Hooks & The Continuing Story
By Ronn Lucas, Sr.
Where to start with the topic of hooks. Well, I think for this discussion, I will tell you a bit about me and my tying journey that relates to hooks and hook making.
As I write this on May 15th, 2006, I am about to embark on a new and exciting venture into hook making. I am about to purchase the entire hook business of my good friend and hook maker extraordinaire, Ron Reinhold. Ron has been actually making hooks from raw wire since 1993. He was self taught and he hand built all of his equipment for making hooks over the ensuing years.
First, let me go back a few more years, before I came to know about Ron Reinhold. When I started to tie full dressed flies, I knew I would not be too attracted to tying the so called “classics” of some hundred years or so ago because I have never liked to do the same thing over and over. I had gathered a very large number of wonderful feathers and bird skins that simply had to be used. I would finally be drawn into the world of freestyle tying. When I started tying these flies, there was little out there to go by other than a small number of books most of which dealt with the classics. So, I stumbled around in the dark alone solving the many problems one encounters when tying fully dressed flies. These days, there are many books and even videos that show in detail how to tie the fancies. Also available is this medium, the internet. When I finally got a computer and then went on line, a world of tying opened that to this day amazes me. Tyers I had heard of and many more that I hadn’t were a mouse click away. I discovered to my amazement that for the most part, I had been on the right track with my tying. But I digress. When I tied some of my freestyle flies, I couldn’t find hooks of the right size or shape on occasion so I started to modify hooks to better meet my needs. They were pretty crude by the standards Ron has set or for that matter even mass produced hooks.
A few years later, I was writing some articles and was asked to produce an Atlantic Salmon & Steelhead tying section for FAOL (flyanglersonline.com) so of course there was a need to address hooks in it. I gathered hooks from here and hooks from there. I contacted Ron during this and ordered a few hooks so I could photograph them for the series. I had never seen one of his hooks in real life so I was at a bit of a disadvantage while thumbing through his massive catalog. I ordered a variety of hooks along with some of his exhibition grade hooks. I must say that when I opened the package, I looked at the hooks one by one in total amazement. I was looking at hook art! Well, I photographed them and did the hook section and just kept his hooks for a day I thought I could do them justice with my humble dressings. Several years passed, I took them out frequently just to look at them. Finally, I tied something on one and after that I ordered more and more of his hooks for those special flies.
I played with my so called hook “making” with what I now consider a moderate manner of success. I realized that I needed proper equipment if I was ever to really come anywhere close to what Ron had produced. Since my limited hook making was often more frustrating than satisfying, I finally just forgot about my hook work and used either Heritage hooks or Ron’s. Later, I managed to talk him into pointing and barbing straight wires for me which he sent and I bent in what would be known as really big hooks in excess of 9/0 and some over 5” long. I bent the wires, tapered the wire and returned them to Ron to harden and japan for me. I never tried to pry any of his hard earned secrets over the years but we did talk shop from time to time and he would volunteer bits of knowledge that further opened my eyes to how little I really knew. I’ve never told anyone else any of what we talked about not that the info I had was the really important stuff of hook making. Some may have come close but it stayed with me.
Ron is a very careful and thoughtful man. He is particular and precise in everything he does almost to a fault and we’ve had more than one discussion about that. For several years he told me more and more about a book he was working on and from his voice I could hear the excitement of someone who really liked what he was doing. He would say that when the book was done, he would quit making hooks. We knew that was the ultimate goal but I quietly hoped that it wouldn’t until I was too old or not inclined to want to tie flies anymore. Well, a few months ago Ron told me that he had found the last bit of critical data that in essence meant that the book was virtually done. The writing anyway. A few days laterI got another call from Ron and he told me that he was quitting the hook making business as soon as he sold his massive antique hook collection or three months, whichever came first. I had always told him that maybe twenty years ago; I’d have jumped at the chance to take over his business. I was younger and didn’t have all the aches and pains that advancing years can bring.
When Ron told me about his decision, it was the same day he told his wife so there were only three of us “in the loop” as it were. I felt honored that he would confide in me and I confess a bit panicked due to the real potential that I would no longer get the big hooks my tying demanded. A week, two and maybe three passed. I had mentioned the potential business deal to one friend who spends a good amount of time here at my place and is young and just embarking on his journey through the tying of fully dressed flies. I knew his family was young so time and space really wasn’t there at this time. We talked and talked and it finally dawned on me that I should buy Ron’s business more to continue the tradition because Ron has a well defined place in angling history and I felt it important that it be continued if at all possible.
My pledge to Ron and you is to do my best to live up to producing hooks of high quality as Ron has done over the years. There will be a learning curve as I familiarize myself with the machines that Ron has hand built over the years and I am sure I will stumble on occasion. I don’t plan to make tons of hooks as fast as I can but do what I can and do it well.
I will be making hooks part time since I still have and need a real job. Hopefully, things will evolve in the next couple years that I can phase out of my real job and make a few hooks, tie a few flies and maybe catch a fish or two.
So, the hook story continues. The last chapter is yet to be written. I have an idea of when I might like to pass this off to the next person but for now, I will leave that unspoken. I have too much to learn and do to be planning when to quit. One thing is certain, I will do what I can to pass the operation on to someone who holds the same views that this should continue. After all, we are only links in a much longer chain.
Happy Trails! Ronn
July 7, 2006
Despite freight delivery problems, and a slight bump with a fork lift, the Reinhold hook shop made it’s arrival to Milwaukie Oregon. The magical conversion from the original Reinhold shop to the new Lucas shop is in progress. Although the final shop will be hidden to all eyes, here’s a peak into the arrival of eighteen secret boxes and the new shop environment. If nothing else, everyone can put a face on the who and where of the most beautiful hand made hooks in the world.
July 19, 2006
First Hooks Appear
As the world watches with baited breath (pun fully intended), two japanned perfectly curved pieces of steel appear from Merlin’s shop. As beautiful, shiny, and sharp as a Reinhold hook, the first two Lucas hooks emerge!