I have always looked at the late Ernest Schwiebert as a good man, and in the mid-1970s he promoted a new extended-body-hook for dry flies. Oh, yes, Ernie gushed about the “brilliant” design and his endorsement impressed me.

The shank started forward in front of the hook bend and went toward the eye like a traditional hook, but then it bent backward in an ultra-tight loop and continued back parallel and above the first shank.

That second shank “extended” past the hook bend and curved upward to form a tying shank for a mayfly body that also swooped up a little.

It looked just plain precious. For starters, the hackle on the thorax by the wings hid the hook’s bend and point. The extended body behind the hook bend also floated lightly on water; the extended feature made it easy to construct a tapered body. It was realistic and floated perfectly.

The problem?

I quickly learned that spring, after tying dozens of extended-body dry flies through winter, that there were some issues. When mayflies started rising and began perching on the surface, I started missing far too many strikes.

For the first day or two, I blamed it on poor reflexes after a winter of no open-water fishing. However, here’s what was happening:

The rising trout’s nose hit the extended body behind the hook bend and pushed the hook point away from the open maw.

On most Monday winter mornings back then, the late Eric Lindholm from Pittston visited and watched my growing stash of extended-body dry flies and predicted – with well-worded tact – that the noses of striking trout would push the hook away. He was older, and lived and breathed fly fishing, so I should have listened. He had it right for sure. I miss him.

Last month I wrote about flat-bodied nymphs tied on expensive hooks with two shanks side by side, making a diamond shape with a short triangle on the hook-shank’s front and a much longer one on the back. That hook looked like a grand invention.

However, the late Joe Brooks, an extremely popular fly-fishing writer in those days, criticized flat-bodied nymphs and advocated that larvae imitations should have round bodies and collars rather than the flat profile and hackle beard. With Brooks’ choice, the nymph’s silhouette looked the same in the current from any angle, despite the fly tipping sideways. Brooks advocated that a cockeyed flat nymph looked bogus to wary trout because natural nymphs stay parallel to bottom except in powerful, boiling currents.

Flat nymphs have made popular appearances twice in the 20th century – at first from World War I through the late 1940s, and again in the 1970s and into the 1980s. Like extended-body hooks, flat-bodied hooks seemed like a superlative invention because natural crawling and clinging mayflies are flat. However, the design didn’t catch fish well, as Brooks explained.

Here’s another example of a bad idea: In the 1970s I noticed fly-fishing manufacturers began selling rectangular, aquatic-insect, seining nets to appeal to fly rodders reading all the new fly-fishing entomology books. The net had two sticks that worked like mini curtain rods, and the user stretched the mesh between them to collect bugs in the current. I ordered this product the first time it caught my eye in a catalog.

The insect net caused a problem for absent-minded fly rodders, which began with most of us rolling up this insect-collecting tool and storing it in a vest pocket. When needed, we took it out to hold in currents to discern what the prevalent larvae was in streams and rivers each day. After using it, we’d roll the wet net up and put it into the vest, no problem if we hung the net up to dry after arriving home. People who forgot this step told me that occasionally the wet tool mildewed, as the vest might at the wet spot.

There is, of course, a solution for forgetful types. Fly rodders hung landing nets on fly-fishing vest backs, so companies began selling net bags with insect mesh in the bottom of the net. I loved the idea. After using the net, it dried while hanging on our backs, and it was easier to grab than digging through a vest for the net. This new seine was also easier to put deeper into the water.

New products from certain companies draw customers who jump on the proverbial bandwagon. I know. I have been there myself with extended-body hooks, flat-bodied hooks (a gift from the company), rectangular, rolled insect nets, tailers for landing Atlantic salmon uninjured and too many more to include here in a short column.

Outdoor folks are collectors by nature, but we should avoid faulty hook designs and all the other pitfalls that fool us into spending money. We must also be aware that no product is perfect, and no single one can work for everyone. Walking a narrow line is a common dilemma in life – a metaphor.

Customers must think the equation through to the end before buying.

Ken Allen of Belgrade Lakes, a writer, editor and photographer, may be reached at

[email protected]