A Case For Barbless Hooks

Discussion in 'Arts and Literature' started by GAT, Apr 5, 2013.

  1. GAT Active Member

    Posts: 4,165
    Willamette Valley, OR
    Ratings: +2,685 / 0
    Sad to admit it but this one is based on a true story.



    A Case for Barbless Hooks

    by Gene Trump

    It was not a particularly grand day for fly-fishing.

    The wind was stocking-cap cold and completely unruly. To the south loomed the Three Sisters mountains caped by dark snow clouds that flowed with the wind. Grey rain clouds rushed in from the desert to the east and menaced me with the constant threat of rain. Now and again the evil-looking clouds made good on their threats. So it was no great wonder that I was aptly foul-weather dressed. The wonder had to be why I was attempting to fly fish in such weather.

    The exclusive resort was typical of most exclusive resorts: built at the foot of year-round snow-capped mountains, a view from every condo or cabin of picture-perfect meadows, pine forests or the fairway of a golf course. Vast amounts of capital go into constructing resorts like this; what with the restaurant, horse barns, bicycle paths, golf courses, fishing ponds, the little guard house at the front gate. I certainly can't afford to buy into such a place. The little guard house is there to keep my type away from those who can.

    I do own a wallet and I have heard that certain folks actually use their wallets to hold money. I use mine as a convenient place to keep my fishing license. I once tried to keep money in the wallet but the fishing license must have eaten it.

    At this point you might rightfully ask how a pauper such as myself managed to find himself in such spendy surroundings -- bad weather or not. And I might answer: I snuck in. But I didn't.
    Strange thing about exclusive resorts -- the exclusive few that can afford to buy the exclusive property feel compelled to lesson the burden of the exclusive price tag by renting out the condos to the masses that are otherwise excluded. So much for the myth of the exclusive resort and the need for the little guard house.

    So I didn't have to sneak in. A few of us from the masses managed to save enough money (we kept it away from our wallets) to rent a condo for the weekend. And once you've got the plastic access card, the place is yours -- biking, hiking, golfing, fishing, meadow-watching, it's all your's. For the weekend.

    I'm not really keen on horses after a nearly-blind old grey mare tried to tail-swat my fly-festooned fishing fedora off my head. And having only played golf once -- my fly casting arm over-rode the golf stroke and no matter my stance, grip or grimace, the ball always made a beeline for the nearest form of water; a good technique for a fly-fisher but poor technique for a golfer. I decided to pass on the horse rides and golf rounds. Instead, the resort's fabled trout pond where large rainbows were raised for catch and release was the center of my attention.

    The pond was well-maintained by the resort, designated fly-fishing only and was known to hold rainbows that can be judged by the pound more-so than the inch. As I'm generally an inch fly-fisherman, I was excited about the chance to catch fish in the pound range. Even if it meant taking a good hour just to pull on enough clothing to do battle with the winds and rain. I wasn't about to let a little thing like gale force winds deter me from fishing the usually unaccessible pond that was the home of pound-sized rainbows. Besides, we only rented the condo for the weekend so it was now or never.

    On one side of the pond is a golf course, the other side a meadow and the last rest of the shoreline was taken up by rows of condos and an expensive restaurant. We rented one of the condos that faced the pond so all I had to do was open the sliding glass door, walk across the lawn and start casting. But as all anglers know, if it is easy to walk to, there can't be any fish there. So I decided to make my way around the pond to the far side. That meant climbing over barbed-wire fences and risking the pelt of golf balls but in my heart I knew the larger fish just had to be on the other side. I only tore my jacket once while climbing over the fences and the golf balls completely missed me at the driving range so getting to the other side wasn't as hazardous as I had feared.

    Too bad the weeds had grown up so bad on that side of the pond I couldn't retrieve a cast without also retrieving massive globs of aquatic plant life. I kept moving and casting until I found a spot where a retrieve could be made without dredging up weeds.

    I wore my fishing vest over a jacket, a wool shirt, a cotton shirt and a poly-pro t-shirt. The slippery banks and depth of the pond made wading treacherous so I opted to leave the neoprenes behind and wore wool pants over the poly-pro long-johns. This bulky attire was sufficient enough to buffer the less than friendly weather. Too bad it in no way aided my attempts to cast into the wind.

    Casting into the wind is a neat trick by itself; but casting a splitshot and a streamer into the wind is just this side of pure folly. Then again, pure folly had never stopped me before and it certainly wasn't going to stop me then. Only a true blue folly-type would risk a hook in the ear, the neck, the back or body parts even more precious by flinging an unwieldy line and leader around in a poor facsimile of a cast. The odds of disaster were much greater than my luck, so it was only a matter of time before the Muddler Minnow found a seemingly permanent home between my shoulder blades.

    We've all had an itch that we couldn't quite reach to scratch. It's usually smack dab in the middle of the upper back -- exactly where the Muddler had inconveniently planted itself. So there was no way I could reach the devil. I came to this conclusion after dancing in circles for a few minutes with no success at reaching the fly, much less removing it. I glanced over to the condos and restaurant, imagined the entire inhabitants of the resort were watching me and decided my wild gymnastics should stop. I probably had already provided a good laugh to those enjoying the pristine view of the cascade range, the Fall storm, the pond, the wild Canadian geese and the fly fisherman twirling around in the meadow like a cat trying to catch his own tail.

    The only safe, sane and respectable method for removing the miscast fly was to take off my vest and calmly unhook the Muddler. That should prove to be no problem except the contortions I'd done had forced the hook not only through the vest, the jacket and the wool shirt but also the cotton shirt and the poly-pro t-shirt and was snagged uncomfortably close to bare skin.

    I suppose I could have clipped the tippet and returned to the rented room to remove the hook and I would have if I had any idea how deep the hook was buried. I first attempted to remove my vest and found it pinned to my jacket. When attempting to remove my jacket, I found it attached to the wool shirt, and it attached to the cotton shirt and the cotton shirt attached to the t-shirt. I wasn't free until I had stripped to the waist with a pile of clothing and tangled fly line at my feet.

    Suddenly, the wind was bitter cold on my naked skin.

    In what seemed like hours, I freed the hook from the clothing but not without inflicting damage to poly-pro, cotton and wool while working the barb out of the garments. You see, I had neglected to debarb the hook.

    As I hurried to re-dress I glanced over to the condos and could have sworn I heard the faint yet distinct sound of hysterical laughter over the howling wind that whipped at my shirt tails. As I reached down to pick up my rod, I noticed the entire flock of geese were staring at me. And they all had that damned geese smirk. I hate it when they smirk.

    That was all I could take. I walked back around the pond and noticed a lone golfer at the driving range. Well, I thought to myself, another fanatic. At least playing golf in the wind isn't as dangerous as fly-fishing in the wind.

    As I stopped to cross the barbed-wire fence, a golf ball bounced off my head and landed near a sign that must have been blown off the post by the wind. The sign proclaimed: Fly-Fishing Only, Catch and Release -- that much I knew -- Barbless Hooks Only -- that much I didn't know.
    I crossed the fence, tore my jacket again and walked across the lawn and toward the condo. As I reached for the sliding door I looked back and noticed a five pound rainbow actively feeding off the surface within three feet of the pond bank, no more than 75 feet from where I stood. Exactly at the spot I originally decided wasn't worth trying.

    I looked at the fish. I looked at the lone golfer. I looked at the flock of geese on the other side of the pond. I looked back at the fish. I looked at the restaurant and all the patrons looking back. I looked at the fish.

    The wind had died down and the casting wasn't as difficult, but even so, it was still a neat trick. There was some comfort in knowing that a debarbed hook is much easier to unsnag than a barbed one. From that day on I became an advocate for the use of barbless hooks -- not only for the release of fish but also for the release of myself.

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