Mystery of the Labyrinth Hook

What is the story with this hook, フックの迷宮 (Labyrinth Hook, maybe a inaccurate translation), which is on the front cover of Tsuribito’s Fly Fisher Magazine?

My first reaction upon noticing that it is the April Issue, released Feb 22nd. [ 『FlyFisher2017年4月号』2月22日発売!] Is that it is an April Fool’s Day joke. :smiling_imp:

However, I don’t know if that is a day that is part of Japanese culture. And looking at the description or contents of the magazine. It appears that it may not be a joke, but rather something taken seriously.

Joke ? Or research tool?

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According to the article on this magazine, this is the “tag hook” by John Betts.

Thank You.

Seems John Betts’s wife once asked him, “How many fish have to die before you become famous?”
In response as a way to avoid harming C&R fish he apparently tried fishing with cut hooks, but that removed the thrill of the take, and the run.

Later he came up with the TAG Hook. ( an acronym for Touch And Go)

You can read a bit more about them, if like me you had never heard of them before, on page 43 of “Fly Tying; 30 Years of Tips, Tricks, and Patterns” by Joe Healy

And some more starting on the last paragraph of page 3 (not page 6 as originally posted) in this Catch and Deny pdf file.

[I seem to recall about 3 years ago some question about flies came up on TUSA forum, and I found a website of John & Betsy Betts. Sent them and asked about whatever the topic was via their contact page, but I never received a reply]

JB has written several articles for The Journal of the AMFF (American Museum of Fly Fishing), The American Fly Fisher. The most recent one I found was in Vol 41 Winter 2015 issue. Maybe more about the TAG hook could be found in one of them.

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The only other place where I have found a picture of a TAG hook was on this 3 year old forum post.
The hook which the original poster referred to as the eye /eye hook, (sounds kind of nautical) was a mystery to him too. However, the Dutchman, Hans Weilenmann knew the story.

I remember a number of years ago the TAG hook was advertised in the Fly Fishermen Magazine.
However, I do not remember the exact issue or year. There was also an article about the hook that John Betts and his wife designed. I will search for the magazine and see if I can come up with the magazine. It is a really cool looking hook and a great idea. If I remember correctly, it just didn’t become very popular at that time. Maybe they were a decade ahead of their time for this idea?

Interesting stuff.

Although this thread is not specifically about catch and deny or catch and release…I would like to ramble.

That Catch and Deny PDF is verbose. You noted some guys probably are not reading it. I must admit I went into skim mode on some of the passages. The writing was very good and the end was a surprise.

My thoughts. I have always categorized my need to fish as a need to hunt. Getting skunked doesn’t bother me too much as I really do enjoy the hunt. I also enjoy seeing others catch fish over my own success. For me, fishing and catching is not a ego thing but my last bond with nature. The need to stalk and secure food.

I do agree with my wife…that I torture fish. Even if they could not feel a thing, for all purposes they are my play things.
Call me a monster…I take no offense. I am an animal after all. The fish are lucky they are let free.

Regarding the tag fly. I am curious about it. It does sound fun, but I must admit that I do like bringing fish to net. Seeing their beauty… Each one is a gem.

In all of my fishing exploits…tenkara or surfcasting… I mostly practice catch and release. I do this because first and foremost, I am lazy. My outing is not about meat. I am not out there to practice meat management. This coupled with my understanding a lot of my freshwater rivers are chock full of heavy metals and the ocean run striped bass are known to have pcbs and mercury. I limit my consumption. I do love eating fish though. When I do keep a fish, I honor it and eat it while its fresh. I mostly hunt for my actual food at the supermarket.

The tag hook. I think it would be a great tool for fishing guides. Demonstrating without stealing the client’s thunder. Some saltwater guides will tease fish with hookless lures to put the client on fish. Get them in a frenzy…then the client throws the fly into the mix.

Me too. I get a lot of grief about it from my mother-in-law who always asks, " where’s my mess of fish?“. To which I reply, " I just like to catch them, I don’t like to pack along the extra stuff needed to keep them.”

If I was more skillful at cooking them maybe I would keep a few. I just can’t bring myself to intentionally end the fish’s life and transform it into something inedible. I can cook a lot of things that come out pretty good, but not fish, just can’t seem to get knack for it, it’s either raw or over cooked. I prefer my fish to be cooked by someone who knows what they are doing. Some one at a good seafood restaurant.

Anyway, I’ve not been able to find any TAG hooks. At least not with any English language searches.
But since one is shown on the cover of Tsuribito Fly Fisher magazine, I wonder if they are still available from some Japanese hook manufacturer, under a different name. A Japanese name for them. But I doubt they are still available . They might be a bit of fun once in a while, more fun than a fly with the point cut off because the fish would likely hold on to the fly a little longer. Might even be a good way to learn not to try setting the hook to early. An interesting experiment.


I am sure one could easily make one of these hooks using two hooks.

I have sort of been meditating on the idea of it. You could also employ a similar idea to what the folk who flyfish for gar. They use hookless flies. The fly’s fibers get tangled up in the Gar’s teeth. Trout have small velcro like teeth, I suspect with the right material…either a fine strand material or even the soft half of velcro itself…one may be able to design a fly that would get tangled up in a trout’s dental work long enough for a run or two. The hair from one of those sheep skin patches that are used for drying flies is another idea of a material that might work.

David, if you can grill a steak you can cook fish. Just about every meat more or less has the same approach and signs that it is ready. I tend to only lightly season all meats I cook especially fish that has such a delicate flavor. Cook them until they are on the border line between raw and fully cooked and take them off the heat. Like a steak, the fish will continue cooking as it rests. I think overcooking is often the crime with fish or any meat…drying it out… If you are good at the grill, cook your fish there. The principals are the same on the stove top or in the oven, it just takes time to dial in the method.

Well, I over exaggerated my poor fish cooking skills a little bit. I’m not quite as bad at it as I described it. I’d probably be better at cooking fish if I did it more often.

Tenkara is often described as just - rod, line, and fly. Again that is over simplified, It’s - rod, line, fly, + a small bag of some kind (or a vest) with a spool of tippet, a box of flies, maybe an extra spool of line of a different type or length. Plus sometimes waders.

I like to keep my fishing that limited. At least most of the time. Keeping fish requires more gear to be carried, and the effort to kill and clean them. For me fishing is more about being out on the stream and in the woods, and more about fishing than catching. Though I do not like to be skunked, I want to catch at least one on each outing. Often I have fun just doing what I call - the Joy of Casting, trying to make each cast look beautiful and perfect. :wink:
From that attitude, maybe using a TAG hook and seeing if I can also get the fish to grab the fly, but not actually be hooked, might still be satisfying. And proof my technique is effective.

That being said, something that has been on my to-do list, and not yet done, is to try shioyaki, salt grilled fish. I’ve read that fish are very tasty made that way.
However, that is going far beyond the point of fishing with a TAG hook, and doing no harm at all to the fish.

I could really appreciate something like the tag hook when I fish places with a lot of Blue Gill, Sun fish, etc. While they can be fun to catch, often I prefer to not catch them, and try to snatch the fly away before they take them. They have small mouths, often swallow the hook, which is difficult to remove without harming them, or impossible to remove when they swallow them deeply. They often seem faster at taking the fly than their bigger cousins; bass, crappie, fallfish, perch, or trout that I see in the water ( or know are there because I caught one earlier) and would prefer to catch.

And who knows, it might be interesting to find out if fishing with something like a TAG hook would be nearly as much fun as actually landing the fish. Since most of the time I fish C & R, I could appreciate that feature in early spring or late fall when both the water and air are cold. No need to get my hands wet and cold to release the fish.

I never fish when it is below freezing, but many people do. I’m almost certain that in one of the Underwater Oz DVDs he mentions that fish are easily harmed when taken out of the water in below freezing air temperatures, their gills can be frozen rather quickly. Which may either later kill them or stunt their growth. To avoid that one would have to keep the fish in the water and your hands in the water to release them.

I recall someone on the Tenkara-Fisher forum posting a couple of pictures of catching Gar with their tenkara rod. I think they were in Texas. My , that’s a lot of teeth.

I sometimes tie flies using Willie Yarn. (ウィリー糸).
Sold for making line markers, squid lures, etc. It has a texture somewhat like thread from women’s hose. I sent a few to a friend, along with some pieces of Willy yarn so he could tie his own. He later remarked he thought he caught more fish with them, because the Willy Yarn would get caught in their teeth and they couldn’t spit out the fly as quickly, providing enough of a delay time for him to set the hook. I posted a comment about his experience on the Tenkara-Fisher forum, and a couple of people agreed with his observation, from using other fly body materials that are also kind of grabby.

Several Japanese companies make Willie Yarn, ウィリー糸 (U~irī-ito).
Fuji Bait is one of them. If you’re unfamiliar with it, do a google search for
富士ベイト ウィリー糸, Fuji Bait Willy Yarn (or thread)
Or just search for ウィリー糸
And you will find pictures of it. It is available in a lot of different colors.

Almost all the English entries I found are yours…hahahaha.

I have an idea and am going to tie some hook less flies to try the next time the trout have the feedbag on. I just did a test… have the material…just need to exercise the innovation. I will post up the findings.

I was able to access the article via my Amazon JP Kindle Unlimited account. Here are the screen shots and the photographers website In case anyone was interested in reading it… Hope I’m not breaking any copyright laws here


New users can only upload 3 photos per post. Here’s the cover and header.

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Thanks Issac.
Beyond Catch and Release [キャッチ・アンド・リリースを超えて] is, I think, an appropriate title.

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I think you’re fine Isaac. You’re giving credit to who wrote and published the piece and you legitimately purchased it through your Unlimited subscription. In my opinion, I don’t think there’s too​ much to worry about.

Thanks, by the way.

dont laugh too hard but I had to try…hahahaha. I will throw this sucker in my fly box for the next time the trout are on the chew and I wanna play.

it was pretty easy to do…granted I bet with time the speed would increase…not that I plan to make more.

took a cheap hook an bent it straight then reversed the form.

threw it in the vise…

cut the curl off the other hook…

joined them up with thread and head cement.

tied a killer tagged kebari…

into the flybox it goes.

yeah its not a dry…so I miss the thrill of the majestic take…but its the form I have the most confidence in so I will start there…


Wow, I like your innovative approach to make a TAG Hook.
And I like the kebari too. It will be interesting to read your experience using it.

Hahaha…just trying to keep some of the trout tears out of the stream.

I suppose it’s a good idea to try it before I poke fun at it. Who knows…maybe the trout and me have so much fun with this fly…we join up at the pub for a beer or two at the end of the day.

This is freaking awesome… :smile_cat: