Singles rather than trebles [Archive] - Fly Fishing Forum

: Singles rather than trebles

Willie Gunn
03-31-2003, 11:16 AM
Do you loose more fish fishing with singles?

I have recently converted from fishing mostly trebles (old Scottish tradition) to fishing singles. This came about from visiting this site and taking part in some fly swaps. On Saturday I lost two fish I hope they were kelts (down streamers). Was I just unlucky or is the number of fish lost going to increase as the number of hooks decreases?

Would the number of lost fish decrease if the single had an off set?
It struck me that if the hook slid sideways as the fish closed its mouth the hook would just slide out. Now if the point was offset this could not happen. I was convinced this was how the second fish came off. I felt a tension then saw the fish come to the surface then the hook came clear followed by an Anglo Saxon expletive. Spring salmon are hard enough to hook without them getting away again.


03-31-2003, 05:50 PM

Dana said in another thread that he was landing 80% of his steelhead with Partridge Nordic singles on tube flies, are you doing that well with trebles? Also were you using barbs? I think you lose a few more without barbs.

We often do not have the option of using trebles here.

Topher Browne
03-31-2003, 10:03 PM
Dear Malcolm,

Ted is right: we often do not have the option of a treble for steelhead or Atlantic salmon in North America.

Here's a brief overview of sea-run Atlantic salmon regulations regarding hooks in North America.

U.S.A.: All fishing for sea-run Atlantic salmon is closed.

New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, PEI, Newfoundland, Labrador:
treble hooks are illegal.

Quebec: treble hooks are legal (last I checked, at any rate) but only in size #6 or smaller.

I don't know any anglers who fish trebles in Canada either with tubes or with the pattern tied on the treble.

For tube flies (not generally as popular for Canadian Atlantic salmon as for West Coast steelhead), most use either the Partridge Nordic Single--a black carp hook--or the Loop Double. I also use a Mustad 9174, a super-strong egg hook: cheap and very effective when sharpened.

Anglers still use a lot of doubles in Quebec, mostly Partridge and Mustad. I prefer the Loop Down-Eyed Double Hook to either of these brands.

Single hooks are more popular everywhere else. In Newfoundland, single barbless hooks are now required by law.

Offset single hooks may improve hooking very slightly in the situation you describe. I used to fish an offset Gamakatsu single hook. I no longer bother with offset single hooks and notice no drop-off in hooking-to-landing ratios.


03-31-2003, 10:40 PM
With a short shank #4 ring-eye very few fish come un-pinned; assuming they don't go "airborne" on you; then it's usually the leader that gives it up.

With short shank Loop ring eye doubles the fish almost hook themselves. And very rarily come un-pinned. Historicly, for what's its worth, I've lost more fish on trb. hooks that either doubles or a good single hook. Personal opinion only but "ring eye" hooks seem to grab better, faster and hold longer than either a 'eye' up or down.

Clueless as to why, just my "history" on the river.

Per Stadigh
04-01-2003, 03:56 AM
I have experimeted a good deal with hooks for tube flies. For many years the Kamsan trebles were the standard. It was only when I started going to the Kola, and later BC, hat there was a cause for a "blood thirsty Viking" to re think the use of "anchors".

I wrote an article on this for the Oregon's Flyfishers Club in the fall, and maybe it can be transferred to here. (no promises!)

To be short: if a treble reaches 100%, a Loop type tube double reaches ~80% and large single ~60% (Owner 80%) and a small one less than 50%. (Owner 70%) This is not science - just an angler's estimate.

I do not mean 100% success - even with a treble one will miss 10-25% of all fish hooked. If so it often is very early in the fight.

I think the Loop doubles makes for a pefrect compromise, wherever allowed. Contrary to common belief a double causes LESS harm than a thin wired single that often enough cna act as a cheeese cutter in a big salmon's mouth. The resulting gash is worse than the two anchor points created by a double.

Last year we radiotagged 30 good sized June-fish on the Kharlovka. I dare say 99% of those were caught on doubles. At the last reading in October all were alive, and several had been recaught. This says a lot about the harm done by doubles and catch&release alike......!!

I write this "off the hip" from the office. Hopefully it is readable!

Tight lines,

PS. For singles the Owner AKI type short and stout singles are great. They have done me whole lot of good on the Babine. DS

04-01-2003, 05:14 AM
I'm moving away from trebles, although I haven't yet had an opportunity to give Loop doubles a fair trial on tubes. But trebles, particularly small ones (#10 and down), can bury all three points deeply in a fish's mouth, which is not good news if you want to release the fish quickly and retain the fly/hook. Doubles do not suffer from this problem nearly so much, though admittedly they can be harder to remove quickly than singles.

I have never liked Drury-type flies except in the small sizes; the longer shanks (#6 and up) seem to create too much leverage, and I believe that on occasion one point can actually lever the other two out. I have no proof of this, but remember well a fisherman in Norway losing a big salmon on one of these flies after about 50 minutes play, having hooked it from the left bank, and during which time the fish left the pool for the one below. The following week a lady caught a fish of about 43lbs in the lower pool, which we fished from the right bank. Her hook was in the left side of the fish's mouth, as you would expect when fishing from the right bank. But the right side of the fish's mouth also had a number of cuts and tears in it, which could not have resulted from her hook. I'm convinced that it was the same fish, and the multiple lacerations in both top and bottom jaw on the right side were a result of the three points of the Drury treble moving around during the course of the fight. It's not uncommon to land a fish and find one point of a treble bent (often not the one attached to the fish), but this seems to happen less often with doubles. Again I cannot prove my theory, but I believe this may be the result of one point being levered out during play by the others.

As for singles, I remember an old friend (now sadly departed) who would sometimes use singles early in the season, but preferred doubles or trebles later on. He maintained that as cock fish grew their kypes, they often develop a gap between upper and lower jaws at the sides of their mouth, and that a single could slide out of this, in just the way that Malcolm describes. Maybe an offset hook would prevent this, but it's interesting to note how they have gone out of favour with trout fishermen over here. 20-25 years ago they were quite common, but you rarely see them now. I can only assume that people came to the conclusion that there was no significant benefit from them. I have a feeling that once you get a hookhold with a single it is at least as secure as a double or treble, because there is no risk of one point acting as a fulcrum to lever the other(s) out. But maybe your initial hookup rate is less. It also occurs to me that Malcolm's single may have slid out of the fish's mouth because it was fishing on its side - Hugh Falkus was insistent that one should check that a fly swam properly before starting to fish. I think the increased weight of 'keel' from the two points of a double increases the likelihood of a fly fishing right way up, which is important not only for secure hooking but also proper presentation (unless, like the Willie Gunn, your fly is tied 'all round' without a defined top wing).

As a final point, I also think that flies look good dressed on doubles, though I'm not convinced that the fish really mind about this!

04-01-2003, 09:23 AM

I wish I could offer a comparison based on Dana and my records since we switched to the short shank Partridge Nordic Single Spey (Boile Carp Hook). However, since single barbless hooks are the law in British Columbia - and have been for many years - I have no experience with multiple hook points.

I can confirm what Ted reports about our hooking to landing ratio since switching to tube flies. While using standard salmon hooks our average was about 50 percent - and had been for years. Now in the start of our 4th season with tubes and the short shank hooks - it is hovering around 80 percent. The increase may not hold up over a longer sample - but it is hard to argue with the success so far.

Much of this success, I think is the Nordic Single Spey hook itself. It is quite short in the shank, with a very wide gap, as well, it almost looks like a circle hook. In fact I often have a hard time getting my fingers on the hook to remove it from the jaw of a fish - they really hold - and there is little leverage for the hook to work loose.

Maybe my ethic of believing the singles are better and healthier for the fish is born out of legal requirement. However, I do believe that the relatively small single hooks that tubes allow us to use have to be easier on the fish than multiple point hooks and even large traditional singles

Our biggest problem is getting suitable hooks. The Nordic Single Speys have in the past been somewhat difficult to find - as well, the eye of the hook is just a little too big for our liking. I know Dana has tried unsuccessfully to convince the people at Loop to make a single point version of their double - it seems they don't believe there is a market. I think they are missing the boat.

Malcolm, if you continue to experiment with singles, give a short shank hook - particularly the Nordic Single Spey a try.

Per Stadigh
04-01-2003, 10:08 AM

It is funny to hear how well the Nordic Single has been received with you. When new here it was felt that they were too short in the shank. But yours, and Dana's words count for more than old rumours!

Over here we also have a bunch of excellent "carp" hooks that are very good for this purpose. They shouls be easy to find anywhere in the UK.

I will se if I can send you some. You never got into the Owner ones?


04-01-2003, 10:15 AM

Maybe Dana showed them to me, I don't remember. Most of the Owner hooks I've seen are a little too heavy a guage for my liking, however, if you send some varieties of singles I would be very interested. Thanks.

04-01-2003, 10:18 AM
I'd also be interested in the hooks available "over there". If not too much trouble, would you mind leaving a few for me at Kharlovka camp? I'll be there week 33. Or perhaps Way could bring some back in June to send to me. Just let me know how much.

Willie Gunn
04-01-2003, 11:58 AM
Having read through the thread thank you for all your imput
Gardener, said,
It also occurs to me that Malcolm's single may have slid out of the fish's mouth because it was fishing on its side - Hugh Falkus was insistent that one should check that a fly swam properly before starting to fish. I think the increased weight of 'keel' from the two points of a double increases the likelihood of a fly fishing right way up, which is important not only for secure hooking but also proper presentation (unless, like the Willie Gunn, your fly is tied 'all round' without a defined top wing).

The fly as far as I am aware was fishing up right, it was an Ali shrimp and it looked good before I sent it forth.
Willie Gunns tied on a tube with a single hook, How would you ever know wether the hook was up down or side ways, more worries. The gillie says I worry about the science of it all I should just choose a fly and fish it, changing flies just wastes nylon

As usual you talk sense, but do you always use tubes? do you ever use standard dressed flies? I could see why you don't.
I will have to try these Loop Doubles.

Topher said
Offset single hooks may improve hooking very slightly in the situation you describe. I used to fish an offset Gamakatsu single hook. I no longer bother with offset single hooks and notice no drop-off in hooking-to-landing ratios

I was thinking about bending an off set into all my singles but if you find no difference I will save myself the effort.

Now that three days have passed and I have relaxed maybe it was just on of those days. I hate loosing fish I can remember fish lost as a boy over 30 years ago much better than the ones I caught. Saturday was a pig of a day the wind was 25-30 MPH downstream,if you couldn't Double Spey it was too dangerous to fish.


04-01-2003, 04:38 PM
Most of the discussion on "more effective hooking with singles, and less lost fish" has come from the spoon and plug fishermen, and it is true in that case. There is more than sufficient data to argue that point. However, I know of no studies, other than someone's opinions, to argue the same case for flies. I think that we have carried this idea over to flies as "gospel".

Only way to prove the point is with a statistically valid study.
But since many of us fish with small dry flies and small nymphs, I doubt if there would be much interest, other than salmon and steelhead fishers.... and we are a minority.


04-12-2003, 05:39 PM
My flies have always been singles. I fished only a couple times in UK, and can't remember if I was using a single, double, or treble.

But, when I first started steelheading. We used treble hooks with our bait and on our plugs. Some guys when allowed still use trebles on plugs. I've noticed, that on bait hookup/land ration was MUCH higher. I mean, only time you'd lose a fish was if it ran into trees/obstructions. But, with our sandshrimp or eggs, the fish would engulf it, and would always have 2-3 of the hooks into the fish. When they outlawed trebles, and went down to singles, our catch rates went down. I believe sometimes the fish would grab hook just right or off to side and hookset pulled hook out or impaled into a soft place. Lost more fish in that regards. Had almost no difference between barbed and barbless. Normally the barbless would sink faster and deeper with less effort. Only on the constanst acrobatics of some fish did they ever toss a hook. With fly fishing, I'd have to assume similar things would transpire. If you have a solid hookset, your single will drive in deeper. BUT, you'll have more of a pivot if you're using longer hooks. I'd assume if you had 2-3 of your treble hooks in with a longer hook, would be tougher to maneuver out on the leverage point. I only use singles/siwashes nowadays. I do know that in the days I used trebles, if that plug went off, I got the fish to the boat everytime. The only time I lost a fish was when I lost plug as well on a snag. Period! You do have guys who like to use oversized trebles on plugs, which cause a snagging effect if run into fishing zones. I never did that, nor did my fishing partners. I have had WAY too many times having fish spit or miss hooks hitting with siwashes on. I can't count how many long lined releases I've had on siwashes rather then trebles (none with trebles).

As I said, mine is more from a conventional gear aspect. It's a different fishing style. Especially with bait. With flies, I couldn't give a fair assessment, since I don't recall ever using them. But, hope my conventional gear assessment helped.

04-12-2003, 09:56 PM
I'm a bit surprised to see a discussion of hooks and fish hooking success rates without any mention of the word "retrieve" or "hook file".

I've fly fished for Atlantic salmon and steelhead for almost thirty years now and I have never dead drifted a dull pointed fly for either species (at least not when I’m on my game). When I hear the phrase "long distance release" I immediately think to myself: "asleep at the wheel", or "dull hook" or "dead drifting fly while overly absorbed in fluviatile scenery".

When I find someone else's flies hooked to a tree branch, just for amusement I always check the point of the fly on my thumbnail. These are the fancy flies the cool dudes are using these days. Holy Cow -- 80 % of the time the hook points are dull! So it comes down to this: whether you're fishing one hook, two hooks or three, are they sticky sharp? And how are you retrieving that hook, if at all?

I wear a stripping glove on my right hand. Always have. Every cast I've ever made in my life is allowed to free drift only for a very short while. The rest of the time the fly is stripped back towards my rod tip, the line being pulled over my right hand trigger finger with my left hand. Whether it's a floater or a sinker, there is a continual almost imperceptible retrieve. And I never lift the rod tip on a set. I jerk the line downwards with my left hand over the trigger finger of my right hand, leaving the rod tip pointed straight at my fly and the fish that decided to take a pass at it.

As a child I remember calling this type of retrieval "the Scottish Worm Crawl". As an adult I call this form of retrieving a sharp single hooked fly over my trigger finger as "95% beach rate". The remaining 5 %? I call that "Oh Well".

Treble hooks? Three times the trouble. And I’m appalled they weren’t banned years ago. Not because they are so aesthetically obscene stuck in a fish’s face. It’s because they are not a good tool for the job.

04-13-2003, 10:08 AM

That is the highest beaching rate I have ever heard of. I am impressed.

It sounds like you are more keeping tension on the fly than stripping? That may work better for Atlantics than for steelhead, especially in the midwest where much/most of the fishing is done at very cold water conditions.

You are right on about the sticky sharp hook. If they do not grab the fingernail when slid across, they are not really sharp enough.

Per Stadigh
04-13-2003, 10:36 PM

The way you describe how to fish the cast out is exactly how I like to do it. I too ALWAYS strip line in as the fly comes round, in fast and/or cold water we are talking less than an inch per second while in slower and/or warmer water it might be good foot per second.

Aside from knowing that the fly is swimming actively at the leader's end, one also will detect even the slightest touch from a reluctant fish. It is amazing how many fish that comes to the fly without really taking. With the rod held high and with no active tension applied on the line one would not know a fraction of those touches. A lot of the fish I catch are such "touchers" that often take solided on another fly or a when encountering a different speed of the presentation.

This links up with the "long - short line debate" spinning on the Spey forum. The drawbacks asoc. with " line stripping" while using the shooting head rigs I fancy are far less when this constant retrieve is brought into the calculus. A good deal of the shooting line often is brought back WHEN FISHING THE CAST ROUND. A thin running line also is less affected by the water found between oneself and the fly than what is the case with a fat floating belly. This helps a lot when pointing the rod tip along the line, as both of us appears to prefer.

I too prefer sharp hooks, but feel that it is less critical with fresh run salmon than with more hard mouthed backenders. Ol' Hugh Falkus even advocated DULL hooks to ensure that the hook set in the jaw and not in the first tissue found......

On trebles I have to disagree. I have fished them for 30 years in Norway. They are superior alas not very elegant. Period.

Per Stadigh

04-13-2003, 11:57 PM
I always sharpen my hooks, if they're able to. Most chemically sharpened hooks are either sharp out of pack or tossed. Most will not take a file at all since they are actually hardened as they are chemically sharpened. All my long line releases have been just that. Acrobatic Steelhead or Coho that leap and toss and make it almost impossible to keep the slack out of your line. I still carry a file in my vests, but most of the time my hooks won't take one. I only use the fly or bait hook if it easily drives in without effort (I have the track marks on my thumb to prove it LOL). But, I've had more long liners with barbless. Though hooks drive deeper, you get enough slack and/or pressure from a leaping fish they can easily spit hook. I actually never had much problems with trebles, except trying to actually release the fish. When you have three barbs imbedded in a fishes mouth, isn't the easiest thing to pry out. But I'm good on the hook set, if I have a barb in, that thing won't come out. With barbless, I still drive that baby deep, but it doesn't take much with the typicle fighting styles of a silver/steelhead to knock one loose. Now a king, never had one long line on me.

Topher Browne
04-14-2003, 10:06 AM
As a reformed "long-liner," I was surprised by the results of my 2002 season: I landed the vast majority of salmon, including my largest fish, on a stripped fly. To say this was an 'eye-opener' understates the case; I was blown away.

Whether stripping or swinging, I now much prefer holding onto running line as opposed to the fat belly of an extended taper line. The running line seems to better transmit the subtle bumps and 'takes' that Per talks about.

Stripping the fly also counteracts a central flaw in most salmon-fishing technique: the tendency to fish the fly too slowly.

While fishing from a canoe with a hardcore salmon angler of the fairer sex, I heard the guide, seated in the stern, command her to "Strip, strip, strip!" at the end of the swing. She turned to him and said, "Excuse me?" Her sense of humor intact, she then dutifully began removing her clothes.

The benefits of "stripping" are many.........


04-14-2003, 09:36 PM
Hello, Per-- I agree with you that treble hooks are an effective way to put a fish on the beach. I never meant to imply that they do not hold fish (although I think an argument could be made that a well-sharpened single hook stuck securely in a fish's jaw will hold some fish better then a treble hook stuck in both jaws).

However, most of my fishing is done in Catch and Release areas these days so the issue of treble hooks is a moot point.

I still maintain that even where trebles are legal, though, it is not necessarily a good tool for the job. Salt water salmon fishing for example. It is common to catch under-sized fish that by law must be released (such as king salmon). I am amazed that the Canadians commonly use treble hooks in their Pacific Northwest salmon fisheries when in some areas they are compelled by law to release not only immature king salmon but adult coho salmon as well. Treble hooks in a C&R fishery!

Treble hooks as you confirm were designed to hold fish for the purpose of getting them into a net for a kill. But it's also true that I have used singles (or sliding doubles) in the salt water with enough success to make me realize that trebles are highly over-rated and are not particularly necessary.

When I first started using tube flies for steelhead in the early seventies I could not bring myself to utilize treble hooks the way I saw them used on the Tweed in Scotland, even though back then you could use trebles in all the Northwest rivers. So I made a decision to fish tube flies with single hooks, despite my concern that my flies would not "swim" properly. Surprise, the flies fished just fine and the single hooks held fish just as well as the trebles! When I returned to Scotland for Atlantics I dispensed with the treble hooks for singles and never saw any change in my beaching rate.

The biggest steelhead I ever caught in my life was back in the early eighties. I was showing my girlfriend how to cast and my fly inadvertently hit the opposite bank and became stranded high and dry on a rock. Wow, what a cast said my girlfriend. I plucked the fly off the rock into the water where it should have landed in the first place. Suddenly there was dead weight on the end of my rod. For several minutes I thought I was snagged on a log. I finally wrapped the line around my hand and started backing up the beach. Wrong move!! A tail the size of a shovel came out of the water and my heart skipped a beat. I manged to get my hand out of the coils and thirty minutes later I snaked a fall run buck steelhead onto the beach that I estimated weighed 16 kg. The fly? It was a No. 8 fine-wire barbless trout hook. It was parked securely behind the fish's maxilla and a nuclear device wouldn't have moved that tiny little (black) fly.

I had just returned from a trip to the Tweed where I'd met an old Scottish fisherman one day. We were sharing the same beat. Och, laddie, he said to me, voice firm with the wisdom of age. On the Tweed we have a saying and it's this: the smaller the fly the bigger the troot.

04-15-2003, 08:08 PM
Trebles when used correctly are killing machines, what they were designed for. I grew up using them, but that was in the days when there wasn't talk of endangered Steelhead/Salmon. I grew up poor, and we subsidized our food with fish, seafood, and game meat. I grew up like I wasn't poor though, my family made sure we always had enough to eat, so I never realized I was poor until I got into high school where stupid things mattered. I saw how other kids got everything they wanted and had much nicer clothes. But, in long run, I was much better off and loved much more then they were.

Sorry, got off topic a bit. But I only use single hooks, even when multitip hooks are allowed. Most hooks I use can't be sharpened, but still give them a go over with file (I think I do more damage to file then the hook. LOL). But growing up how I did, if a fish was hooked, we wanted it in. I remember running meatlines in the sound (still have one that I never use but has memories). Extremely effective way of fishing, but no fun, just hooking fish and ratcheting them in. By time I was able to get a job, I was able to help with money to my family, and we were able to be more into sportsmanship then simply eating. Was around 83'. I haven't bought a treble since, and in fact instantly take them off any tackle I may have that has them on it.

04-16-2003, 12:19 AM
"I grew up poor, and we subsidized our food with fish, seafood, and game meat. I grew up like I wasn't poor though, my family made sure we always had enough to eat, so I never realized I was poor until I got into high school where stupid things mattered. I saw how other kids got everything they wanted and had much nicer clothes. But, in long run, I was much better off and loved much more then they were. "

Heck of a difference. I can remember asking the bus driver in Seattle to lend me less that a quarter to pay the bus fair home from 'downtown.'' Guy put the money in the box; next time I saw him I paid him back. That was back in about 1956, don't know if he 'trusted me' or just wanted to make the till box on the bus balance. But "he" taught me a lesson in trust and honor.

And there is NOTHING else that matters between men/women. Perhaps this is why it went so well when Joan and I moved/built our vineyards in Oregon. Old ground, but 95% of the hundreds of thousands we spent was based on a 'gentlemen's agreement and a handshake.'

Editéd a lot of this out to keep from sounding like a complete ... many of these folks are still close business associates. It's cool when you call for something and they know your voice ... and the deal is fair to all. And you don't ask the price.

For Aaron, I appreciate all your kindness and hugs; you've far exceeded all/any of my expectations. (And the checks in the mail today)

04-16-2003, 01:11 AM
Yeah, we had no money. LOL. But, I did say I was loved, wasn't that close enough?? I meant having no money in poor you goof. Didn't say I went without, sheesh. Man, you gotta be so liberal nowadays. I may have to pull some of my select flies outta that package for you now. LOL. Just kidding, you'll get full lot.

But, we didn't want, because I was exposed to alot of things that were fairly inexpensive to do. Plus, my Dad tried to make our "food gathering" trips fun. We'd drop crab or shrimp pots while we'd be out salmon fishing. Then go back and check pots periodically. But, it was a 50/50 thing. It was hard growing up with alot of rich kids who had nice cars and clothes. But I'm glad I was raised way I was. I learned the value of a buck (wish my exwife did LOL, I wouldn't be in trouble like I am now) and learned to help the family. Spent too many days splitting wood (didn't have electric or gas heat), and we logged properties to get the wood for our winters. The only way I learned to fly fish was by "borrowing" my dead uncles rod and having to tie my own flies so I'd have some. My flies were terrible, but caught fish back then. LOL, they were tied on octopus hooks. But, now I have a positive income (even with my ex's $50k debt I got stuck with), and try not to put my kids through too much of what I had to. I don't spoil, but I try not to hand them everything.

04-16-2003, 10:41 AM

As you found out, the guy with the most toys does not win. Things and $ can be replaced or done without. Relationships matter and character and you got large doses of both - you were blessed.

04-16-2003, 01:58 PM
On all of the waters I have fished in N.A. trebles on flies have been verboten. Most places you can only use single hook for trout and salmon. I would only use trebles when allowed and I was definitely going to kill every fish caught. I am against them totally for waters which are primarily wild steelhead, trout, or salmon.

On wild fish waters single barbless hook is the rule that should be enforced to help ensure that fish will have the best chance of survival after being hooked and released.

PM Out

04-16-2003, 02:38 PM
When I spinner fished (gasp) we would use barbless trebles.

Never had an issue with fish mortality, they were easy to remove and fish stayed stuck rather well.