The subject of a fishing friend impaling his finger on a hook while tying flies recently came up. Anytime I hear of this occurring I cannot help but to be drudged back through memory lane and tell my story.
A few years back, while accompanying a few MVFF members on the Grand River I caught my first Steelhead Trout of the year. I remember it was early in the morning and slightly on the cold side, with a lot of snow and ice around. Water levels were up and stained, but we still enslaved our bodies to the two-mile hike and two river crossings necessary to arrive at our fishing destination.
Once there, some further instruction was given to a few members of the party, and they were set off to employ their lessons in hope of catching a Steelhead Trout, leaving me some time to do my own fishing.
Taking my time to ensure all my knots were secured properly with my numb fingers, I secured an egg pattern followed by a large four-inch Steelhead Woolybugger. A few passes later and I was gleefully saying fish on, with no-one else around to even hear it…hmmm. My prey and I battled it out and once we were both tired, she finally gave up and came to rest at my feet in about seven inches of water…so I thought. As I reached down to remove the hook from this beautiful twenty-eight to thirty inch lady she caught her second wind, and charged for deeper water leaving a tugging and popping sensation in my now very numb finger. In my mind I knew what had just happened, but in reality I hoped when I got the nerve to look at my finger that was encased in my other hand, I would not see a four-inch woolybugger attached to it. Reality proved that I kept one fly, and she kept one fly.
I now had a very large, barbed hook, buried to the bend at the first joint of my right middle finger. Panic was soon replaced by, “what am I going to do now”. I walked down the stream until I met one of my companions and as he gasped, he told me another of our party was a surgeon, and to go ask him about getting the hook out. I met up with the surgeon a short time later who said he had just “read” an article on how to get a hook out, and to meet him back up the river at the first mans position, as we were going to need his help. I walked back up stream and soon the good doctor appeared…with an egg pattern buried in his finger. We all laughed and then went to work trying out this newly learned theory (to us), of how to remove a hook.
Since the egg pattern was smaller and less intimidating, I voted to try and get it out of the doctor’s hand first. As we went through the steps that follow, I remember the panic returning and thinking there is no way this will work without destroying this mans finger. A loop of line was tied around the hooks bend, as downward pressure was applied to the hook eye until we thought it was level with the hook point, and then with one quick jerk of the line, the hook was out with minimal pain and no excess damage. Things were looking up at this point even though there were no comparisons to be made between the two hooks, and the severity of their lodgings.
We now focused on the woolybugger I was gifted. I remember at this point getting very sweaty and nervous…yes I was feeling faint at the thought of these men jerking on this hook, and it still being connected to me when all was said and done. We prepped the hook as we had previously done and one snappy tug later, I felt a pop and the hook was free and clear awaiting another Fall Steelie. The wound bleed for a few hours and when it would get a little tender, I would dip my finger in the cold water. Overall, it was a way better experience than I thought it was going to be, and certainly better then walking out and going to an ER an unknown distance away.
Below is the technique we utilized to remove two hooks from two men in a manner that did not increase our level of pain, nor did it additionally traumatize the tissue around the original wound.
- Loop a section of fishing line so it is three or four strands thick.
- Wrap the line around the hooks bend.
- Place downward pressure on the hook eye until you think it is near the level of the hook point. It will most likely be touching the skin and making a divot.
- Ensuring you keep your grip on the fishing line give it a hard snappy jerk in the direction you want the hook to travel.
- Steady and secure the finger or effected limb while performing this step.
I hope this can be used by some of you in the event you find yourself in a similar situation in the future. Just be sure and practice commonsense with safe and respectable habits. By the way, I rarely ever fish with two flies any longer and still seem to catch as many fish as before, and with fewer hassles from the trailer fly.