RE:Our environmental impact as fly fishers
I feel pretty good about S/S hooks provided the barbs are ground flat (I use a dremel tool) and considering the very small number of them that I lose in fish a year. I honestly recall one lost S/S hook in a striper last year, and perhaps two (let's say three due to possible lapse of memory) in blues over the entire season. Reasons for this may include my carrying American Wire tippet spools in my chest pack and the simple fact that stripers seldom part the fly from 15# tippet (bigger in the surf) provided you keep the hands soft enough as needed.
The bass I lost a fly in last season was at Osterville. I walked down there and found the Dowses regulars down at the cut instead. Albies were breaking at our feet every day throughout the week, both silversides and pogies were thick. You could have grand slammed from the shore if you were lucky. Each evening that week just before dark the bass would turn it on strong and a few keepers would be landed. I was fishing an intermediate and wasn't feeling like I was getting into the heart of that deep current when THUD... I was on to a good bass. The fish fought with the characteristic runs and deep dogging ways of a large bass, in fact some of the other guys started to get curious about what was on the other end of my line. The rod had that deep -down past the ferrule bend, where the tip almost points straight at the heavy object out there in the tide current. I'll admit I got a little antsy and started to put some hard pressure on the fish... and the tippet unraveled from the eye of the fly just like that. Of course the fish got a lot bigger once it was off.
I've never caught a striper with a fly in it's mouth. That either means that it's fatal or that they can expel them fairly well. I have caught them with deep bait hooks in their gullet, where the fisherman did the right thing by cutting the leader.
As far as blues, you can almost tell as you approach the blitz that you're gonna need a wire tippet, I also tend to use a popper for blues which rarely gets swalllowed. This is not to say I haven't lost a ton of flies to blues over the years, but last year was a good one. I've caught blues with all kinds of things in their mouths, including a 7 inch piece of bent metal in the stomach of a 15 pound slammer off Fishers Island last summer.
By the time we drive our fossil-fuel burning vehicles down the asphalt and oil drenched freeway past the chemical processing plant to the nuclear power plant to fish, I'd like to think that the sense of stewardship we gain for our resources from fishing far outweighs the repercussions of the materials on our sharpened wire lures.