Barbless Hook Fishing

Dear Jock,

I get lots of nibbles, but I never seem to get one on the line. What is the secret to catching a fish on a barbless hook?

—Frustrated Fisherman

Dear Fisherman,

Jock is not a fisherman, but his father is an avid angler. Jock Senior explains the requisite movement this way: “…The trick is to make sure that less than a foot of slack line is on the water, so that when the fish strikes, you can quickly set the hook. When fishing upstream with a dry fly, you can set the hook by raising the rod tip, but if the fish swims toward you, strip in line rapidly. Once the hook is set, you should try to get the extra line back on the reel, in case the fish makes a run upstream.”

Jock Senior also stresses that you must be able to see the fish rising. He wears Polaroid sunglasses to pierce the water’s glare. When nymph fishing with weighted flies under the surface, he employs a strike indicator made of yarn or other floating material to show when a fish hits the fly.

Once successful, the next step is to return your catch to the river unharmed. Jock Senior urges you “not to play a fish too long, and if possible, extract the hook without touching the fish—either by grasping the hook and gently twisting, or employing a special hook extractor. If you must touch the fish, do so with wet hands.”

Finally, avoid using an old-style net made of woven string, which may injure the fish’s delicate gills and fins. A modern net made of rubber strips will better protect your quarry from harm.

Good luck, — Jock