De-barbing hooks has always been a debate in the Fly Fishing industry. To de-barb, to leave the barb, to fish barbless flies, everyone has their opinion. I have always de-barbed my clients’ hooks. This is done for the safety of both anglers and fish.
I have recently gained a better appreciation for the de-barbed hook. This last week was a tough one, from a being hooked by clients standpoint. Again, I always de-barb my clients flies. De-barbing usually happens right before the fly is going to be fished. I wait until after I have tied the fly onto the leader, ginked it (if it is a dry fly), or added any shot to the rig. I will now de-barb hooks before all these steps.
While floating the Eagle River last week, my client broke off both of their dries on a bush. I anchored in an appropriate spot to re-tie. While wetting the knot of the second dry fly, my client decided to step out of the boat to relieve their bladder. The client leaned their weight off the side of the raft, to step off. In doing so, the anchor pulled and swung into the current, spinning the boat toward a rock. I told the client to “Stay in the boat” because they were about to step into 4 feet of water. The client returned their weight to the raft, meanwhile raking their boot across the leader. WHACK! I felt a pain emanating from my tongue. Wait what, a fly in a tongue. I felt the tippet against my lips and found the fly with my teeth, securely up to the bend IN MY TONGUE! I bit off the tippet to relieve the pressure. As we were spinning toward a rock, I half slurred “Anchor up” and pull off of the obstruction to the other side of the river to anchor and assess the damage. I calmly at this point told my clients we had a problem. They thought we had lost something, to which I said, “No, I added something to my attire. I have a fly in my tongue.” The client in the back of the boat said, “your thumb?” To which I repeated the location of the fly. After taking a few pictures, I wrapped the butt section of the tapered leader around the bend of the hook. I ran my client through what to do to extract the fly. I would push down on the eye and hold my tongue from moving, and he would pull to snug and then yank the fly clear. He failed to pull hard enough, so I had to grab the leader and pull myself. After about 3 seconds of pulling the fly came out. What a relief.
From now on I will always de-barb the hook before I tie on and apply floatant the fly!