The Finer Points of Finer Points – How to Sharpen Hooks

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Video sharpen fish hooks
How to sharpen hooks
Here, the hook point should be dragging toward the green handle.

A while back we told you about our favorite method for testing whether the hook on your fly is sharp enough or whether it’s in desperate need of a touch-up. After all, it doesn’t take much to dull a sharp hook, which is why we think a simple hook file is one of the most useful pieces of gear to keep on your person while on the water.

That being said, while the majority of anglers tend to have a hook file tucked away somewhere in the pocket of a pack, vest, or boat bag, we’ve found that many aren’t quite exactly sure how to use it. If you fall into the same category, not to worry, today’s post is for you!

Sharpening Hooks – 5 Tips

  1. Draw the hook point towards the file, not away from it. A common mistake when sharpening hooks is to drag the hook point backward away from the file (with the hook point pointed toward your body) as if you were whittling the bark off of a stick. This can sharpen the hook to an extent, but at a microscopic level can actually create a small buildup of material creating a berm of steel near the hook point that can hinder penetration. Instead, the hook point should be slid towards the direction of the file, like a plow.
  2. Sharpen all three sides. Most hook files come with a groove on one or both sides for the hook to slide the hook point down, theoretically sharpening three sides at once. However, because we use a wide range of hook diameters, we prefer to use the flat portion of the file instead, making sure to hit the bottom, left, and right sides of the hook point in separate passes.
  3. Keep a consistent angle. Just like sharpening a knife on a stone, keeping the hook point on the same angle against the stone on each side helps create a sharper point with minimum strokes. For a consistent angle when sharpening hooks, use your middle finger to brace against the edge of the file in order to keep the hook point at the same angle while drawing it against the grit of the file (see photo above).
  4. Use both sides of the file. Most hook files come with two sides of differing ‘grits.’ Starting with the coarse side and touching up with the fine side is key to honing your hook as sharp as possible.
  5. Less is more. Another common mistake made when sharpening hooks is too many strokes against the hook file. A quality diamond grit hook file can remove a surprising amount of material with very few strokes. Start with 4-5 strokes against the file on all three sides, check the sharpness of the hook, and repeat if necessary. Be sure to count the number of strokes to ensure the same amount of material is removed from each side.
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Ethan Smith is a seasoned marine veteran, professional blogger, witty and edgy writer, and an avid hunter. He spent a great deal of his childhood years around the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest in Arizona. Watching active hunters practise their craft initiated him into the world of hunting and rubrics of outdoor life. He also honed his writing skills by sharing his outdoor experiences with fellow schoolmates through their high school’s magazine. Further along the way, the US Marine Corps got wind of his excellent combination of skills and sought to put them into good use by employing him as a combat correspondent. He now shares his income from this prestigious job with his wife and one kid. Read more >>