My friend Owl Jones wrote a post the other day about fishing with barbed vs. non-barbed hooks. Actually, it wasn’t much of a vs. since the title was “Why you should fish with barbs”.
Personally, I pinch down the barbs on my flies because 98% of the trout I catch are released and the hook comes out much easier if there is no barb. The less time spent removing the hook, the better. A barbless hook is also much easier to remove from an ear lobe but we won’t get into that again. It was an accident and I said I was sorry, okay?
I don’t think I lose very many fish because my hooks have no barbs. A dull hook, barbed or not, will have a hard time penetrating deeply enough to hold a fish and small fish just might not have enough weight behind them to keep pressure on the hook once caught. I’ve also had largish rainbows decide to hide under my boat and it ain’t easy keeping pressure on a fish coming straight on.
But some people prefer hooks with barbs. That’s fine. Most of them feel the barbed hook results in more fish brought to hand and they may be right. Under some conditions that barb might be the only thing preventing someone from going home wearing the stink of a skunk. Under other conditions, I would argue loudly that it just doesn’t matter. Take this evening, for example. Light rain was falling and the blackflies were a little meaner than usual so I decided to kill some time before dinner by fishing from the dock, using a fly with a barbless hook.
I limited myself to just that one fly ( a #16 bead head, flash back pheasant tail nymph) and decided to fish until either I lost the fly or until my cigar was done and its blackfly repelling properties vanished (there is nothing like a good cigar to keep the bugs at bay and I was told that this one was nothing like a good cigar). From the dock I am limited, as far as the amount of water I can cover, but I fished that little barbless nymph lots of different ways — shallow and fast, deep and slow, mid-depth and twitchy — and the lack of a barb had no bearing at all on the fact it was I who went home smelling skunked (there are those who claim the smell was my cigar).
I couldn’t help wondering though, if there wasn’t a way to help folks like my pal Owl hook up and land more fish. Choosing to look backwards, as usual, I discovered that fish have evidently been shaking themselves loose from hooks for a very long time and that at least one creative inventor seemed to have a solution back in the 1950s.
I can only guess what it must have been like to cast a contraption like that and what it must have been like to remove it from a fish. Fortunately, another inventor came up with a way to make such hook removal both safe and easy.
A mitt, made from waffled aluminum and stainless steel sure would make it easier to hold an angry, slimy fish while one removed a set of nickel-plated tongs from its head, I guess. I wonder if they ever got that patent.
So, to all my friends out there who, like Owl Jones, hate to release fish from a distance, take heart. A better way to keep fish on a hook could be just around the corner, thanks to good old American know-how and ingenuity.
I hope this helped.
( Some people are very concerned about the crueler aspects of fishing and I certainly don’t actually condone the use of hardware like what I pointed out above. To some, though, any hook of any size is wrong. You can find out what happened when just such a group of people paid a little visit to Fish in a Barrel Pond by reading this: “Fishing Hurts”)