The vast majority of the fly tying hooks available today have barbs. And these barbed hooks come in just about every shape and size. A barb is simply an upturned piece of metal behind the hook point that helps fish to stay hooked once they’ve been hooked. But, with more anglers than ever practicing catch and release, barbless hooks are rapidly gaining favor.
Barbless hooks are more easily removed from a fish’s mouth than barbed ones and cause less damage. The trade-off is they don’t hold quite as well, thus increasing the chances of losing a fish.
Barbless hooks penetrate very easily and slide back out in a similar manner. A barbed hook takes a bit more energy to fully penetrate and a lot more to back out.
Barbed hooks can be made barbless with fine needle-nosed pliers, the non-serrated tips of forceps or the jaws of your tying vise.
If you’re using your tying vise to mash the barb, don’t do it at the tip of the jaws as this could damage them. Instead, move the hook rearward in the jaws where the metal is thicker to thoroughly mash the barb.