I have started to debarb all my flies a while ago (it is much better for the fish if you are doing catch and release), but have been loosing some hooked fish that I was otherwise able to net when I had barbed hooks.

I have heard that it is most likely due to mistakes in fighting the fish, so I wonder if there are any good techniques for landing fish with these hooks. Are there any differences in the way you fight a fish when your hook has no barb? Any tips to improve my landing rates?

Please bear in mind that I fish barbless to avoid unnecessary damage to the fish, so tactics that incur more harm to the catch (e.g. beaching the fish) would defeat my purpose.

  • Don't "set the hook" and let the fish run if it wants to run. Fighting it is how you lose it, just bring it in gentle.
    – ShemSeger
    Oct 30, 2015 at 2:22
  • Fighting is indeed not the correct word. Perhaps I should say "play" instead.
    – Kenji
    Oct 30, 2015 at 15:48

2 Answers 2


Fishing in the rivers around here is catch and release only on barbless hooks. The trick is to not get over excited when you get a bite, let the fish take the lure, when he runs it'll set it itself, so don't tug on the rod. While he's on the hook you want to bring him in gently, don't tug on the rod, let go and let him run with the line if he starts to fight, if you fight back you'll lose him. Keep in mind also that it's not the hook that's going to hurt him, it's how you handle him on the shore, net him in the water, don't lift him out with your rod, if you drop him on the the shore he could give himself life threatening injuries by flopping around and bashing on the rocks.

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Fly fishing on the Old Man River with barbless hooks.

  • Interesting that fish are fragile enough to hurt themselves by flipping around. I wouldn't have expected that - they seem so resilient.
    – JPhi
    Oct 30, 2015 at 14:20
  • 2
    The mucous membrane that they have can get damaged and then they are susceptible to infections and parasites. Even handling them with dry hands can harm them in this way.
    – Kenji
    Oct 30, 2015 at 15:47
  • @ShemSeger The last fish I lost was when I had him in the shallows and crouched to net him. For a moment my line got a bit of slack and he shook the hook. Any tips to keep this from happening?
    – Kenji
    Oct 30, 2015 at 15:52
  • 1
    @Kenji - Ya, don't let the line go slack. You might also be using too large of a hook.
    – ShemSeger
    Oct 30, 2015 at 16:07

I haven't found a difference between landing percentage between barbed and barbless hooked. I kept logs of percentage of hooked fish that I landed in 2019 and changed to barbless for the last 4 months of the year.

  • On barbed hooks I landed 66% of the 500 that hooked.
  • On barbless I landed 67% of the 363 that I hooked.

Anecdotally I've heard and noticed myself that with barbless more fish stay on at the beginning of the fight but more are lost later on. I guess the theory is the barbed hook goes in easily (my fingers can confirm this!) but then also comes out easily.

I try to use moderate pressure and keep the line tight.

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