Of course Topher has a point in this being a matter of taste, more than anything else. Still it feels perfectly normal to debate the merits of various hook types, even if this involves a critical view to those authorities and stalwart traditions that might hamper once choice in some regions. As much as the European tradition has been under influence from some master’s, like A.H.E. Wood, whose doctrines when cabled out through various “disciples” often has led confusion and rather poor drills, I am certain that the American/Canadian situation is the same. Every year on the Kola I meet anglers who are obsessed with Lee Wulff and his liking of ultra light tackle. I admire both Wood and Wulff as being exceptional anglers. But both were special men being spoiled with immense chances to catch fish in prime rivers, and that is worth bearing in mind. By going fine the level of challenge was kept up, the light kit preferred by Wulff probably also suited his mobile way of angling.
Without Wulff’s “wade-ability” and great skills in fish fighting, a tiny rod easily becomes a tool of torture rather than a efficient way to make a fish surrender to a quick release. I have seen “sports” that fought 14 pounders for almost an hour on a 7’ #4 rod. To me this is sheer arrogance and shows little respect to the salmon. It might take more than 15 minutes to get such a fish back in shape, whereas on caught on stouter tackle often enough darts off as soon as the hook is removed.
In a way I feel that the noble use of barbless singles comes out of the same kettle. I obey to it whenever needed, but I never feel entirely happy doing so. Maybe it is a flaw in my character……
As for foul hooking I think it is very hard to do so without deliberately attempting to. On the Kola I have caught several hundred June fish on anything from 850 gr. heads to light sink tips. Save one 28 pounder that was snagged in the pectoral fin after me freeing a snag, I have not foul hooked a single one. This has all been a matter of doubles, with few exception where big singles have been used.
Those few fish I have foul hooked through the years all have been when using the floater. Fish that come up and roll over the fly without taking it. It is rare, but that is where it has happened to me.
I will fish doubles, with or without barbs, wherever I am allowed to!!!
As for “science” I agree with BobK. Still, the deductions one can make out of immense numbers of weeks on the rivers, sometimes in situations where half a dozen a day can be caught, must be to some value. When I first fished the Babine I lost a good share of big fish on the 2-2/0 singles much used up there. Whenever a Steelhead became airborne it was risky stuff. Those heavy irons, without barbs, had a great tendency to fall out….. The year after I used short plastic tubes with Owner 1/0 hooks, and like Tyler, landed at least 80% of the fish being hooked. I think the overall reduced weight in combination with far less leverage due to the shorter shank has a lot to do with this.
Someone asked if I only used tubes? No, no without the “real” flies it would get boring! Like Topher I find the Loop down eyes to be great, although the “Salar” hooks mentioned by him are firm favorites, too. They come in silver, as well as black and gold, and a Silver Stoat tied on them looks very deadly.