When selecting hooks for tying 'nymphs,' not all styles or brands are the same; price, quality, point, etc. Not so long ago, Mustad hooks were made in Norway (now potentially being from Norway, Singapore, China, or the Philippines according to the packaging) and were considered 'the standard' relied upon by many flyfishers. Even today, there are those which still consider them the most cost effective, quality hooks. Yes, they do have their issues when compared to modern equivalents. But, there's something to be said about a brand and style that is still around, still effective, and still 'the preferred' of many after all these years.
What's This One?
The classic Mustads are probably the most ubiquitously available fly tying hooks on the market. In recent years, the selection in any given store or catalog might not be as broad as it once was. However, the 9671 is one of about 1/2 dozen that you can almost always find. One of the key factors in fly tying hooks is that they are often designed, 'styled,' so as to imitate, give the appearance of movement, and/or create an impressionistic sense of specific types of insects. In the case of the Mustad 9671, if you desire a slightly longer body, want a 'bead-head' with a standard length body, or need a fairly small streamer, this is a useful hook - up to a point. (More on that 'point' in a minute.)
Most commonly available in sizes 4 - 18, the 9671 is listed as a 'wet/nymph' hook. This means that the diameter of the shank is heavier than standard; which also means that it is stronger - an important consideration when you stop and think about how nymphs tend to bounce among the rocks on the bottom of the stream.
The Mustad 9671 is "2X Long;" meaning that the shank of the hook (that portion between the eye and the bend), is two hook eyes longer than standard. With the down-eye configuration, this 'long shank' makes the hook suitable for small streamers (by and large, true "streamer" flies are artistic, impressionistic, and oh-so-colorful imitations of minnows) and larger nymphs such as stoneflies. The extra length also allows for the addition of a "bead head" without having to 'shorten' the normal profile of the nymph without the bead. Finally, being heavier, longer, and 'stronger,' this hook is also useful for larger dry flies or for tying dry flies that you intend presenting to larger fish with attitudes.
To my thinking, the closest equivalents to the Mustad 9671 are the Tiemco 5262 (see The TMC 5262: I've Come To My Own Conclusion") and the Daiichi 1710. The trouble is that such a comparison is an apples to oranges issue. Both the Tiemco and Daiichi have chemically sharpened points, the Mustad does not. In large part, this accounts for the price difference between the Mustad and other brands (see below).
There are those that still feel they can obtain a sharper point with the older, carbon steel Mustads and a good hook hone. Further, they argue, sooner or later, even the chemically sharpened points will often need to be 'touched up,' so you end up in the same place. Right?
Well... I will say that I have achieved some pretty needle-like points with the file on my Leatherman Wave judiciously applied to the Mustads. But, there's the issue of filing off the bronzing of the hook. Then there's the diameter of the shank, which impacts the bite of the hook (that section from the base of the curve to the point). Being a lesser quality carbon steel than either the Tiemco or Daiichi (not "bad," just not as good) and being a 'heavier' hook style, the diameter of the 9671 is noticeably larger than some competitors.
Some argue that smaller diameter shanks are easier on the fish and hook better. The trade off tends to be that if the wire used in your hook is too light, then you break the hook without ever seeing a fish when bouncing on the bottom or you bend the hook straight on the inevitable fish that was larger than expected (we all hope). While the difference is negligible in the smaller sizes, it does become an issue, at least for me, once you try to go larger than size 14; with a size 12 being useful, but arguably 'bigger.'
Because of this, I tend to use the Mustads for panfish, some bass, and for some trout. I find that sizes 8 - 12 come in handy for bass/panfish and size 14 is useful for trout; with a few size 12's for larger dries and big water, with big fish.
If I were to try to list all of the flies currently on the market or from older tying books where the Mustad 9671 could be used or was/is the preferred hook style, we'd be here awhile. I find myself most often using them for the following:
Copper John, Red Fox Squirrel, Micro Buggers, Rickard's Stillwater Nymph, and the Wulff Series of dry flies
At The Counter
The single, biggest advantage of Mustad 9671's is that, size for size, they are less expensive than the majority of their chemically sharpened competitors. I currently spend $6.95 for a 50 pack. (Cabela's also lists a 100 pack in their 2008 Fly Fishing catalog as going for $9.99). By comparison, I have a pack of Daiichi 1710's, size 12, sitting in front of me that run $15.95 per 100 pack. Tiemco 5262 hooks average around $5.45 per 25-pack (again, Cabela's has them with 2 or more of the same size in the going for $4.15 per 25-pack.)
In the end, with gas prices eating into your fishing budget, you might need to begin asking if the higher priced, chemically sharpened hooks are a necessity or could you get along just fine with something like the Mustads which have been working for a long, long time. If it's the trip of a lifetime or water you only get to fish infrequently, then I'd say go for the 'better' stuff. If it's water you fish regularly and don't feel you have to prove anything while you're there, well, $5 - $6 saved per 100 pack is a gallon of gas...
Yep. A gallon...
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