I’m not much of a gadget guy so I typically ignore hype about new products. When the Ketchum Release was introduced I did just that. Until a rep gave me one to try and said “If you don’t like it throw it away”. I had nothing to lose so I tried it and I’ve relied on it to safely and quickly release fish ever since. I’m now a firm believer that everyone should own and use one. It’ll take a few tries to get the hang of using this tool properly but it’s pretty simple if you know what to do.
With the Ketchum Release in one hand grab the leader with the other, slip the tippet into the slot in the tool, slide the tool down to the hook, then twist the hook out (or poke it backwards if the hook is inside the fish’s mouth). It seems to work best if I turn the bend of the hook upwards and give it a quick shake. The trick is keeping the line tight between the tool and the hand holding the leader. If you keep the line tight the tool holds the hook securely and it’s easy to pop it out of the fish. Like this:
For larger fish you’ll need to net them to prevent breaking the tippet. Once the fish is in the net it’s a simple matter to poke the hook out of its mouth without grabbing or holding the fish.
Using the Ketchum Release allows you to unhook fish quickly without touching them. Not only does this prevent removing protective slime from the fish but you also avoid having to hold/grip the fish securely enough to get hold of the hook with fingers of forceps. It’s also much faster than waiting for a fish to stop wiggling so you can grab it and pry the hook out so you, or your clients, are back to fishing sooner.
As with any method barbless hooks make it much easier to unhook fish without harming them. There’s no good reason to leave a barb on a fly, fishing or guiding, so get in the habit of pinching barbs on all your flies. We owe it to the fish…