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Trouts Journal

Barbed! - How to Un-Hook in 10 Easy Steps

Ivan Orsic / Jun 13, 2012

When you find yourself at 9,530 ft, after a four mile hike, with a size 10 hook squarely penetrating your index finger, whether or not you crimped your barb suddenly becomes a really important question.

When you find yourself at 9,530 ft, after a four mile hike, with a size 10 hook squarely penetrating your index finger, whether or not you crimped your barb suddenly becomes a really important question.

When the answer to that question is “no, I forgot” you quickly realize why this small and relatively quick step is important. First off, when you are fishing for smaller more delicate high alpine trout, the fish appreciate the ability to be quickly and gently released back to the water. Sure, you might miss a few here or there, but in the big picture, you are keeping the fishery healthy and strong. When you are the one hooked, much like the fish, you will appreciate the ability to quickly and painlessly remove the fly as well. If you fish hard, it is not a matter of 'if' you are going to end up with a hook buried in your skin, it is simply a matter of 'when.'

Here is a 10 step ‘how-to’ for the next time you find yourself hooked at high elevation:

Step 1: inspect the situation and try to remove hook.

Step 2: when you realize there is no way the hook is coming out, think about your two options. Option 1: find some duct tape and tape the fly down to your finger, continue fishing. Option 2: if you do not have duct tape, consider sending the tip of the hook through the other side of your finger in effort to remove the barb. You can always hike out and seek medical attention, but how much fun is that?

Step 3: gracefully accept condolences and moral support from your fishing buddies.

Step 4: swallow hard and proceed with puncturing your finger by forcefully pushing the hook through the other side of your skin.

Step 5: take out your Letherman or some type of cutting/crimping tool and cut off the tip of the hook (or crimp the barb down with a pair of hemostats).

Step 7: extract the hook from your digit.

Step 8: change flies. Crimp your barb this time.

Step 9: continue to look for feeding fish on the surface.

Step 10: make the cast, hook the fish, release. Repeat. Stay safe. Have fun.

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