Hooks Causing Eye Trauma In Small Trout?

I make a a real effort to minimize fish C&R mortality. I use a net, try not to handle at all, keep their time out of the water to an absolute minimum, photographs in the net - no hero shots, let them regain their stability and strength in the net before dipping the net under to let them swim out…

I usually tie tenkara flies with a #12 hook, and occasionally #14. Occasionally I’ll use a #10 for high and/or turbid water for a larger profile. For 3 years I was using #12 hooks with this profile and cannot recall eye trauma being an issue.
More recently I have been purchasing hooks with this profile that have a slightly wider hook gape for the same shank length and an upturned hook point because the profile appears as though it could reduce the number of lost fish.

On my last outing, I had a couple of 5"-7" trout that had been hooked in the upper jaw and the hook had caused eye trauma. I’ve read in other fly fishing forums, and found a study and articles about increased eye injuries from a wider hook gape and and upturned points i.e. circle hooks can increase eye trauma in small trout, bluegills and pumpkinseeds.

Has anyone else noticed this with a wider gape hook and upturned points?
Does either an upstream or downstream presentation increase the occurrence?
Does reducing hook size reduce the risk?


I fished with Tommy Lawhorn (an awesome fly fisherman in VA) and he mentioned he would not tie or fish any flies with the caddis pupa hook or other wide gape hooks due to either killing or severely injuring the trout. I started doing the same until I started tenkara fishing. The pictures you show are not the type of hooks I use for fishing. I use a wide gape dry fly hook and haven’t noticed any problems at this time. Maybe the curved body of the hook is causing the problem that you see when fishing.

1 Like

Some thoughts. I do not think I have ever seen mortality or eye trauma in the trout I catch.
It may be the kebari I tie and how I typically size down when there are just micros.

  1. I typically tie/fish futsu kebari exclusively (if you saw my box you would laugh)
  2. I use one brand of hooks firehole

Regarding futsu. I often find small trout can take a 12 futsu but the stiff hackle mostly prevents hook engagement or deep hooking. Hackle is too stiff for them to compress and swallow. I will find dimished hooksets and identify small fish, which then I would size down to a 14…which is tiny. At this point my strike to land goes up. It could be so many factors but I never think I have eye hooked any trout with a fly. Perhaps it is the stiff hackle, a technique thing, or what the fish I target are feeding on.

Fishing other species with lures I have cause eye trauma for sure.

Sizes are not transferable. The size of one brand might be a size off another. Also it is a hook point up but I feel less aggressive than yours. See images below of the hook. With a 14 it might need to be a 2" trout for the hook to engage in its eye.


Generally speaking, all the Competition hooks with the large gapes run one hook size larger than the size stated on the package regardless of maker. So if you are fishing # 12s, you really have on # 10s which increase the chances of eye trauma, especially on smaller fish. I think this is more an issue of hook size than the Claw hook point style.


Excellent thinking. Maybe using smaller sized hooks ( #14-#16) would eliminate this issue.
I forgot about the size difference with curved hooks. I mentioned earlier that thin dry fly hooks with
a wider gape would help. Thanks for the great insight, Karl.

1 Like

I will order some of these hooks. Thanks for the info.

I’m glad we’re talking about this. We need to be aware and care for our fisheries. When I compare the 051 and 062 hooks in the photos I attached above the 051s are a lot smaller, and I can’t recall any injuries to fish caused by them. Here are the 051 and 062 #12 hooks side by side.

I like the pupa style curved shank hook because they, along with variegated hackle suggest movement to me, and that along with sasoi entices strikes for me.

I’ll see how the 051s work again, and the #12s are small enough, I may get some 10s.


I had an opportunity opportunity to fish some flies tied on the #12 - 051 hooks at a local creek using a full flex DT Mutant. I landed 4 fish but did not get a solid hookup despite a crisp deliberate hookset on 5 or 6 fish that quickly came unbuttoned.

The 051s have that profile with a straight horizontal hook to the point from the bend but is slightly offset to the side of the shank.

The 062s have the hook that is in line underneath the shank but the point is slightly upturned and just looks like it would be harder for the fish to shake loose. I think I need to try some #14 062s.

1 Like