Tuesday Tip: How to Remove a Fly Stuck in Your Skin

Fly fishing can sometimes be a hazardous game, what with all those hooks flying around. Sometimes, unfortunately, the pointy end finds its way into someone’s skin. We discussed this very problem last spring in a post that featured an awesome picture of Orvis Rod & Tackle Manager Steve Hemkens sporting some Carrie Stevens-inspired lip jewelry. Getting hooked isn’t such a big deal if the fly is barbless or if the angler has taken the time to mash the barb before he casts it, but this doesn’t always happen. In the heat of the moment, any of us can forget this vital step. So what do you do when you’re stuck by a barbed point?

The video above offers a fine demonstration of the push-and-pull method. There are lots of videos on YouTube demonstrating the same technique but I chose this one because, seriously, how cool is this guy for actually hammering the hook into his skin? But, as you can see, it comes right out with a minimum of torn skin and blood. Here’s how you do it.

1. Take a piece of heavy monofilament and tie a loop in each end as a handle. (You can also just wrap both ends around your fingers a few times.)

2. Slide the monofilament under the hook eye until it is looped around the inside of the hook bend.

3. Press down firmly on the hook eye. (This angles the hook point so that it backs out exactly the way it went in, causing minimum damage.)

4. Tug sharply on the monofilament, and the hook will come right out. Think of it the same way you would about removing a Band-Aid: the slower you go, the more it will hurt.

In my experience as both the patient and the medic, this process always hurts much less than you think it will. It helps if you distract the patient and then yank when he’s not paying attention. If you build up the expectation of pain with a “1…2…3…” the patient may tense up or flinch, increasing the likelihood that something goes wrong or just increasing the pain.

The only downside of this method is that it requires two hands. What if you’re alone and you’re hooked in the arm? Then you can try this ingenious trick demonstrated by Jeff Putnam. I’ve never tried it, but it looks pretty slick.

All of this is just fun video entertainment if you always de-barb your hooks, though. Think about it.

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