Micro fishing hooks are either hooks specifically designed for small fish, like the tanago hooks used in Japan, or fly tying hooks intended for very small flies but useful for very small fish as well.
The tanago hooks are specifically designed for fish that have very tiny mouths. The size of the tanago hooks, but even more the shape of the hooks, makes them much more effective for extremely small fish - particularly when fishing the way they do for tanago - with a small float, a very small weight and an even smaller bait.
I have caught shiners, dace, chubs, fallfish, trout, bass and sunfish on tanago hooks and on midge hooks. The tanago hooks are better if you plan to fish with bait and the midge hooks are better if you plan to fly fish for micros.
I am often asked which hook is the smallest. It can be a bit confusing, since both Owner and Gamakatsu have hooks named "Smallest" (rough translation). In a sense, though the question misses the point. The point is the point (the hook point, that is). People just assume that a fish takes the whole hook into it's mouth, so they want to use a small hook to catch small fish.
The unusual shapes for tanago hooks, though, are because the fish doesn't take the whole hook into its mouth! The only part of the tanago hook that matters is the point. That is the only part of the hook that tanago (which have very small mouths) take. The extreme bend is to keep the hook shank out of the way!
The key, then, is how long is the point. A shorter hook point can be taken by a smaller fish. The Owner Migen has a hook point that is even shorter than the Gamakatsu "Ultimate" - short enough that it really is for the smallest of fish.
Midge hooks were designed for small flies, but they were also designed
for large fish. The gape is small because it is a small hook overall,
but the length of the hook point is too great for the smallest fish. This is particularly true if the hook is hanging vertically, as it would if you are fishing under a float.
In Japan, where people fish for small fish, they use hooks specifically designed for catching small fish. And by small fish, I mean really small fish. There seems to be a general goal to catch a fish that will fit on a 1 yen coin. A 1 yen coin is 20 mm in diameter - about 3/4". The hooks used to catch these small fish have a very different shape than fly hooks. Although the overall length of the tanago hook is longer than the smallest fly hooks, the point of the hook (which is the only part the fish takes into its mouth) is much shorter.
The hooks are shaped so that the point of the hook is taken into the fish's mouth and the hook is set with the slightest tightening of the line. These are bait hooks, and you only need enough bait to cover the point of the hook - either the smallest bit of worm or a tiny bit of dough. When my wife was a girl, she fished for tanago with a single grain of rice for bait. With these hooks even an eighth of a grain would do. (Rice doesn't stay on the hook well, so I would recommend a tiny sliver of worm or a dough bait made specifically for use with tanago hooks.)
I often see comments online stating that Owner Smallest tanago hooks are "size 30." That is comparing apples and oranges. Tanago hooks don't come in sizes like US hooks. Owner "Smallest" is a shape, not a size, and the shape is so different than a size 30 fly hook that it is misleading to refer to them in US hook sizes.
Remember, what is important with regard to tanago hooks is the length of the hook point, not the overall size of the hook. A fish does not need to take the whole hook into its mouth, just the point!
Tanago hooks are available both loose and snelled. Snelled hooks are not popular in the US but the tanago hooks do not have eyes. Thus, if you buy loose hooks you will have to snell them yourself - and they're really, really tiny.
Snelled hooks are a lot more expensive - $4 for 9 snelled hooks, compared to $4.50 for 21 loose hooks. The difference in cost is about 23 cents per hook. What is your time worth and how long does it take you to snell a hook? If you can snell a hook in 23 cents worth of time, buy loose hooks.
The only complaints I hear on the various micro fishing forums about the snelled hooks is that it is difficult to tie the very thin snell onto their main line. That is the reason I carry the "tippet connectors" which I highly recommend. They make attaching the snelled hook to your line quick and easy. Try them!
The Owner New Half Moon and Smallest snelled hooks have a red nylon mono snell, which is about 18" long and has the same diameter as 8X tippet.
Truly hard core Japanese tanago anglers grind down the points of their hooks with jewelers' tools and microscopes so that the hook points are short enough to fit in the mouth of an extremely small fish.
The Gamakatsu "Ultimate" tanago hook was created to eliminate the need to grind down hooks. The hook point is less than a millimeter long.
The hooks are snelled although they are snelled to thread rather than mono. The snells are about 1.25" long and end in a loop for easier attachment to your line or tippet.
I see these hooks as a specialty item - a niche within a niche. For many fish, even many micros, they are actually a bit too small. If you are just getting started micro fishing, I would suggest the Owner New Half Moon or Smallest hooks instead. These hooks are for the seriously small fish. For even slightly larger fish (certainly the fish that most people catch) the other tanago hooks will hold better.
They are not cheap at $7.50 per package of 5 hooks, but then again, microscopes and jeweler's tools aren't cheap either. Besides, if a smaller hook is the only thing that stands in the way of catching a species you've spent hours planning and traveling to catch, a $7.50 pack of hooks may be one of the smallest but most important expenditures for the entire trip.Gamakatsu "Ultimate" Tanago Hooks, 5 hooks - $7.50
The Owner Migen (pronounced mee-gen with a hard g) tanago hooks have the shortest hook point I have ever seen. It is substantially shorter than the Gamakatsu Ultimate hook point. It is truly for the smallest fish, and realistically, will be too small even for most micros. However, if you are trying to catch a fish that fits on a penny, fish that might be too small for a Gamakatsu "Ultimate", then this is your hook.
"Migen" doesn't translate well into English. Even in Japanese it seems to be a made up word with no direct meaning, although it gives the impression of a mythical creature with supernatural powers - which is just about what you would need to catch a 1/2" fish on hook and line.
The Daiichi 1110 hooks in size 26 are very well suited to tying black or white Killer Buggers for the smallest fish. The black is closer to what the fish actually eat, but the white is easier to see when sight fishing. I have fished them with and without bead heads, but I generally use bead heads to make sure the fly penetrates the surface tension.
I have also had luck with Stewart Black Spiders tied on the Daiichi 1110 hooks.
The only time I have found micros to be selective regarding flies is with the Killer Buggers. The fly has to have a tail! When fishing with a Killer Bug (no tail) instead of Killer Bugger (with tail) my catch rate went way down. The tail does not have to be more than 2 or 3 or 4 marabou feather barbs, but it has to be there (at least in my experience).
Even though the Daiichi 1110 in size 26 are much smaller, I probably have caught more micros on the size 20. It is a very good size for a small black bead head Killer Bugger. The gold bead allows you to sight fish with a small black fly that otherwise would be virtually invisible (for you - the fish can see it easily). A size 20 Killer Bugger is a very good imitation for almost any small nymphs. A white Killer Bugger is even easier to see, and also works well.
Midge hooks are very well suited to fly fishing for micros. If you fish for micros with bait, the tanago hooks have a much better shape and can catch much smaller fish.
The Varivas 2300 Ultra Midge hooks are the smallest I carry. Currently I have them in size 28 and 30. They are well suited to tying extremely small soft hackles or Stewart Black Spiders using the small feathers found on a starling neck. I would suggest Veevus 16/0 thread. The hackle and thread are all you need. There are many, many midge patterns that you can find online, but I have not found micros to be very selective.
Box of 30 hooks
Although the size 20 Varivas hooks are midge hooks (says so right on the package), that's not how I use them. I don't use them for micros, either. At this point, the Varivas 2300 Ultra Midge size 20 hooks are my "go to" keiryu hook! They are the best hook I have found for fishing red wigglers.
Red wigglers are small, skinny worms - small enough that most people on the various worm farming Facebook groups say they aren't good for fishing. However, they say that because they're worm farmers, not fishermen. They read somewhere that fishermen prefer nightcrawlers, so they dutifully recommend that people raise European Nightcrawlers if they want worms for fishing.
Personally, I think red wigglers are the perfect worm for fishing specifically because they ARE small. They are small enough that trout can easily take the whole worm in one bite. Thus, there is much less chance that a fish can bite the part of a worm that doesn't have a hook in it.
A lot of people who don't normally fish with worms try to thread the entire worm onto the hook. They end up with a balled up mass that looks nothing like a worm. When a worm gets washed into a stream from rainwater or a crumbling bank, they don't hold still. They wriggle. A worm threaded entirely on a hook can't wriggle.
Red wigglers are too small to thread onto a hook, but there is a way to hook them that 1) is much easier, 2) allows them to wriggle enticingly, and 3) increases the chance that a fish taking the worm also takes the hook.
I hook a red wiggler once, crossways, in the middle of the worm. The hook is small enough that the fish doesn't notice it until it is too late. The hook is large enough to hook and hold pretty well.
Of course, a size 20 hook will also work well for many micros, and for many midges. It's actually a very versatile hook.
Box of 30 hooks
A little while ago on the Lifelisting Facebook group, there was discussion of using a sabiki rig for micros. There is a bit of a problem with terminology, though. In Japan, there are many different multi-hook rigs.
A multi-hook rig like the one shown here is not a sabiki rig. Sabiki rigs, which are used solely for salt water fishing, have skirts or little vaguely minnow-shaped plastic things tied to the hooks. Multi-hook rigs with bare hooks, for use in fresh water, are not called sabiki rigs.
These rigs were designed for wakasagi, a type of smelt that
only gets to be a few inches long.
The longer, 7-hook rig is 1 meter (39.4") long and has a snap swivel on each end. There are seven hooks tied to droppers, which alternate between 3.5 and 2.5 cm. The hooks are small - almost as small as tanago hooks. The hook points are longer than on tanago hooks, though, so they will hold better than tanago hooks.
The shorter, 4-hook rig is 55cm (21.7") long, and like the longer rig, has snap swivels on both ends. The hooks are about the size of the Daiichi 1100 size 26 hooks, although the shape is a bit different. All but the smallest micros can take them.
Please note: many states have regulations limiting the number of hooks you can have on one line. Please check the regs for where you plan to fish. You may need to cut the rig in half (which would give you two rigs for just $2 or 2.50 each).
Owner Wakasagi 7-hook rig. One meter overall length. Droppers alternate 3.5 or 2.5 cm. Hook shape similar to Owner New Half Moon, but larger with longer point.
Similar to a Sabiki Rig, the Owner Wakasagi 4-hook Rig has four hooks on a 55cm (21.7") line. The line and droppers are fluorocarbon. The hooks are somewhat similar to the size and shape of the Daiichi 1100 size 26 hooks, so all but the smallest micros will be able to take them. The hooks have longer points so they will hold better than tanago hooks.Owner Wakasagi 4-hook Rig - $4.00
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