tiny baits then probably all you will catch will be tiny fish. Hooks for freshwater fishing range in size from a size I down to size 20. The higher the number then the smaller the hook. Smaller eyed hooks than a size 20 are available but these are ridiculously small and the beginner is best advised to forget them. Most anglers begin fishing by using maggots and are not really particular about what species of fish they catch, so hook sizes 14, 16, and 18 will suffice for this purpose.
The actual type of hook to be used poses a difficult problem. Eyed hooks are the cheapest but in the smaller sizes they are slightly more cumbersome than a spade end hook of the same size.
Tying hooks to line
Spade end hooks can be bought loose or already tied to a length of nylon cast. The hooks already tied to nylon are very expensive for the young angler and my advice is to learn how to whip your own spade end hooks on to nylon. The spade end knot is not an easy knot to learn but it is well worth the effort. Avoid trying to tie one of these knots at the waterside when your hands are covered in ground-bait or fish slime. Buy a spool of nylon line with a slightly lower breaking strain than the reel line you use for float fishing and make up several hook lengths before your fishing trip. If a 2 lb (0.9 kg) breaking strain line is normally used then a I£ lb (0.7 kg) breaking strain line is used for the hook length. The reason for this is that should your tackle become snagged or else you hook a fish you cannot handle, the short hook length will break before the reel line and all you will lose is the hook. Tic the spade end hook on to this lower breaking strain line using a spade end knot and then cut the nylon to leave a 0.5 metre length attached to the hook. Form a loop on the end of the hook length with a three-turn loop knot and store the completed cast in a cellophane hook packet ready for use. Always ensure when tying a spade end knot that the nylon is on the front of the flattened hook shank and not on the outside otherwise the spade end will fray the nylon.
For the hooks larger than a size 14, eyed hooks are ideal and can be tied direct to the reel line using a clinch knot. When using eyed hooks always check that the eye is fully closed before tying them on to the line.
Barbless hooks are the best type of hook to use in the smaller size range. The main reason for this is that if a little care is taken they can eliminate any hook damage to a fish. With a barbed hook there is always a small mark left in a fish’s mouth and if a fish is unhooked hurriedly or clumsily the fish can be badly damaged. Another great advantage of using barbless hooks is that they are much sharper and consequently hook penetration is much easier. My only doubt about advising beginners to use barbless hooks is that fish have to be played on a tight line. If the line is allowed to go slack whilst playing a fish then the hook is liable to slip out. Eventually, I would like to see every angler converted to barblcss hooks when using the smaller sizes. Far too many young fish are damaged when being unhooked and grow into maturity with deformed mouths. ‘