I have been tying more and more frequently on tubes. I like them a lot. There are heavy tubes, light tubes, cheap tubes, spendy tubes..... well lots of tube choices. They are not the only alternatives to tying on hooks however.
This alternative, the cotter pin, may have come about because some tyers may have decided it was crazy to cut up a perfectly good hook. On some flies like Intruders, there is a trailing hook tied on with super braid. Once the fly is done the bend of the main hook is cut off. In fact now you can buy a hook alternative called a waddington shank so you can tie intruders without cutting up your hook. You can also tie these type of flies on cotter pins. Like with a waddington shank, you tie a trailer hook on with super braid. The thing I liked about cotter pins is that there is a huge size selection. You can get them in various metals as well. Stainless steel and aluminum etc. Flies often tied on cotter pins are the Alaskabou type flies, squidros and intruders. Here is a 'wingless' intruder type fly tied on a cotter pin. I call it the flame thrower.
Another hook alternative is a sewing needle. These were apparently started in Scotland by a man named John Grey. These were designed to be a slimmer profile and lighter than you can make them on hooks or tubes. Like tube flies the hook is held in place with a small piece of clear rubber tube. The one I tied here is more elaborate than some I have seen. In many cases they have just a thread bump at the sharp end to hold the tube in place and a wing and throat. The body is just the silver of the needle. This fly is a hairwing silver doctor. The second photo shows how to rig it. I rigged it with to large a hook, but it is just for demonstration purposes only. If I fish it, I will rig it on a more appropriate hook.
You could write a whole book on just tube flies. As long as people have been using fur and feathers to catch fish, they have been using tube type things. Native Americans used small hollow bones and porcupine quills at least as far back as the 1800's. The modern origin of the tube fly started on hollow turkey quills in the 1940's by Winnie Morawski, a commercial tyer. She did this so you could run the line through the fly and then tie on a treble hook. I have personally used spent ink tubes from ball point pens, plastic cotton swabs, and more. I even bought real fly tubes. In fact tube fly components have come a long way in recent times. There are cones, disc heads, colored rubber connector tubes, and all kinds of things now for tube flies. This is a classic Carrie Stevens Streamer called a Black Cat tied on a plastic lined, HMH aluminum tube.
This photo is my prototype ear plug popper tied on a cotton swab tube. A Pike ended up clipping it off. It floated free as it is not actually part of the hook. Had I been in a boat or willing to swim for it I could have recovered it. Had it been tied on a hook it would have been completely unrecoverable.
If you have tied some flies on hook alternatives, let's share them here.