Many times, selection of a fly tying hook lies more in the aesthetic or subjectivity of the individual than any set of statistics; be it steel, brand, shape, etc. That is why it is often so difficult to get fly tyers to try, let alone change to, a ‘different’ brand or style of hook. In the case of the Wapsi Lightning Strike SE 7, you can add the fact that, while the company itself is noted for quality fly tying materials, many are unaware that it also offers a line of fly tying hooks which rival the quality of better known companies such as Tiemco, Daiichi, and Mustad.
Recommend this product?
With that said, as an alternative to the Tiemco (TMC) 2488H, the SE 7 from Wapsi is, in some respects, an objectively better choice. Well, at least for my purposes; based, in particular, on a single, unique attribute compared to the TMC. If I had to put it in a nutshell, much like the Daiichi 1760 (see link below) and its relationship to the TMC 2302 and TMC 2312, the Wapsi SE 7 is pretty much what the TMC 2488H was supposed to be and the 2488H is more what the TMC 2488 should be - at least when it comes to my fly tying and flyfishing.
Wapsi Fly, Inc.
Located in Mountain Home, Arkansas, Wapsi Fly, Inc. has been in business since 1945. Generally referred to in flyfishing circles by the ‘shorthand’ form of “Wapsi,” it continues to be a family operated business with several dozen employees and products (most of which are produced in their Mountain Home facility) which can be found in almost every shop which carries fly tying material. They are a wholesale distributor only. Unfortunately, I know of no, single shop which stocks their entire line of products in one place.
Lightning Strike Hooks – General Comments
Lightning Strike is the brand name Wapsi has assigned to their line of hooks. At the time of this post, the new catalogs and offerings for most flyfishing and fly tying manufacturers are in the process of being produced and distributed. I do not have access to a current catalog and the ‘complete listing’ shown on the company’s website is notably ‘incomplete;’ i.e., there are models not shown which are ‘stocked’ by online retailers.
Made in Japan of forged steel, Wapsi claims these are the “highest quality hooks made.” They have chemically sharpened points, micro barbs, and bronze finishes. Compared to the better known fly tying hook manufacturers, the Lightning Strike hooks come in limited variations, though they do cover categories such as tube fly, dry fly, nymph, scud/emerger, streamer, and egg. (Wapsi also offers popper hooks, but I can’t remember if they are actually marketed as part of the Lightning Strike branding.)
Offered in 25- and 100-packs, these hooks tend to run just a bit less, retail, than Tiemco and Daiichi ‘equivalent’ models and just a touch more than Mustad. There are ‘assortment’ boxes available for those who wish to ‘experiment,’ but don’t want to be committed to 25 or 100 of a single model. (These assortments tend to retail for between $21 and $25 depending on your source.) The company website does have a comparison chart which notes the equivalent model of each hook for Tiemco, Daiichi, Mustad, Orvis, and Dai-Riki.
The SE 7 – Specs
The Lightning Strike SE 7 is the equivalent of the TMC 2488H. While the 2488H is probably the best recognized version in this hook style, there are many, myself included, who have begun to favor the SE 7 for reasons which I’ll discuss in a moment. One of four offerings in their Scud/Emerger series, the SE 7 is described as follows:
Straight Eye, 2X Heavy, 2X Short, Curved Shank, 3X Wide Gape (Gap), Continuous Bend
What does that mean?
Straight eye and continuous bend are fairly self-explanatory.
In something of an understatement, there are light, standard, and heavy wire hooks. Standard is just that – the average standard or benchmark; something which varies slightly among manufacturers. Wire that is ‘lighter’ or ‘heavier’ in terms of weight/diameter of the shank is designated by a number “X” on either side of this ‘standard.’ (Some companies substitute the terms ‘strong’ for heavy, fine, light, etc. though they are often presumed to be roughly equivalent, there is meaning to the differences; but, that’s a different discussion.)
Since the SE 7 is listed as “2X Heavy,” it means a larger/heavier wire than standard is used in its construction. The significance is that the heavier wire sinks faster than a standard wire hook, even without extra weight; an important factor when tying nymphs and wet flies. Bear in mind that the 2488H is also listed as 2X Heavy. Subjectively speaking, however, the wire on the SE 7 is a slightly thicker diameter; though I haven’t actually measured it.
The same discussion holds true for shank length – shorter or longer than ‘standard’ is designated with an “X.” While there are various ways of denoting the difference, a simple way to picture what 2X Short means is that it is two hook-eye lengths shorter than ‘standard.’ Again, while there are variances among manufacturers, the SE 7 and the 2488H are close enough that there is little, effective difference in terms of shank length.
I think you can anticipate that the 3X Wide gap/gape is 3 times the ‘standard.’ The importance here is found in the eye clearance and hooking potential. Given the 2X Short shank length, there is not much distance between the hook point and the hook eye. The wider gap/gape provides more clearance, offering better hook setting potential. This is especially important given the patterns for which this hook is typically used – more on that in a moment.
Why the SE 7 over the 2488H?
If the specifications for the hook are virtually identical, then why choose the SE 7 over the 2488H? Well, I could point out that there is an objective price difference. The SE 7 runs $4.25 and $13.50 for the 25- and 100-packs respectively. Then I could point out that the 2488H is typically priced at around $6.50 - $7.50 for the 25-pack and as high as $25 for the 100-pack these days. In other words, the price difference alone makes it worth considering.
The size availability, at first blush, seems to be a ‘wash.’ The SE 7 is available in sizes 14 – 24 and the 2488H is sold in sizes 12 – 22. While I primarily rely on sizes 16 and 18, since this style of hook is frequently used for midge imitations, it’s nice to be able to drop clear down to a size 24 with a 3X hook gap/gape. Given the short shank, that means, in some cases, I can effectively tie a ‘smaller’ fly for a given hook size while keeping a larger gap/gape for that hook size. That’s a major consideration when ‘forced’ to resort to ‘tiny’ flies.
Tied to this is the ‘subjective’ reason the SE 7 has trumped the 2488H for me. Remember I noted that, subjectively, the SE 7 had a slightly ‘thicker’ hook shank? My belief is that it is also a more robust hook; a perception shared by more than a few tyers I’ve seen ‘chatting.’ Even more to the point is that the SE 7 has a slightly larger and more robust hook eye than the 2488H. Once again, when fishing midge patterns, particularly in the smaller sizes, the slightly larger eye allows for slightly heavier tippets.
As an example, I was ‘introduced’ to the SE 7 a few years ago when reading a protracted chat room discourse on fishing the San Juan River; a tailwater fishery noted for midge fishing to large trout. Several individuals touted the virtues of the larger eye and more robust nature of the hook over the 2488H. My interest was piqued enough to experiment a bit on a trout lake where 7X mono tippet and size 18 – 22 flies are almost mandatory; but, you are fishing for trout that average 16” – 20” with plenty of ‘stuff’ to wrap you up or break you off in.
Let’s just say it was easier for me to thread 6X and even 5X fluorocarbon tippet through some of the smaller sizes of the SE 7. In and of itself, that almost put it over the top for me given my eyesight these days. While the slightly more robust shank meant that I couldn’t quite tie the same patterns as ‘delicately’ appearing as on the 2488H, the slight difference didn’t seem to make a difference to the fish. (I’ve since adjusted how many thread wraps and how much material I use in some of the patterns to compensate.)
Since that first experiment, I’ve used the SE 7 on other waters where large fish demanded small patterns. Let’s just say that I have – yet – to have a problem with a hook bending out. In addition, my perception regarding the strength of the hook and the ability to more readily use slightly heavier tippets greatly increases my confidence level; allowing me to play the fish harder.
As I alluded to above, if you’ve been using the TMC 2488H for awhile, you may need to slightly ‘adjust’ your tying in terms of the number of thread wraps, the amount of material, etc. when utilizing the SE 7. By doing so, you can substitute the SE 7 in most recipes calling for the 2488H. To be completely honest, however, there are some of the more ‘delicate’ patterns that just look ‘better’ on the 2488H; i.e., I have not been able to compensate enough, even with 8/0 thread, and the bodies tend to be ‘too thick’ for my sense of aesthetic when tied on the SE 7. (It might be time to break out some of that 10/0 Gudebrod thread I’ve got squirreled away for the truly small stuff.)
In my case, that involves mostly midge patterns. I absolutely love the size 16 for Barr Pure Midge Larva. I have Blue Winged Olive and PMD patterns of my own that fit oh-so-neatly on the SE 7 in size 18. Then there are…
Well, you don’t need to know all of them.
I truly think the reason the Wapsi Lightning Strike SE 7 doesn’t get more attention is a lack of awareness and ready availability compared to the likes of Tiemco, Daiichi, et al. Part of this appears to stem from a certain lack of aggressiveness on the part of Wapsi in terms of marketing. Another contributing factor is the rise of ‘house brands’ when it comes to fly tying hooks; i.e., where the retailer goes direct to the factory. Then there’s the idea of a retailer ‘committing’ to a particular brand and ‘selling to’ what’s in stock. In other words, there’s only so much shelf space to go around and if consumers aren’t aware of a product, it can often be difficult for a retailer to justify dedicating time and money to it; which exacerbates the problem.
Remember, a good part of fishing – be it the patterns you use, the casts you attempt, or the fish you catch – is based on confidence as much, if not more, than objective conditions. In that sense, I’m as guilty as the next fly tyer in terms of being loyal to what I’ve used over the years and reluctant to try something different. It usually takes a good reason and a couple seasons or more for me to ‘make the switch’ when it comes to changing brands of hooks.
As such, it might say ‘something,’ though I’m not sure precisely what, that I’ve reached a point where, personally, the Wapsi Lightning Strike SE 7 has become my default hook in this style. Certainly the price is better. Since I lean toward the smaller sizes for the patterns I tie on this hook, being able to go down to a size 24 has its ‘moments.’ I’m confident it’s a more robust hook. I know it is easier, for me, to use slightly larger, tippets. In that context, while generally limited to online purchases or a special order item through local shops that stock Wapsi products, the SE 7 is worth the trouble, especially if you are after large fish, on light tippet, using tiny flies.
Other Fly Tying Hooks Reviewed
Daiichi 1110; Daiichi 1120; Daiichi 1180; Daiichi 1270; Daiichi 1560; Daiichi 1710; Daiichi 1720; Daiichi 1760; Dai-Riki 135; Dai-Riki 270; Mustad 94840; Mustad 9671; Mustad 9672; TMC 100; TMC 200R; TMC 2457; TMC 3761; TMC 3769; TMC 5262; TMC 5263