May 17, 2012

Easy Hook Removal

We were on the Aroostook River in that dense Maine country. Andy and I were casting flies into a shaded, foamy pool when my Elk Hair Caddis blew off target and dove into my finger. I pulled on it but it held firm and so I really reefed but to no avail, that fly was in there good. We were both green fly anglers at the time so he was as amazed as I, that it wouldn’t pull free. My eyes watered and I muttered those angry words that teenagers do as I struggled with this frustrating little prick in my finger.

Andy’s Grandpa was down around the bend and more than likely, catching fish. That’s probably what one did on a river after having spent more than 60 years on them. I wondered about the price of knowledge as we continued to catch none and me, dutifully lassoing the air with a fly stuck in my finger.

Later on, I swallowed my pride as Andy’s Grandfather took my hand and freed the fly. As it turned out he knew about this sort of thing.

That was about 20 years ago and since then, I have repeated this technique many times on myself and others. And it’s also something you can easily talk your buddy through when you need that third hand or another set of eyes. Want to know how? Ok, It’s easy.

Let’s say you stuck one in the top of your leg and the point is no longer visible. So what you are left with is the metal that just starts it’s ninety degree bend, the shank and then the eye of the hook. Now it’s better to pinch those barbs down but regardless of barb or no barb, I’ve never had this technique fail. Anyways, clip some strong tippet from your spool. I like to work with a long piece, so I’ll snip off about 20 – 24 inches of strong, yet supple tippet (Maxima 10 lb, Powerflex 0X, or whatever you have on hand). Then double it over (not necessary to double it if it is stout enough) and slide it around the bend of the hook and grab a hold of both ends. Wrap your index and middle finger around the line and then draw back pressure lightly so the line naturally seats in the deepest part of the bend. Next, pull ever so slightly against the hook to find just the right angle of entry (This should be real close to a 180 degree from the eye of the hook). Then, using the thumb on your other hand, depress the eye of the hook firmly down into the skin (This dislodges any bumps or barbs in the hook). Snug up the tippet and then yank abruptly on the angle that you have lined up with the hook shank.

Was gonna stick myself, but thought better of it

Like I said, I’ve never had it fail. I should mention that when you are pulling one out of somebody else, it helps to inform them: “Ok, I’m gonna count to three and then I’m gonna yank.” But instead of yanking on three, yank on two and boom, it’s already out by the time you should have said three.

I had a buddy call me up one time and said he wanted to come by so that I could pull a fly out of his face. I said that of course, come on by. So later, he walked through the door with this giant Sculpin stuck sideways in his nose. He seemed a bit unsettled, so I asked him if he wanted a beer before we got to the task and he said that that would be good. But after a few minutes of sitting there and trying keep a normal conversation going, I just came out with it:

“We got to get that out man, I just can’t look at your face anymore.”

It was out on two and we got back to the task of drinking some beer.

Have a good time out there,


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