This Week's View

by Deanna Lee Birkholm
June 26th, 2006

The Important Stuff

Sometimes we just overlook the important stuff.

When you've been fishing too many years to count (I really can, but it's depressing), you can take things for granted.

An email this week brought that to mind very quickly. The reader asked:

"I am just learning to fish, and upon one of my solo expeditions caught a four inch brown trout. Looking at the fish you could see that it had swallowed the hook and the hook had managed to catch the tongue of the trout with the eye was pointing down the throat (don't ask me how). It took me five minutes to remove the hook and when I finally did, not only had I managed to remove a small portion of its tongue, but the fish even after trying to revive it, merely wiggled away (not the usual bolt). Now I know how to remove a hook from the corner of the fishes mouth, but how do I remove hooks from the inside of the mouth?"

Let's start with this, always use barbless hooks. Some will argue it is harder to land fish with a barbless hook, but that is false. There just is no excuse for not fishing barbless. None. It actually is easier to hook fish without the barb (which actually is on the hook to keep the worm from sliding off.) If you keep a tight line between you and the fish there just is no problem landing the fish.

You may not agree with the next part, but fishing nymphs will kill more fish than fishing with dry flies. Fish take the fly more deeply and chances of having the hook inside the mouth, throat or tongue increase tremendously. If you must fish nymphs, fish barbless. Please.

Backing a barbless hook out of a fish's jaw is easy. Wet your hands before you ever reach for or touch a fish. Buy a pair of hemostats. They have tiny groves which help grip the hook. Just get a hold of the hook and don't worry about ruining the fly. Being too careful can take precious time - time the fish doesn't have. If at all possible, do not remove the fish from the water. Slide one hand gently under the fish to help support it. Do not squeeze, think of it like a bar of soap, if you squeeze the fish can be injured, but most likely will dart away, and if you don't have enough slack line it presents a great opportunity to break the rod. If you must remove the fish from the water, the time limit out of the water is 10 seconds. You may need more time, the fish doesn't have it. Keep the fish in the water.

I do not like nor encourage the use of hook-removers. By using them, you have no opportunity to revive the fish - even more important with fish that have been played very long.

Hand gently under fish, hemostat on the hook, press down and back, the hook should fall out.

If the fish is deeply hooked, cut the fly off and support the fish in the current (not swishing it back and forth) until it is revived enough to swim off on its own. The fly will either rust out or the fish will dislodge it. It has a better chance than if you try to even very carefully remove it.

Will you kill a fish anyway?


Even the most careful well-intentioned person will kill fish. This is a blood sport. Blood will be spilled. It is part of our sport, recreation, pass time, love and passion.

We do have a responsibility to treat the object of our passion with care. More than care. Love. ~ The LadyFisher

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