It goes without saying; sharp hooks catch more fish than dull hooks. Not only do they allow for better penetration into the hard mouths of tough fish, sticky-sharp hooks also allow for a greater margin of error for poor hook-sets as well.
Regardless, we find many anglers still regularly fish hooks that are not nearly as sharp as they should be. After all, it takes very little for the point of a sharp hook to dull. Setting the hook into a fish, stripping the fly into a coral head, or bouncing the fly along the bottom of the river bed can dull up a hook in no time.
Luckily, it also takes very little to sharpen a dull hook as well. But, the obvious question then becomes; how can you tell your hook is sharp enough? We’ll tell you.
Many anglers use the skin on their finger to test whether or not the hook of their fly is sharp enough. However, not only can this be unsafe, human skin is also very soft, and even a relatively dull hook can ‘grab’ skin to give the appearance that it is sharp enough. We don’t find this is the most effective method to determine whether or not a hook needs sharpening. Instead, we prefer to use our fingernail.. Allow us to explain.
With the fly in one hand, use very light pressure to draw the hook point across the thumbnail of your other hand (see photo above). If the point of the hook grabs the nail without sliding across it, you can be confident the hook is plenty sharp. If the point of the hook slides across the nail, scratching the surface of the nail it in the process, the hook could use a quick touch up. If the point of the hook slides across the nail without scratching it, the hook is dull and is in desperate need of a sharpening.