By Fulling Mill
This feature on hooks is a collaboration between Keep Fish Wet and Fulling Mill. A similar version appears on their blog here.
Barbless hooks have been around for years. However, as catch and release angling has surged in popularity, so too has demand for these hooks. You might be asking yourself, what’s the big deal? After all, you can just crimp the barbs on your other hooks.
Here’s the thing: when you crimp the barb on a barbed hook you remove the one thing meant to keep the fish on, the barb. Barbless hooks—on the other hand—are engineered to have excellent fish holding power without the barb there in the first place.
They’re extremely effective, and they’re much less harmful to fish.
The History of Barbless
So, where did it all start? According to Fulling Mill Technical Manager Steve Carew, Fulling Mill has been selling barbless hooks for 25 years or more. “Initially, it was the increased popularity of catch and release fishing that led to demand for these hooks. These hooks were exact barbless copies of the successful barbed hooks that we sold and used in our fly production. I have to say, though, that these hooks were a resounding flop. It took us many years to sell through the stock, and initial production batch were quickly discontinued.”
However, the story doesn’t end there. Steve continues, “around 2011 we saw that competition style fly fishing on rivers was really gaining in popularity. The top teams were using manufactured barbless hooks from Eastern Europe. As a result, we decided to launch a range of barbless flies and initially we used the hooks from Eastern Europe to tie them. But, the hooks from Eastern Europe had quality issues. So, after a serious sales job on the then owner of Fulling Mill, he invested once again in getting barbless hooks manufactured. This time, however, the hooks were not just straight barbless copies of barbed designs. The rest is history. The fly range and the hooks were a huge success and they continue to be a core part of Fulling Mill’s fly and hook offering.”
What Makes Barbless Hooks Unique?
Barbless hooks are specially engineered. They hold hooked fish just as well as their barbed counterparts. According to Fulling Mill Technical Manager Eric Kelley, when you remove the barb on a hook “you need to look elsewhere within the design to see what can add holding power to that hook model.”