Barbed vs. barbless debate resolved?

Discussion in 'Fly Fishing Forum' started by Alosa, May 31, 2013.

  1. David Loy

    David Loy Senior Moment

    Mar 3, 2005
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    Wolf Bay
    Yeah, me too, probably like most guys here. Where I run afoul is when I buy flies at a local shop, particularly when I'm on a trip. I'm forgetful enough that sometimes I find barbed hooks in my box on a successive trip and with failing eyesight have fished tiny flies with barbs quite by accident.
  2. Old Man

    Old Man Just an Old Man

    Jan 1, 2002
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    Dillon, Mt
    I like the take on the top. All else is just gravy. Hooking a fish and playing it is is some fun. But the hook up is what I like. And I'm barbless all the way. Even if you don't have to pinch your barb here in Montana, I do it because they are easier to pull out of your fingers and hands.

    Plus if I ever meet up with anybody from this site, I will tell you what the hot fly is and share some with you if I have any left.
    Bill Aubrey likes this.
  3. Bob Triggs

    Bob Triggs Stop Killing Wild Steelhead!

    Dec 10, 2003
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    Olympic Peninsula
    Home Page:
    We have regulations here that sometimes require us to fish with barbless hooks. These rules are in place to protect some wild species of fish that we are required to "release without avoidable injury." When I began using barbless hooks exclusively in my fly fishing was directly related to the conservation example and the writings of Lee Wulff, Joan Wulff, Floyd Franke, Earnest Schweibert, and many others, who cared deeply about our wild fisheries conservation and the future of our sport. This was also around the time that I had gotten very much more serious about my casting, fly tying, and other skills, and I was becoming a professional fly fisherman and guide. Up to that time I had spent some 30 or more years fishing barbed hooks. I had also lost many fish in playing in those years.

    Once I got serious about my skills, and I worked to get help in correcting my highly refined and deeply ingrained casting errors, and I began working with people who were truly masters of this game, I switched over to using barbless hooks all of the time. Even on the fish that I intended to harvest. It has been some 20+ years over this process now, and I have lost very, very few fish in playing on barbless hooks. Far fewer than I had in the preceeding 30+ years of fishing with barbs. And I have killed very few fish incidental to catch and release fishing on barbless hooks.

    I see people do some weird things when they are playing fish, and there are some widely divergent ideas on this art. Generally fish too often get played too long. So anytime that I see a survey or study like this I am always skeptical because no two anglers play fish in the same ways, with the same equipment, same situations etc. It would be almost impossible to control or blind a study such a this. There are too many variables between anglers, skills,(real or perceived). And unless you were getting the hook to set in the exact same tissues and structures, on every single fish, and everything else was exactly the same as well, it would be very soft science at best. Good, but soft. Barbless hooks should be smoothly de-barbed, with no roughness at all. The old "game Warden's Shirt Test", where you pass the hook through a shirt cuff, and pull it back out to see if it snags a thread, is a good basic test. If it snags in the weave of your shirt cuff, it will also snag blood vessels and nerves in the fish. "To be released without avoidable injury" means just that.

    The hardest thing on fish when we hook and play them is the unnecessary overplaying and rough handling, and ripping barbed hooks out of them. Barbless hooks do less harm. But that is just one aspect of the issue. Anglers need to take more time to learn how to correctly play and land fish, especially big wild fish on the fly rod. I wrote a review here, on the Book reviews pages, on Floyd Franke's excellent book: "Fish On!", , and this book is a great resource for this understanding.

    When I was a kid I did not know anyone who fished with barbless hooks. We killed everything that we caught back then, fly fishermen too took all of their fish home in willow creel full of wet grass. By the 1970's catch and release was coming into the rules on some waters, and gradually the practice became much more commonplace, especially on our eastern trout waters. Today, decades later, it is no surprise that some of the best fishing is on those same waters, places like the upper Delaware River, The Housatonic River, the Farmington River etc.

    I wish we could take that example here, to protect the last of our wild fisheries resources, before we lose them all.
    Bill Aubrey and Andrew Lawrence like this.
  4. FT

    FT Active Member

    Mar 29, 2005
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    Burlington, WA
    Like nearly everyone who has posted a comment on this topic, I fish nothing but barbless and have been doing so since I was in high school back in the late 1960's. I grew up in northeast Pennsylvania and dad taught me to fly fish when I was 5 years old. I started to fish barbless at times starting around age 11 when dad started taking me to some of the streams that required barbless flies.

    I have fond memories of fishing the Upper Delaware River for very large browns in July and August when fishing at night with huge (as in 2/0 and 3/0 3xl pusher flies) that always had the barb smashed down just in case you hooked yourself when casting in the dark. I have equally fond memories of fishing the Fisherman's Paradise section of Big Spring Creek where barbless and no wading have been required since it came into existence in the 1950's.

    Since I was hooking and landing my share of trout (and largemouth bass in local bass ponds and pickerel in eddys of the Delaware along with smallmouth in rivers such as the North Branch Susquahana River, I decided to just go barbless on the time when a sophomore in high school.

    And I taught all 3 of my kids (who are all now adults) how to fly fish when young like I was when dad taught me with the use of barbless flies from the beginning. As a result, they think it odd that anyone would fish with a barb since they have caught every fish they have with a barbless fly.
    Andrew Lawrence likes this.