Hook location on big flies

I've been tying up some larger patters to emulate what's off the beach recently, and began to wonder about whether to use a stinger or not. On larger bait fish, is a fish going to take a head shot, or body?
I'm sure stingers are around for a reason, but I've stopped using them. Every single fish I've ever caught on a fly with a stinger (pike, salmon, halibut, bass) have all been caught on the front hook. Every single one. The only thing the stinger ever did for me was tangle in the line as the fish thrashed around, and gouge the fish outside the mouth. The last stinger I used was on a pike a few years ago, and he had it stuck in his eye, the front hook securely in his upper lip. Fortunately, he was a smaller fish, and good for a meal, so I kept him. Since then, I've not used them.

But like I said, I'm sure they're around for a reason, so someone else will likely have some info for ya.

Thanks Kodiak. Your experience seems to be that the takes are head shots.

I should have made clear that I clip the front hook at the curve of the shank, so its sole purpose is to carry the fly body, and attach the stinger to the front hook shank with 25lb mono, so this avoids the sometimes otherwise gruesome results of double hooking the fish, or worse, impaling yourself on the stinger while unhooking a lively fish.
Hey Jim,

Good to see you innovating-- have you been doing well off the beaches??

I like the idea of a stinger hook like you describe, as it has several advantages:

-smaller hook, potentially less damaging than a large streamer hook
-placed further back on the body for short strikers (I'd get a lot of these off the beach)
-once hooked, the 'floating' stinger allows much more movement, and the fish cannot leverage the hook point (especially applicable to clousers and other weighted-eye flies)

Friends of mine were losing lots of big coho in tidewaters in Alaska on wogs and big fixed-hook streamers; once they moved to the small stinger hook, the fish could roll all over the place without throwing the hook. Many of the new saltwater patterns in my local fly shop have very small trailing hooks, which is especially great considering you don't know if you'll hook into a 6" smolt, or an 18" cuttie (or 5lb resident silver!). Let us know how it turns out!


Triploid, Humpy & Seaplane Hater
I would say my experience with stingers has been different then Kodiaks. One of my favorite Puget Sound patterns is Bruce Ferguson's Herring tied with a stinger. I'd say that probably 50% of the coho I catch on that pattern are hooked via the stinger. I use a small Gamakatsu octopus via 25 lb ultragreen Maxima. The stinger is great for the short bites on larger patterns. I only fish this pattern for larger returning fish in late summer and fall.

Another advantage is if the front hook get dinged on the rocks, you can just cut it off and fish only the stinger. If the stinger gets dinged, you can change the stinger without having to dispose of an otherwise good fly.

Some folks will argue that a stinger does more damage to the fish. So a single hook doesn't? I haven't found that to be the case, since both hooks are barbless anyway. I think of all coho I've caught, only one had both hooks in it's mouth. My kind of coho. Very aggressive and he ended up on the BBQ anyway.
Let us know how your new patterns work.


Active Member
Lots of different theories in this area. For me, with larger, longer than 3 inch patterns, I stick to a short or normal shank single hook, regular tie when the size of the mouth hitting the fly is going to be able to grab the majority of the fly. If the mouth is too small to do that as is normally the case in the sound, I use a smaller "trailing" hook of some kind as the only hook in the pattern. Tube flies let me fish it both ways.
When a stinger is used on a small fly cutthroat sometimes inhale it, which is often fatal to the cutthroat, according to my fishing pal, Bruce Ferguson. He does use a stinger on his Green and Silver for mature salmon though. I've used Leland's popper, which employs the stinger only, for several years and have nver experienced a deep take from any fish I've hooked from the beach. Also, in my opinion most fish strike at the head. I believe that a short shank hook like the Gamakatsu SC 15, or Combs Big Game hooks fish just as efficiently as a stinger.
However, I do like a double hook for bluewater species like marlin or sailfish. I always fish tube flies for these critters and employ a two-hook gang on them. I use the same flies for skipjack and dorado but with a single hook.
Finally, the Clouser Minnow, a favorite of our beach or boat anglers does not have a stinger and is a very efficient hooker. I doubt if there is much difference in solid hookups between a single, or a single with a stinger.
Good Fishing,
Les Johnson


Active Member
what is a big fly???

i tie in stinger hooks when the length gets to about 6-10". something like a streaker for dorado. OTOH, the flies i use for bills are about 6-7" and use a single 4/0 offset point hook.

i can't see a stinger being productive for SRCs or for salmon, the flies are simply not long enough to warrant that sort of approach. if you are really concerned about short strikes, tie tubes instead. you can increase the drop back of the hook by simply using some stiff tubing between the fly body and the hook, easy. of course if your baitfish patterns have an eye incorporated, you are not going to be concerned about short strikes in the first place.
Mauijim, good to hear from ya. I've been missing the color shots of your latest excursions; you been getting out? Beach fishing in April was just killer, with lots of big SeaRuns; May slowed down a lot, but June is starting off pretty good. Lots of bait/smolt in the water, including a lot about 5-6" in length, which forced me to the tying table.

As far as innovations, I don't know about that, reinventing the wheel most likely, and need to take another look at Ferguson’s Herring when I get home. I copied the stinger rigging idea from Miyawaki's beach popper for all the reasons that make his popper work so well. I'm using 6" long 'fish hair' wings riding over calf tail on the front shank. I’m using the smaller shanked Gamakatsu Octopus as the stinger for all the other reasons set out by you and Brian.

On the water surface, it seems that the stinger works so well because the surface takes are frequently slashing, following grabs. Under water, I'm not so sure; seems like I've experienced my share of short takes on big flies, but I was talking with one knowledgeable guy that said that, under water, the takes are usually head takes. This caused me to pose the question before the wise folks on this site hoping to get some opinions on the subject, especially since a lot of additional work goes into setting up the stinger and to prevent the wings from fouling the stinger. I'll be fishing it on an intermediate line drifting in the current as a wounded fish.


Active Member
I fish streamers quite a bit for a variety of speices and have found that if the fish are eating a single hook at the head of the fly works just fine. Has been my experience that if the fish finds the fly to their liking and they are serious about trying to eat the bug they nearly always takes the fly from the head.

I typically use Daiichi 2451s for most of my streamers. This is true even for some fairly large flies. I fish ling cod some here in the sound using flies that are 6 to 12 inches long and all are tied with a single hook - either the Daiichis or Gami swaish hooks. Usually have a high hook up rate with those flies on the lings and even the smaller rockfish

As you mention when fish are slashing rather than eating then a stinger hook becomes a advantage. The one fishery where I use stingers is during the in-sound fishery for ocean coho during September/October. It seems to be they are not aggressively eating and a stinger results in a few more fish to hand.

Tight lines
While fishing in the Queen Charlotte Islands with Leland last fall I found that the Bill Nelson style of baitfish pattern (stinger only) worked well for large but picky coho. During the heart of the season though when coho are really slamming into bait balls, I'm with Curt; salmon tend to hit at the head. I believe that eyes on the head are more important than a stinger at the tail.
Good Fishing,
Les Johnson