How to Sharpen Fish Hooks: A Comprehensive Guide for Anglers

This article will teach you how to sharpen fishing hooks to make sure that when you get that take, you set the hook!

One of the easiest things to neglect as a fly fisherman is hook sharpness. Because we are working with such small hooks, it is easy to miss a hook with a dull point. Just like a good fillet knife, a dull edge can result in a lot of problems! 

Why Sharpen Your Flies?

When you fish gravel beds, around rocks, logs and other underwater hazards you need to regularly check your flies. If you’re like me, your flies will get regular contact with hazards both underwater and above ground. Sometimes you will notice that the barb is missing, other times a stray feather or piece of cotton from the fly. Hook sharpness is often overlooked.

Having sharp fishing hooks is essential to setting the hook. You’ll find that when you tie on a new fly and lose a fish, it’s not because the hook wasn’t set, it’s because the knot broke. As the day wears on you’ll tend to lose more fish because the hook isn’t set properly. This is usually down to hook sharpness.

You can also see our post here on barbed vs barbless hooks.

How to Test Hook Sharpness

This should become part of your pre-cast ritual. Start by checking all of the knots, to make sure they are strong. Then check all the nylon, to make sure it isn’t frayed. Finally, make sure your hook is sharp.

The most simple test of a hook’s sharpness is to rest the tip of the hook on the edge of your fingernail. If it digs in, your hook is good to cast. If you can slide it across your fingernail at all, the hook is not sharp.


Can you sharpen hooks with sandpaper?

Yes, you can sharpen hooks with sandpaper. Lightly rub the hook on the sandpaper until it is sharp and clean.

Can you use a file to sharpen hooks?

Yes, you can use a file to sharpen hooks. Use a file with a coarse surface to sharpen the hook. Move the file in a back and forth motion over the hook until it is sharp.

How do you keep a hook sharp?

To keep a hook sharp, there are a few steps you can take. Use a hook sharpener, lightly rub the hook on sandpaper, or use a file with a coarse surface to sharpen the hook. Additionally, it is important to store hooks in a dry, clean place to prevent rust.

Do fishing hooks get dull?

Yes, fishing hooks can get dull over time. This can happen due to the material of the hook, the type of bait used, or the environment the hook is in. To prevent dullness, it is important to use a hook sharpener or lightly rub the hook on sandpaper to keep it sharp.

How to Sharpen Fish Hooks

A fish hook sharpener should be a part of your kit. If you don’t have one of them then you can use almost any multi tool for fishing. Or if you don’t have one you can always swipe your wife’s nail file!

It’s very easy to sharpen hooks, just take your sharpener (or file) and slide the hook across it a few times. Just as the hook is rounded, you want to slide in a slightly rounded fashion. The key is not to overdo it, just a few passes then test it again.

I can sharpen a hook to the point where the merest touch onto my finger will bend the point over. Of course I don’t do this, as a balance has to be struck.

Check the hook on your nail again to ensure that it doesn’t slide and you’re good to go. You’ll notice that you can set the hooks far easier, in both fish and trees!

Just don’t try to test it too hard…

So that’s it. The main thing you have to do is to make sure that you check your hook sharpness as part of your pre-cast ritual. Every time you move to a new pool, take the time to check your knots, check your flies then the hook sharpness.

Tight lines all!

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Ben Kepka

Hey, I'm Ben, a fly fisherman for over 20 years and also an aspiring blogger. I've been into fly fishing since my graduation from spin fishing when I was 12 years old. I started to help introduce as many people into this amazing sport. Tight lines everyone! You can read more on our about page here.

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