It’s been widely reviled on Internet forums as snagging and a gimmick. It’s also been called an “excellent conservation tool” by John Merwin in Field & Stream.
It’s a new fly-fishing tackle system that uses a bare circle hook on the end of the leader and a hookless “fly” attached about a foot above it. When the fish grabs the fly and the angler strikes, the fly is pulled out of the fish’s mouth, the leader is pulled through its mouth and the circle hook catches on the outside of the fish’s mouth.
Many anglers are offended by the idea. It reminds them of unsportsmanlike and usually illegal tactics used to hook salmon that are holding in rivers and have no interest in taking a fly.
But Merwin and Pat Moffitt, its inventor, say the Moffitt system only works when a fish bites the fly. Moreover, because of the design of the particular circle hook being used, hooking a fish anywhere other than the outside of the jaw — such as its fin, back or tail — is highly unlikely.
Most importantly, Moffitt says, and Merwin agrees, hooking the fish from the outside of its mouth rather than the inside can prevent all kinds of serious damage to its tongue, gills or gullet.
“It’s an excellent conservation tool that will allow anglers to release more fish unharmed,” Merwin said, adding, “This works at least as well as hooking fish with flies tied on J-style hooks, and at no time did I feel this odd rig was causing me to miss a taking fish.”
It’s not a brand-new idea. There’s a similar method of salmon fishing that involves threading the leader through a plastic imitation egg a few inches above a bare hook, with a toothpick pushed into the fake egg alongside the leader and broken off to hold the egg in place. Fish bites egg, angler pulls leader, hook slides up and snags fish.
Moffitt has a very convincing nine-minute video on his Web site, www.moffittangling.com, which points out that adding the fly — or two or three — to the leader is quicker and simpler than tying on flies. Moffitt’s patterns are not simply flies with the hook points cut off. They’re built on a “core” with a rubber loop instead of a hook eye. You simply loop-to-loop the fly on, the same way you’d add a rubber-ringed strike indicator. The rubber core makes the flies flexible, and it makes sense to me that fish will hold onto them longer.
Of course, the Moffitt system makes every fly in your fly boxes obsolete, along with all those J-hooks on your fly-tying bench. Moffitt’s Web site says he plans to sell blank cores you can tie your own flies on, and he also has some pre-tied nymph and egg patterns that he’ll be glad to sell you.
This makes me and others wonder whether the Moffitt system isn’t just another gimmick to separate anglers from our money. But there’s the matter of the endorsement of Merwin, one of the most respected writers in the business. John Randolph, editor of “Fly Fisherman,” has also given the system the thumbs-up.
One thing I do know: It’s legal in New York. Some have pointed out that various states ban snagging fish, but I checked with the Department of Environmental Conservation, and the Moffitt system passes muster everywhere but one place — the fly-fishing-only sections of the Salmon River in Oswego County.
The Salmon River fly-zone regs state traditional flies must be used.
Whether the system constitutes a fun and effective way to fish, only time on the water will tell, I guess.