Fly-fishing-hooks. Barbed or Barb-less?


A large number of anglers tend to use only the smallest of fly-fishing-hooks for all their fishing regardless of the size or species of fish they are pursuing. Of course the results are fairly predictable and can be summed up by the phrase “Tiny hooks and tiny baits catch tiny fish”.

Hooks come in a range of sizes from 1 to 20. Twenty being the smallest and one the largest. Though there exist hooks smaller than size 20 they are so ridiculously tiny and so difficult to use, because of their fiddly nature, that we are not going to discuss them here.

If you are a beginner then you will probably not be too choosy as to what type of fish you catch and will not need or even know about the many different types of bait. Like most novices you will use maggots. With this in mind the only hooks you will need will be size 14, 16, and 18.

The next question is, what type of hook, eyed or spade-end should you use? For smaller sizes a spade-end hook is easier to tie onto the line, though more expensive then an eyed-hook.

Tying Hooks To The Line

You can buy spade-end hooks which are already attached to a length of nylon line or you can buy them loose. The loose ones are much cheaper and I would advise any would-be angler to purchase the loose ones and learn how to tie the fly-fishing-hooks onto the line.

The spade-end hooks are tied to the fishing line using a particular type of knot, unimaginatively called “a spade-end-knot”. It is quite difficult to tie but with a little effort and determination it can be mastered.

If you intend to use spade-end hooks, tie them to a length of fishing-line approx ½ metre long at home and transport them to the riverside in your tackle bag. Trying to tie them when you have arrived at the river, with your hands all covered in ground bait or fish slime will prove a tricky and frustrating exercise.

So, buy a spool of nylon fishing-line. It should have a breaking strain slightly lower than that of the line you are going to fish with. Cut off lengths of roughly ½ metre and tie a spade-end hook to each. Place these in small individual plastic bags and then put the whole lot into your tackle bag.

Barb-less Hooks

When fishing with the smaller sized hooks you will have to choose between barbed and barb-less. Personally I would recommend that you use the latter. When a fish is hooked the barb leaves a mark on the fish’s mouth, if you are a trifle clumsy when removing the hook instead of leaving a mark you could badly damage the fish’s mouth. Barb-less hooks, at least the smaller ones, tend to be much sharper than barbed ones and penetrate the flesh more easily and cleanly. The only real problem is that barbless fly-fishing-hooks may slip out if the line is allowed to slacken.

Bear in mind that if the mouths of smaller immature fish are damaged when you un-hook them and then returned to the water they will grow to maturity bearing the scars of your carelessness.

Another thing to consider is that in competition fishing it is far easier and quicker to free the hook from the fish's mouth if the fly-fishing-hooks used have no barbs.

Fly-fishing-hooks. Back to equipment.