Bouncers were originally developed to fish along the bottom without snagging in rocky Alaskan streams. The following are some "go-to" flies for salmon, steelhead, trout and char.
Circle Hook Bouncers
Alaskan fish can be so numerous and closely stacked together that unintentional foul-hooking of fish is sometimes a big problem. Foul-hooked fish take longer to land, and—stressed, exhausted and wounded—often do not survive release. In addition, frustrated anglers, trying to turn a side- or tail-hooked fish, often break rods, leaders and tempers.
The percentage of foul-hooked fish can be dramatically reduced by using flies tied on circle hooks, instead of using a standard J-hook. I once watched one of my friends catch and release over a dozen salmon without a single foul-hook, while anglers next to him using conventional flies foul-hooked on every other cast.
For coho, king and chum salmon, I use a Gamakatsu SC16 “Circle Fly” hooks in size 2, but Mustad C71S “Circle Streamer”, and Eagle Claw L197BG are also good. Tying flies on circle hooks is easy, since complicated patterns are not usually required when the fish are abundant. The first photo shows a gaudy spanker pattern, with a marabou tail and a body of large Cactus Chenille. This fly is not tied Bouncer-style, but it can be further improved by tying it so the hook-bend rides on the top side using a weighted Bouncer keel. The second and third photos show some other circle-hook flies tied Bouncer-style, that have been well proven in Alaska.
Flies tied on circle hooks seldom snag on the bottom either, so they are a pleasure to fish. You can set the hook using your normal stroke, but a long, deliberate strip-set may improve the odds a little.
So the next time you head to Alaska, take along some flies tied on circle hooks: they are easier on the fish and help promote the catch-and-release ethic.