The most significant difference between regular flies and competition flies resides in the hook. Competition flies are tied on barbless hooks. The need for barbless hooks originated in the fact that more and more fish were caught during increasingly bigger competitions and the burden on the fish population was huge. Using barbless hooks is one of the most important ways of reducing fish mortality.
Some competitions, including the Angling Sports Spring Derby, allow use of flies tied originally on barbed hooks, but the barbs have to be pinched. If you are going to use flies tied on hooks with pinched barbs, make sure you completely eliminate the barb, as using a partially debarbed hook can lead to significant penalties during the contest. The officials can test the hooks you are usingduring the competitions. The usual way of testing if the hook was debarbed correctly is to have it go through a piece of cloth. If it comes out without snagging, it’s good, otherwise the hook is still considered barbed.
Some of the first hook makers come from Europe, such as the Czech manufacturer Knapek, which is producing these hooks since 1989. As a parenthesis, the third prize for the Angling Sports Spring Derby consists in 10 packs of Knapek hooks, thanks to our sponsor Elk Trading Co. This should be enough for at least a few of the next competitions our club is preparing for you.
Using barbless hooks has a significant advantage over the use of debarbed hooks. Competition hooks are manufactured with a longer, (most of the times) curved tip, which is also angled specifically to help retain the fish in the absence of the barb. The longer tip also allows them to be sharper than the short tipped hooks. These features are going to be absent in a debarbed hook, therefore your risk of losing a fish during the fight is higher with the use of the pinched barb hooks. So this is probably going to be one of your dilemmas: “ am I going to use the flies I already tied, with the risk of losing some important fish or should I run to the store and buy some barbless hooks to tie my competition flies”. Make sure your decision is the right one.
That is it for now, feel free to ask questions.