I have been watching the argument unfold between two local guiding outfits on the use of pinned bead rigs.
For those that don't know. A pinned bead rig is when one pins an orange jewelry bead onto their line 2-8 inches above a bare hook. The fish takes the bead and gets hooked in the side of the head. I have also heard this called and Alaska rig. You get three of these in tandem and you can hook some fish.
The argument that is unfolding is mostly shots taken on their respective guides fishing reports/blogs. One shop says it is snagging while the other says it is legal as long as it is within 2 inches of the hook.
I am curious of you guys take on this.
I will keep my personal opinion out of it but for the record you will not be seeing me practicing this method.
I have used bead-rigs in AK for trout, but in the waters I was fishing, the rig was limited to one rig (one hook). In NY a single hook rig is mandated in the Lake Ontario tributaries. There may be waters where you can use a gang rig, I can not speak to that.
Egg immitation patterns have been used all around the great lakes for steelhead, browns, and salmon for decades. Beads just seem like a logical progression of the "fly" pattern. As far as the hook being below the bead, the rig I use(d) places the bead about 2 inches above the hook. I would think more distance might allow the hook to stab into the eye of the fish (maybe), so I would not use more distance than I do. I will say that almost every trout I have caught on a bead-rig has been hooked outside the mouth on the lower jaw.
The idea is that the external hooking causes less damage, and doesn't give the trout a "sore" mouth to slow/stop its feeding during the critical fatting-up period of the spawn and post spawn of the salmon. Of all the guides I have known, none would willingly hurt their stock in trade. Most go to extremes to protect the trout that they earn their living from. If the bead rigs were detrimental, I honestly do not think they would use them.
IMHO, its like everything else: Ethics need to prevail to limit the harm done to the fish. So beads are okay in my book.
If this is a post about beads not really being "flies", than I apologize for missing your intent.
I went fishing with a buddy that swore by it. He ran a triple bead-snag rig and got skunked as he refused to try anything different. Seems the fish had spotted and recognized the three beads and three red hooks coming at them repeatedly.
I swapped out flies as normal and caught a couple. I've heard the argument that a proper bead-peg rig will actually snag less fish than a doubled nymph rig, which is probably valid. I still prefer fishing a normal nymph rig though.
If an angling practice bothers you, work within the affected angling community and your fish and wildlife agencies for change.
Personally, I have no problem with people who wish to fish with an egg imitation ( fly ) that is tied on a hook and is taken voluntarily by the fish, inside the mouth. Although I choose not to fish egg patterns, period.
I do not condone flossing, pinned, pegged or any type of presentation where the point is to cause the hook to become impaled outside of the fishes mouth.
One circumstance we see here all to often is, anglers employing these methods while the salmon are on the redds. While they are attempting to catch the steelhead and trout that lay down current of the redds, snatching up eggs swept away by the current. What they refuse to admit is, that they are wading through the redds to make their presentations, including those redds that no longer have a living adult salmon on them.
I believe it is snagging and it is intentional snagging since the design of the rig is to hook the fish outside of the mouth. I seem to recall that Alaska changed the fishing regulations several years ago to accommodate these rigs since the original regulations defined hooking outside the mouth as snagging.
In my view INTENT is an important part of fishing ethics. The INTENT of a two rig nymphing set up is NOT TO SNAG. The INTENT of a pegged bead is TO SNAG. Therefore, it seems purposefully disingenuous to argue that two nymph rigs also snag.
My question is whether a change in the law that makes what was illegal now legal, also make it ethical as well. I think not.
I see the appeal in it- folks don't drop thousands of dollars on a fishing trip to be blanked. If they're gonna go on the trip of the lifetime, if they're gonna drop money on a guide, they want to come home with the photos of outsize fish. Fly fishing takes skill, it can be intimidating for the newcomer, and I view beading as a means of reducing that learning curve. Catching a big fish beading may make a new angler more confident, helping draw them further down the rabbithole. I think there's value in that.
But I think it becomes a crutch for some folks. For me it's not so much an issue of ethics or resource impacts- I don't think they're getting the full experience. Sort of like reading A Tale of Two Cities versus reading the Cliffs Notes. As much as I like catching lots of fish, and big fish, I like going out and learning something new about the streams I fish and the species I fish for. I just don't see how that's accomplished throwing the same bead rig every day all year. That holds no interest to me, personally.