November 30, 2015

Wapsi Fly Tying Jig Hooks

I like to fish bead heads. Although not as widely known as other styles of kebari or kabari (fly), bead head style flies are considered traditional flies in some regions of Japan.  Many U.S. tenkara anglers get the idea that sakasa kebari (reversed hackle fly) are the only flies used in Japanese tenkara, but this is not true. Many styles of kebari are used from western style dries to traditional looking soft hackles to bead heads. It all depends on the needs of the angler.

But as I said, I like bead heads. I fish them all year round, but they seem to work especially well for me in winter. In my streams, trout hold tightly against the stream bottom in winter and will not move far to take a fly unless it appears to be worth their effort. It's the law of conservation of energy. If the trout feels that it will get more energy out of the morsel than it expends getting the morsel then it will more likely take it -- especially if you drift it right into its nose. Bead heads work great for this.

But because you are fishing right along the bottom you tend to lose a lot of flies. Also, secure hook ups can be more difficult because of the resistance of the water column on the fly. To over come both of these issues, I have gone to fishing jig style bead heads and using stiffer tenkara rods (Suntech Suikei TenkaraBum 36 or Shimano LLS36NX). These rods have the ability to cast bead heads well and yet they are stiff enough to set the hook positively. Their rod flex indexes are 5.1 and 5.8, respectively.

Jig style bead heads are commonly used by competition fly anglers from around the world. They provide more secure hook ups and tend to snag the stream bottom less. It is for these reasons that I have gone to jig flies.

You can buy jig hooks and use different sizes of slotted tungsten beads to make your own jig bead heads, but I have found an all in one hook that works very well for my needs. It is the Wapsi Fly Tying Jig Head hook.

These hooks are premium Mustad 32762 hooks with lead beads already attached. They come in various weights and three styles: gold, nickel and plain. The gold and nickel are electroplated, while the plain is just that, plain. I prefer the 1/124 and 1/80 oz. sizes. They are high quality hooks and provide very solid hook ups. Unlike other styles of jigs, these hooks have a horizontal presentation. That is, the hooks ride horizontally though the water column rather than vertically, which is more common with other style of jigs, including tungsten jig heads. This presentation is better when trout fishing than when, say, crappie fishing.

The three different types of Wapsi Fly Tying Jig Heads (nickel, plain and gold)

The difference between the 1/124 and the 1/80 oz. is that the 1/124 oz. is flat on both sides. 
Here's a better view of the difference between the two.

Another advantage is that they are less expensive than buying jig fly hooks and tungsten beads. With these you get both the hook and the bead together.

Are there any down sides? Yes. First, these are lead. So if you are fishing in certain lead-free waters, like Yellowstone National Park, you can't use these. Second, because the bead is fixed in place, you have less ability to vary the weight of your flies by choosing a different bead weight to go with any given hook size. Third, lead is not as dense as tungsten. The density of pure tungsten (19.25 gr/cm³) is significantly above both brass (around 9 gr/cm³, depending on alloy) and lead (11.34 gr/cm³). This may be an issue for some, but casting a tungsten bead is difficult with a tenkara rod; lead is easier and still productive. I like the intermediate density of lead, personally.

Tying materials on these hooks is the same as tying a regular bead head, but you just have to adjust some of the materials since the fly will ride hook up. It takes a little practice but the learning curve is not steep at all.

So if you like bead heads, like I do, you may want to give these hooks a try. More secure hook ups and fewer lost flies!


  1. Hi Tom,

    Thank you for the jig hook article, pre-weighted jig hooks will certainly speed up and simplify our fly tying operations. However, for those who have to deal with lead free restrictions, this has become my favorite jig hook style and supplier:

    While the price of these hooks may at first appear steep, similar hooks from The Fly Shop and Feather-Craft run two to 3 dollars more for a pack of 25 equal quality hooks. These are European Competition hooks of the best quality, barb-less, with very long needle sharp hook points, with most of the trout hooked on them being hooked in the upper lip, making for very easy releases on both the fish and the angler.

  2. Ok, now I have to drop by the fly shop and see if they have these hooks.

  3. Tungsten beads can be purchased for about $15 per 100. Allen Fly Fishing and FlyShack sell jig hooks for reasonable prices. Those are the options especially if you're angling non-lead areas. Non-lead is the future so might was well future proof.

  4. Most of my bead head fly pattern fishing is done in stillwaters, not streams. Tungsten beads have a tendency to sink too fast for me in the lakes, and get you hung up a lot on the bottom of shallow lake margins or you have to retrieve them too fast for the fish to keep from getting hung up, so I tie most of my lake bead head flies with the black nickle or brass beads. Plus the brass beads are a lot cheaper to buy than what tungsten beads cost. I am using one hook style however (the Daiichi 1770 Swimming Nymph Hook, #14), where I had to go to a 3/32 size tungsten bead because my normal size 20 to 14 hook sized brass beads would slide over the eyes of the Daiichi 1770 hooks. I paid $3.75 for a pack of 10 beads, locally. $ 15 per 100 Tungsten beads is a much better deal - thanks a lot for your recomendation.