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"Hookless" flies: The future of fly fishing?

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September 25, 2009

"Hookless" flies: The future of fly fishing?

By Tim Romano

Earlier this year Mr. Merwin blogged about the Moffitt Angling, aka the "hookless" fly system and asked if it was fair or foul hooking. The system utilizes a hookless fly or flies suspended above a uniquely designed barbless circle hook. The system was designed to help with fish mortality rates and aid in catch and release fishing. Ironically, controversy has swirled since it's release and many people have called the system snagging. I personally have used the system on a small river in Colorado and found that...

...while nymphing it worked exactly as designed.  Every fish I landed had the hook embedded directly in it's jaw. The outside of the jaw that is...  I must say I was a skeptic before I tired the system, but was pretty impressed at the end of the day.

Moffitt has just launched a full line of dry flies, streamers, and many more nymphs to their line of hookless flies. I'm curious if the dries and streamers will work as efficiently as the nymphs. Seems to me that this might be a bit more difficult to accomplish the goal of setting the hook in the jaw. Who knows though...  Perhaps I'll be completely surprised again.

Is anybody out there using the Moffitt system yet? Have you tried the dry flies or streamers? Is this the wave of the future for fly fishing?

TR

Comments (9)

Top Rated
All Comments
from buckhunter wrote 4 years 29 weeks ago

I was fising WV this weekend with a hopper/dropper rig. The fish were not slamming the hopper but mouthing it as it floated by. As a result when I was setting the hook the hopper would miss but I'd get a few fins and tails with the dropper. To me this would be the problem with the Moffit System.

Is the Moffit System the same as tube flies?

The Regs in the State of Ohio and Michigan consider any fish hooked outside of the mouth as a snagged fish. I don't necessarily agree with that but that's how it's written.

I do not think the Moffit System will reduce the number of fish dying from exhaustion and poor handling. Maybe make it a little easier to get the hook out and protect the vital organs found in the bottom of a fishes mouth.

I personally have no interest in the Moffit System but I do think it works in theory.

+3 Good Comment? | | Report
from MLH wrote 4 years 29 weeks ago

I think it is a neat idea but, like buckhunter said, it is illegal in certain states because of the way the snagging laws are written ... ruling by the letter of the law rather than then spirit or the intent. I would try it, but until the laws change .... Let's just hope this doesn't go extreme and become required for the fish's sake.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from Hunt_Hard wrote 4 years 29 weeks ago

Dont fix it if it ain't broke...

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from David Leinweber wrote 4 years 29 weeks ago

I fished the system last Saturday and had the same reaction you did. I caught fish and the fish I caught had the circle hook on the outside of the jaw. The question I still need to answer is will I catch more fish. It's one thing to not harm the fish or bring less pain into the fish but for this system to be really successful it needs to catch more fish. The quantity and the size of fish is still the major issue us males go flyfishing in the first place. It's just not going to be an accepted system unless it be shown that you can catch more fish with it. Now with that said the flies that I use with the system were not what I would call the best selection for the South Platte. So I'm reserving final judgment until we get a chance to tie up some of our own patterns and actually see if it allows us to catch more fish.

Here is my first thoughts

Benefits
NO MOSS
Having just one hook and that hook being a circle hook allowed me to fish in moss with NO moss on my hook… ever… This surprised me

Quick bird nest recovery
I was fishing with a lot of weight and line twist is a reality which often leads to bird nest material. But with only one hook I could grab the hook and pull the bird nest apart effortlessly.

Issues
The flies are too thick for the Platte. Now with that said I did catch fish, but we know the South Platte has thin bodied nymphs. Moffitt has a thinner system that we will test drive as soon as we get it. I am not sure how they will get the right proportion needed on a size 24 midge.

The reality is change is very hard. I still get long stares from fisherman when I tell them I am a fishing store without live bait…
Moffitt is definitely swimming upstream on this one, but I think there could be a few fisherman caught on the way.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from Ramcatt wrote 4 years 29 weeks ago

people also fish bait on fly rods...
doesn't mean i'm going to

I fish flies I tie, on a fly rod...

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from kirkdeeter wrote 4 years 29 weeks ago

I've tried the system, and it works as described. To the extent that it is the "future" or not, I have mixed opinions, that largely ring off what Ramcatt, MLH, buckhunter, and anglerscovey said above.

To the extent that someone develops a product or approach that's aimed at reducing fish mortality in a catch-and-release environment, I'm all for it. I remember when circle hooks were the new answer in bluewater fishing, in Guatemala and elsewhere... and I applauded that then, and applaud it now. Any insight aimed at achieving a dual objective of hooking fish, and releasing said fish as "unharmed" as possible is a winning concept in my book.

The initiative with regard to circle hooks in bluewater, however, was largely aimed at the guides... the commercial operators who had/have a vested interest in the sustainability of the resource (fish population).

So, too, do I see the commercial viability of this system ultimately resting with the guides, the commercial operators, who have a vested interest in maintaining trout populations. To the extent that guides, who are looking for numbers on every trip they take, embrace the ideal, it might be a very good thing.

Yet, factoring issues like cost, ease of use, etc. into the equation, I am skeptical vis a vis the uptake among the weekend warrior angler. As "Covey" says... does it work better? That's probably the bottom line. As others say, the snagging/regulation issue is a concern. As Hunt_Hard suggests, it's hard to manipulate traditions hundreds of years old... as Ramcatt says, flies, fly rods... don't mess with the essence. Buckhunter also makes a very good point, in that how a fish is caught, probably factors little when compared to how it is handled after it is caught, with regard to ultimate mortality.

In my humble opinion, the test of whether or not this system "catches on" or not begins and ends with the guides. If guides who now aren't afraid to give trout "the rake" with two- or three-fly nymph rigs, see a benefit, that's probably a good thing, and something I'd cheer for.

On the other hand, to the extent we see another gimmick, gizmo deal that begs higher investment and understanding on the consumer level (in a sport already cluttered with too many gizmos and gurus) I'm still a skeptic.

I'll fish it more, and (trust me) will elaborate more on what I really think in the coming months. I see potential, but I know you, the consumer, will ultimately decide, and I'm more than fine with that.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from troutbum_colo wrote 4 years 29 weeks ago

Being a guide I am getting behind this product. The Flyfisher Guide Service in Denver has fished the Moffitt Angling system steadily for the past week - and our last test will be Monday on the Blue River. We have tried fishing it up against a standard rig and were very pleased with the hook up ratios. So will it catch more fish is a myth - it is like anything else you must master how it works to be effective.

It is new and you must try it before you can say it works or does not work. The Moffitts are starting to work on adding patterns to their selection of flies in the coming months.

We tested it with guides and others to see their reaction of the new system. Just like with everything fly fishing you must tinker with it - fly selection, fly spacing, and such.

What we have found is that this system is a great way to augment or improve your current set up. For instance if you fish a two-fly rig and it is a hard day, you can very easily add another fly to your rig without adding another hook.

The hookless system has so many benefits in preserving and improving our resource. The one area that really sticks out with me is that you don't have to touch the fish to release it or take it out of the water. Their hook removal tool and release instruction is very simply slick and fast.

The Flyfisher Angling University in Denver is starting to create a class on Moffitt Angling and will be available in the next few months.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from napalumbo wrote 4 years 29 weeks ago

This looks like a really cool way to tie more realistic flies. I'm going out for a little steelhead fisihng this weekend. I may have to test this out for myself.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Sportsman Matt wrote 4 years 28 weeks ago

I decided to get a set to try. I was very, very disappointed when the kit came air mail from CHINA, the whole kit was pretty lame looking, actually looked more like the scraps I tossed from my last fly tying session.

One thing I did inquire about with the folks at the local fly shop was the technique that this system uses. Everyone there had the same opinion, this is just a fancy form of snagging, not really being sporting, and shouldn't be considered the "next best thing" in fishing.
I'm surprised that Colorado actually made it legal, as the game wardens look at a hook anywhere other than inside the mouth is considered snagging and can result in a loss of fishing license, tackle, fines, and possible legal issues.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report

Post a Comment

from buckhunter wrote 4 years 29 weeks ago

I was fising WV this weekend with a hopper/dropper rig. The fish were not slamming the hopper but mouthing it as it floated by. As a result when I was setting the hook the hopper would miss but I'd get a few fins and tails with the dropper. To me this would be the problem with the Moffit System.

Is the Moffit System the same as tube flies?

The Regs in the State of Ohio and Michigan consider any fish hooked outside of the mouth as a snagged fish. I don't necessarily agree with that but that's how it's written.

I do not think the Moffit System will reduce the number of fish dying from exhaustion and poor handling. Maybe make it a little easier to get the hook out and protect the vital organs found in the bottom of a fishes mouth.

I personally have no interest in the Moffit System but I do think it works in theory.

+3 Good Comment? | | Report
from MLH wrote 4 years 29 weeks ago

I think it is a neat idea but, like buckhunter said, it is illegal in certain states because of the way the snagging laws are written ... ruling by the letter of the law rather than then spirit or the intent. I would try it, but until the laws change .... Let's just hope this doesn't go extreme and become required for the fish's sake.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from Hunt_Hard wrote 4 years 29 weeks ago

Dont fix it if it ain't broke...

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from David Leinweber wrote 4 years 29 weeks ago

I fished the system last Saturday and had the same reaction you did. I caught fish and the fish I caught had the circle hook on the outside of the jaw. The question I still need to answer is will I catch more fish. It's one thing to not harm the fish or bring less pain into the fish but for this system to be really successful it needs to catch more fish. The quantity and the size of fish is still the major issue us males go flyfishing in the first place. It's just not going to be an accepted system unless it be shown that you can catch more fish with it. Now with that said the flies that I use with the system were not what I would call the best selection for the South Platte. So I'm reserving final judgment until we get a chance to tie up some of our own patterns and actually see if it allows us to catch more fish.

Here is my first thoughts

Benefits
NO MOSS
Having just one hook and that hook being a circle hook allowed me to fish in moss with NO moss on my hook… ever… This surprised me

Quick bird nest recovery
I was fishing with a lot of weight and line twist is a reality which often leads to bird nest material. But with only one hook I could grab the hook and pull the bird nest apart effortlessly.

Issues
The flies are too thick for the Platte. Now with that said I did catch fish, but we know the South Platte has thin bodied nymphs. Moffitt has a thinner system that we will test drive as soon as we get it. I am not sure how they will get the right proportion needed on a size 24 midge.

The reality is change is very hard. I still get long stares from fisherman when I tell them I am a fishing store without live bait…
Moffitt is definitely swimming upstream on this one, but I think there could be a few fisherman caught on the way.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from kirkdeeter wrote 4 years 29 weeks ago

I've tried the system, and it works as described. To the extent that it is the "future" or not, I have mixed opinions, that largely ring off what Ramcatt, MLH, buckhunter, and anglerscovey said above.

To the extent that someone develops a product or approach that's aimed at reducing fish mortality in a catch-and-release environment, I'm all for it. I remember when circle hooks were the new answer in bluewater fishing, in Guatemala and elsewhere... and I applauded that then, and applaud it now. Any insight aimed at achieving a dual objective of hooking fish, and releasing said fish as "unharmed" as possible is a winning concept in my book.

The initiative with regard to circle hooks in bluewater, however, was largely aimed at the guides... the commercial operators who had/have a vested interest in the sustainability of the resource (fish population).

So, too, do I see the commercial viability of this system ultimately resting with the guides, the commercial operators, who have a vested interest in maintaining trout populations. To the extent that guides, who are looking for numbers on every trip they take, embrace the ideal, it might be a very good thing.

Yet, factoring issues like cost, ease of use, etc. into the equation, I am skeptical vis a vis the uptake among the weekend warrior angler. As "Covey" says... does it work better? That's probably the bottom line. As others say, the snagging/regulation issue is a concern. As Hunt_Hard suggests, it's hard to manipulate traditions hundreds of years old... as Ramcatt says, flies, fly rods... don't mess with the essence. Buckhunter also makes a very good point, in that how a fish is caught, probably factors little when compared to how it is handled after it is caught, with regard to ultimate mortality.

In my humble opinion, the test of whether or not this system "catches on" or not begins and ends with the guides. If guides who now aren't afraid to give trout "the rake" with two- or three-fly nymph rigs, see a benefit, that's probably a good thing, and something I'd cheer for.

On the other hand, to the extent we see another gimmick, gizmo deal that begs higher investment and understanding on the consumer level (in a sport already cluttered with too many gizmos and gurus) I'm still a skeptic.

I'll fish it more, and (trust me) will elaborate more on what I really think in the coming months. I see potential, but I know you, the consumer, will ultimately decide, and I'm more than fine with that.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from troutbum_colo wrote 4 years 29 weeks ago

Being a guide I am getting behind this product. The Flyfisher Guide Service in Denver has fished the Moffitt Angling system steadily for the past week - and our last test will be Monday on the Blue River. We have tried fishing it up against a standard rig and were very pleased with the hook up ratios. So will it catch more fish is a myth - it is like anything else you must master how it works to be effective.

It is new and you must try it before you can say it works or does not work. The Moffitts are starting to work on adding patterns to their selection of flies in the coming months.

We tested it with guides and others to see their reaction of the new system. Just like with everything fly fishing you must tinker with it - fly selection, fly spacing, and such.

What we have found is that this system is a great way to augment or improve your current set up. For instance if you fish a two-fly rig and it is a hard day, you can very easily add another fly to your rig without adding another hook.

The hookless system has so many benefits in preserving and improving our resource. The one area that really sticks out with me is that you don't have to touch the fish to release it or take it out of the water. Their hook removal tool and release instruction is very simply slick and fast.

The Flyfisher Angling University in Denver is starting to create a class on Moffitt Angling and will be available in the next few months.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from Ramcatt wrote 4 years 29 weeks ago

people also fish bait on fly rods...
doesn't mean i'm going to

I fish flies I tie, on a fly rod...

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from napalumbo wrote 4 years 29 weeks ago

This looks like a really cool way to tie more realistic flies. I'm going out for a little steelhead fisihng this weekend. I may have to test this out for myself.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Sportsman Matt wrote 4 years 28 weeks ago

I decided to get a set to try. I was very, very disappointed when the kit came air mail from CHINA, the whole kit was pretty lame looking, actually looked more like the scraps I tossed from my last fly tying session.

One thing I did inquire about with the folks at the local fly shop was the technique that this system uses. Everyone there had the same opinion, this is just a fancy form of snagging, not really being sporting, and shouldn't be considered the "next best thing" in fishing.
I'm surprised that Colorado actually made it legal, as the game wardens look at a hook anywhere other than inside the mouth is considered snagging and can result in a loss of fishing license, tackle, fines, and possible legal issues.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report

Post a Comment