The True Cast Fishing Trout Talk

The True Cast - It isn’t about the gear. It’s about the hook.

When I first signed on as the editor of TROUT magazine, the great John Merwin—author of The New American Trout Fishing and then the fishing editor for Field & Stream—offered me some friendly advice.

“Run a cover that shows a trout with a Panther Martin lure hanging out of its mouth,” he said. “That’ll get the conversation started.”

I love running thought-provoking covers, to be sure. But I’ve never gone that far, at least not yet.

Still, every so often, I get asked, “why don’t you do more on spin fishing instead of fly fishing?” It’s a fair question, and the answer is pretty simple—96 percent of TU members say they prefer fly fishing as their favorite way to fish for trout.

Single barbless hooks make for a quick release….whether that hook is in you or a fish.

Interestingly, about 65 percent of us also say we like to do some types of fishing with conventional tackle. I’m certainly one of those. I prefer surf casting over fly casting from a beach. Topwater baits are my thing for bass. And when I go pike fishing, I find throwing diving crankbaits with a bait caster as interesting or more so than casting bunny flies with an 8-weight fly rod (though both are pretty special when they actually work).

Spinning gear for trout? Not really my flavor. But that’s mainly because I grew up fly fishing for trout, and I’m just not very good at throwing lures at them. But I have nothing against the approach. In fact, I thought the “Versatile Angler” piece my friend Mark Taylor ran in “TROUT Weekly” last month was really interesting… except for one little aspect that made the fly angler in me cringe a bit.

What few people are willing to say—but I will—is that when it comes to the purported bias against conventional tackle within the fly-fishing community, the real bone of contention has almost nothing to do with the rods, the reels, the lines, or even the shiny spinners or hard baits (or that gear anglers call fly anglers snobs and our fly rods buggy whips)…  and everything to do with the treble hooks attached to the baits and lures.

If you’re planning to catch & release, please use a single, barbless hook.

No matter how you slice it, fly fishing for trout is largely a catch-and-release pursuit these days. It’s about conservation and sharing the resource, at least within this community. There is almost nothing that says “catch and release” or “conservation” in a treble hook in my opinion.

Granted, I certainly realize that many people fish for trout to keep and eat them, with no thought whatsoever of catch and release. And where that’s within the rules and that’s the intent, I have nothing against treble hooks. Moreover, I think the fly angler who throws gaudy articulated streamers with multiple barbed hooks has no high horse to shout from. I’ve even seen some studies that suggest that treble hooks aren’t all that much worse than a single barbed hook when it comes to caught and released fish survival in some places, but I take a lot of that with a grain of salt. The vast majority of practical advice from credible sources doesn’t recommend treble hooks for catch & release fishing.

Minimal damage occurs with a single, barbless hook. So no matter which gear you use, do the fish a favor.

After all, you don’t have to be Einstein to figure that three pointy things with barbs are probably worse for a fish you intend to release than one barbless pointy thing. And I’ve seen plenty of wrecked jaws and faces of fish caught on treble hooks to form my own opinions. I also know what it’s like to unhook myself from trebles compared to single barbless hooks, and trust me, option B is much better than option A.

The answer is simple. Fish single hooks on lures. It’s easy to make that switch, and worth it.

And who knows… with the right kind of photograph and the right kind of fish, you could end up on a magazine cover.