barbless hooks? [Archive] - Fly Fishing Forum

: barbless hooks?

10-20-2003, 10:51 AM
First let me say -thanks alot- for all the quick responses to my "newby" type questions. Next question. I have always fished barbless for trout. My only 2 bonefish trips, I fished barbless and never lost a fish. Now that I am aquiring larger flies for tarpon,jacks etc., I am really tempted to crimp all these barbs, is there any real problem if I make all my flies barbless for these larger fish, I really dont mind loosing some fish now and then, I am more into the hunt and the hook-up.

10-21-2003, 08:11 AM
Go ahead and crimp those barbs!

O.K., you may lose the occaisional fish but, with Tarpon, the majority come unstuck after the first two dozen somersaults anyway - their mouths have the consitency of pre-stressed concrete.

Most species - big and small - seem to stay stuck pretty good on barbless hooks. Try to keep good tension and you should be fine.

10-21-2003, 09:17 AM
Another factor that helps is to use the thinnest wire hook you can without compromising strength. You don't want them to open up but you want the penetration to be easy and the hole to stay small thru the fight. Some of those very expensive hooks give you the best ratio of strength to wire diam via high-end materials and chemical sharpening, thus are very expensive. The cheap SW hooks are made of crap metal and to get strong hooks you often have to go to a wire diam that is ridiculously heavy and barbs that are damn near impossible to crush, shaped like an anchor barb.

IMHO it pays to use the best hooks you can buy - TMC, Daichi, Gamakatsu, etc. Well worth the $ in the long run.


Capt. Mel Simpson
10-21-2003, 01:00 PM
Actually it is better to use barbless, if they are sharp! They penetrate better and are more easily removed from your body!Learn to sharpen them yourself, then you will know they are sharp.

Heavy wire hooks are an absolute necessity on big fish, the light wire hooks will straighten! I've seen it happen too many times, even with 12# tippets on 2/0 and 3/0 hooks!

I use super strong wire hooks for fish that jump and shake their heads, like tarpon and snook. For everything else I use either stainless or nickle plated, regular wire.

But more important than anything, I sharpen them razor sharp before I start tying the fly!


10-22-2003, 11:26 AM
Two points. Are you using an older batch of hooks? These days, my Gamakatsu and Daiichi hooks are far sharper out of the box than anything I can apply. Eventually, the points will get dull and I have to sharpen them again, but I haven't had to sharpen a hook before tying in quite some time unless I use some old Partridge salmon hooks that have been around for awhile. Secondly, bent hooks have generally indicated to me a hook that didn't completely penetrate. If you can get the hook up to the bend in a fish's mouth, it is almost impossible for that fish to open the hook up, even on relatively light wire. Granted, on fish like tarpon that much penetration is certainly the exception, but it is possible to get adequate penetration on many other species. I've tried opening up hooks and found it is way easier if you're pulling from the point/barb area than if you're pulling from deep into the bend. One last observation. Many of the more recent thin wire hooks are far stronger than what was around just a few years ago. The hook companies have truly given us significantly better hooks the last five years or so. They are well worth the substantial additional cost.

10-22-2003, 11:45 AM
Hi Capt,

To repeat the thinnest wire hook "without compromising strength". If you're fishin' wolf fish, the thinnest acceptable is a pretty darn thick wire. If it opens up well then it's clearly too thin.

Any of those hooks I listed above come razor chemically sharpened out of the package and never need sharpening until dulled thru use as JR noted. Also the barb size is so tiny it's easy to get rid of. The metal alloy is superior and rarely opens up.

An example of what I mean by "thin enough" is the TMC 811s in 1/0 or bigger for saltwater fish. The 800s may be more suitable for tarpon.

Just my .02

Capt. Mel Simpson
10-22-2003, 12:55 PM
Jr and juro,

My point about the question is that barbless is better, ...if they are sharp.

You may think chemically sharpened light wire hooks work for you and that's fine, but hooks that I will still sharpen like; Mustad SS and Signature SS, TMC 777SP (by Owner), and Owner AKI, are the ones I will continue to use.

So far, and I get to try them all, those other brands just don't cut it in saltwater, not when you are casting to world record or once in a life time fish like tarpon, snook, bonefish and permit. I can't afford for my customers to loose fish because of what you or the manufacturer says is sharp.

I guess 20 years of saltwater flyfishing and 30 for steelhead is where I draw my experience from... I say, "don't take a dull knife to a gun fight".


10-22-2003, 04:14 PM
You also might be the last guy on the planet to choose a Mustad SS (34007?) over a hook like a Gamakatsu SC15. I gave all my Mustads away because they were simply too soft for serious saltwater work. And hooks like the Partridge Homassasa Special were too heavy for their size. The new Mustads may be a better hook, but they are not as good as the Gamakatsu or the Owner AKI. I realize that guides spend a lot of time on the water and they become quite opinionated due to that fact. I can tell you that my guide wouldn't think of letting me fish with a 34007 or even a 3407 if that's what I had used to tie my flies. That doesn't, of course, mean he's right you're not. Only that different people come to different conclusions in the same environment.

10-22-2003, 06:32 PM

I think you hit it right on the head, what's important is what works best for you. I'd like to fish with you someday and you bet I'll take your advice! You sound like you mean business and I definitely want that in my captain's attitude.

I'll look into those hooks you listed, never too old to learn new tricks they say.


10-22-2003, 07:29 PM

I'm glad I got back on before you responded to my post. I remember Per Stadigh about a year ago who said that since this site no longer featured a spellcheck maybe they should look into installing a grump-meter. I certainly didn't mean to sound as testy as I did in my response to your post.

About an hour before my post I received a lengthy e-mail from a guide I was going to use for Atlantic Salmon next August in Canada. It took me almost thirty minutes to get through the post and his attitude was ridiculous to say the least. It was a long list of you'll have to do it this way or don't bother to come here as you won't be successful. You know, Atlantic salmon are pretty much the same fish wherever they are found. Rivers vary somewhat and the size of the fish certainly varies from river to river. This river averages 150-200yds across and features very large fish. Among the comments he made was to leave the spey rod at home, don't plan on using tapered leaders as a single piece of ten pound was the only way of doing it, and only twenty pound test backing should be installed. His constant inference that I shouldn't even plan on showing up if I didn't agree to his dictates made me decide to check on different guides. In fact, about forty-five minutes later I indeed did have a commitment from another guide on the same river.

Sometimes guides forget that some of their sports have also done a lot of fishing and though I'm willing to learn and listen, I'm still paying the $450.00 a day and I'll make the final decision. I've lost too many fish to knots that guides tie, for instance, so I now insist on tying all of my own knots. If it fails I have only myself to blame. If I choose to use flies that I tie on Gamakatsu SC15 hooks because I like how sticky sharp they are and the fact that the shorter shank catches better and is less likely to be leveraged out, that should be my choice because I'm paying the freight. Absolutely necessary with that approach is that the guide is not blamed when things don't go right. I fished for salmon on the Flowers River in Labrador this summer and as I started to assemble my 12' 8 weight spey rod the owner of the lodge got sarcastic about that being way more rod than I needed and that I should really use the lodge rod instead of what I brought. On their website they recommended a 9' 9weight. It's simply a matter of the guy not having any true knowledge of what a spey rod is and what it can do. I chose to use my equipment because that's one of the reasons I travel to fish in the first place-to use my gear. I've fly fished for over forty years, and have saltwater flyfished for over twenty. And I don't go for three or four days a year. I spend about eight weeks a year fishing tropical saltwater so I have some idea of what's worked for me and what hasn't.

All that, of course, is no excuse for my snippy post, but sometimes guides do get the attitude that because they're a guide they are the only ones who have vast knowledge of flyfishing. I've used almost every saltwater hook available, except for Tiemco, and feel that there are some that a vastly superior to others. I don't normally buy flies because most are still made with 34007 hooks due to the significantly lower price of that hook. I guess I've had the attitude, which I now realize may not be correct, that any saltwater guide who still offered flies to his clients on those hooks was also doing so to simply to save money. My hooked to landed ratio improved so much by switching from 34007 and 3407 hooks to Owner Aki and the Gamakatsu SC15 that I guessed that everyone surely had the same experience. As I follow several bulletin boards I do know that a lot of people have had the same improvement, but it must not be universal.

Please continue to offer your clients your expertise. I just ask that guides also understand that once they realize that their sport also has some signficant experience that they advise but not dictate.

10-23-2003, 09:17 AM
I got to thinking some time ago that a rating system could be adopted for fishing guides somewhat along the lines used for decribing wines:

1 = ....Precocious, Light & Fruity with a delicate nose ( Floating lines only, everything "just-so" and please clean your boots before getting into the boat)

2 = Robust & Spicy with Oak overtones ( Former commercial fisherman turned guide, with rather too much fondness for Scotch whisky)

3 = Fat and faded with a flinty nose ..........

You get the idea, like good wines, fishing guides come in all shapes and sizes - plenty of variety to cater to individual tastes.

Just remember that what's inside might not always be clear from the label on the bottle ;)

10-23-2003, 12:00 PM
I agree. About the only time I have a problem with guides, whether trout, salmon, or saltwater is when they insist on treating their clients as raw beginners even though at least some of us are not. I had that experience again this summer with an Atlantic salmon guide. I mean the guy really meant well, but it just got to be too much. As much as Florida guides get ripped (epecially Keys guides) for being screamers, most of the one's I've fished with (in fact, all but one) were total gentlemen. I had a Homassasa guide recommend using his tackle to me since he was not familiar with the model of reel I had. He semed to be saying that if he never heard of it then it probably wouldn't work on the big tarpon there. But, it took only a little while to explain that the reel was more than up to the task and to his credit he listened and didn't push it any farther. The only arrogant guide I've had in Florida is better known for his writings on trout and other freshwater fish, and even he wasn't too bad.

10-23-2003, 02:11 PM
Guiding is not easy.

There are only so many factors you can control, then the rest are up to fate. You are responsible for all of them.

Anglers who are up to the task upon arrival are the exception not the rule. A day of instruction does not seem appreciated even when completely necessary. Often only the fish are the measure of success, not the skills gained.

The pay is not the real reason one guides, unless they are paid astronomical rates. This does not necessarily equate to the ability of the guide, but it may. One has to love it to overcome the frustrations, demanding situations, and pressure to deliver the goods.

It's hard work. Before a trip, the equipment must be tuned, the right flies must be tied, the conditions must be understood and the itinerary must match the behavior of the fish and the tides, weather, abilities of the angler and likelihood of success. You're a tourist bureau, a chauffer, an entertainer, a teacher and a fish finder.

You have to have a deep knowledge of the fishery; deep enough to overcome situations that would defeat most angler's attempts to succeed. You have to have the confidence to leave a flat visibly crawling with shrimp sippers to find a pack of crab eaters, eel chasers, or silverside slammers.

Knowing fish are in a spot at a given tide phase is one thing, knowing where fish that are aggressive during a tide phase is another thing completely. Only the latter yields high results.

You need good physical abilities - vision, perception, and good judgement. You need a sixth sense to pull a rabbit out of a hat on a dead day on the water. You need a rabbits foot.

It's challenging, difficult and you could make more per hour flipping burgers when you count all the hours and work invested.

But when the new day breaks over the atlantic and the rush hour begins beneath the surface of the flooding flats, there are few pleasures greater than having something eye-opening to share with fellow anglers that they can enjoy and appreciate; and if one can build a life around offering a square deal for a quality day on the water for a few bills then more power to 'em. Guiding is an important part of the social and economic balance of the angling world that has always been and will always be.

Don't tell my family but I am praying that I'm full time again next year from May to October! :D

10-23-2003, 03:27 PM
Good points and , to be fair, most of the guides I've fished with over the years have been great guys - (Chateau Neuf Du Pape Viex Telegraph 1985 :D).

We've strayed a bit off-topic here (barbless hooks wasn't it?) but advice to anyone booking a guide whether for the first time or the hundredth - discuss your preferences and expectations beforehand. Ideally do this when you make your reservation or if not possible (e.g. fishing camp scenario) then before you get out on the water.

Capt. Mel Simpson
10-23-2003, 03:31 PM
Just got in from a half day charter, washed my boat and ate some lunch while I checked my email, and decided to run to my local fly shop and get some "NEW" hooks. At the 3rd one I found them.

They only had 3/0 and 4/0 GamaKatsu SC 10's, (well some I couldn't read the size) so I bought what they had. There was no one there that knew anything about the hooks so I came home.

The first thing I noticed was that there is a huge difference between a 3/0 and 4/0. That's a problem with the AKI's too.

The next thing that bothers me is that the barb broke off when I tried to mash it flat. Too much carbon in the steel? Could be I'm a grumpy old guide, ...don't know.

I also don't like the short shank, pretty hard to get a full size tarpon fly tied onto it. I am picky!

So I finally tested it's strength. Now this is only my way of testing and by no means scientific, but it's all I've got to go for me sort of thing. I tied on 80# mono using a Homer Rhode loop knot and hooked it to my "IGFA certified Boga Grip"!

The damn thing bent at a little over 13#'s...!?!? What's up with that!

Nah...I guess I'm just one of "those" guides. I do fancy a nice Zin or Cab once in a while tho, if I can find one for under $25.


Capt. Mel Simpson
10-23-2003, 03:54 PM
OOps, they were GamaKatsu SC15's.

And OH! Did I mention semi-circle...another thing I don't like.

There may be those that can let a 120# tarpon stick itself but my customers are trained to strip strike. Bam! Stick em hard and deep!

OK, that's all I've got...Mel.

10-23-2003, 05:42 PM
things got a little heavy there for a while, its amazing that my little question about barbless got carried so far. Thanks guys.
I just started tying some saltwater flies, the hooks I bought were GamaKatsku sc11-3h, I dont know anything about salt hooks, only to buy non corrosive ones. These hooks were the only ones available in town. They look strong??? they are about $5. for 12 hooks, is that considered cheap or expensive. Hopefully these hooks will hold up to that first tarpon I know i am gonna get in belize in a couple of months. If not, its the hookup that counts,.
see ya

10-23-2003, 05:42 PM
things got a little heavy there for a while, its amazing that my little question about barbless got carried so far. Thanks guys.
I just started tying some saltwater flies, the hooks I bought were GamaKatsku sc11-3h, I dont know anything about salt hooks, only to buy non corrosive ones. These hooks were the only ones available in town. They look strong??? they are about $5. for 12 hooks, is that considered cheap or expensive. Hopefully these hooks will hold up to that first tarpon I know i am gonna get in belize in a couple of months. If not, its the hookup that counts,.
see ya

10-23-2003, 06:27 PM
Actually, those hooks are among the strongest available. The 3H stands for 3X strong. They are heavier and will therefore require a little better timing in your casting. They will certainly be stronger than 13lb of pull. Their shank is also full length so any pattern should fit. I think they'll more than handle any tarpon you'll find in Belize. Good fishing.

10-24-2003, 12:35 PM
Another vote for the 2/0 SC-15. Amazing penetration and surpriseingly strong. This is for the ocean side flats off Isla Morada. Small flys and fish maybe not as big as Capt. Mel's.

10-28-2003, 01:07 PM
I've found Mustads (34007, 011s, and 07s) adequate for bones, permit, and tarpon for over 25 years and I have great respect for them. But I've also lost plenty of good fish on broken and bent-open Mustads. And while I've always sharpened my Mustads before I tie, the Gamakatsus I'm using today are better out of the box--esential for penetrating a bone's or a permit's hard crusher plates. The new hooks are expensive, even if you buy 100 packs, but well worth it for a $3-5k trip to the flats.

I'll be tying some flies for March in about a month and I'll be using Gamakatsus.

Hope this helps.

Dick Brown

10-28-2003, 04:10 PM
Dick, which Gami hooks do you like for bones?

10-28-2003, 04:58 PM

The SC15 and the SL11-3H depending on profile and fish size. The TMC 800s is a pretty good bone hook too.


08-23-2004, 05:23 PM
Hi all (and Mel !). Mel tested his hook with 80lb breaking strength mono and a Boga-grip whereupon the hook straightened at 13lbs. I suspect that that would not be a fair test ! Reading Thomas McGuane's "The Longest Silence", he maintains that NO ROD is capable of pulling more than (I think...) 6lbs. I assume he means without failing catastrophically, or as I call it... breaking.
Would Mel be kind enough to try the same test using a tarpon rod or, just leaving out the hook, tie the mono direct to the Boga-grip. I am categorically NOT asking that he endanger any rod but just see if he can even approach 6 or 7lbs.

Best fishes, Carl.

By the way, Mr McGuane's book is utterly brilliant with lots of tarpon,permit,and bonefish within. Buy it !

08-24-2004, 09:43 AM
To be honest, a bluewater flyrod isn't worth owning unless it can dead lift twenty pounds. Now this is for pursuit of marlin, large bluefin and yellowfin tuna, etc. There are several rods on the market right now that can do just that and more. I was not able to duplicate Mel's results on the SC15 and I worked with a number of the same hooks. I don't know why that happened, but maybe he got a package of defective hooks. I debarb the SC15 all the time and have no more problems with them than any other hook I debarb. While I probably wouldn't use the SC15 on potential world record tarpon or large billfish, they are fantastic for about everything else. And, Gami does make a stronger hook, the SC15C-2H (meaning 2X strong) to handle those fish. To me the cost of pursuing fish like this is such that the cost of the hooks is really small potatoes. I just choose to use the best, which at this point in time means Gamakatsu and Owner, though Mustad and others are doing a good job of trying to catch up.

08-24-2004, 05:37 PM
To me the cost of pursuing fish like this is such that the cost of the hooks is really small potatoes. I just choose to use the best, which at this point in time means Gamakatsu and Owner, though Mustad and others are doing a good job of trying to catch up.

Two points JR... Here in London, UK, the cost of a packet of Owner hooks is actually too high for the human ear ! Secondly, as the proud possessor of 6 or 8 packs of Mustad's 34007s, I found them perfectly adequate for even a large (7-8 pound) bonefish. It was just my fluorocarbon that gave up the ghost ! Secondly, I do also have a couple of packs of Owner hooks, an Xmas treat to myself, and I'm sort of scared to handle them as they're EVILLY sharp. I only look at them sideways from across the room in case they put my eye out. They do seem pretty d*mn good.
By the bye... does anyone have any opinions on Orvis 28GX circle wides (2X-short shank) and their "bog-standard" 9034s for bones, 'pon and, whisper it, permit ? Silly question really, as this is probably the opinion capital of the 'net. :chuckle:
Post away.

Best fishes, Carl.