Being prepared in life is a key facet of being successful. To be successful as a fly angler, time needs to be put in off the water organizing flies, rods, reels and the minor accessories. Too often, I get to the water and realize I forgot one or two things.
One of the most frustrating things to forget are hemostats. Many anglers call these forceps. Without forceps, angling can be a challenge. They’re one of the most versatile tools available for anglers to use and always fill a helpful role!
8 Ways to Use Hemostats
1. Removing Hooks from Fish
If you’re targeting trout, hemostats make your life that much easier. Trout are sensitive fish with a protective slime all along their body. The more they’re out of the water and the more you handle them, the smaller of a chance they have of survival.
One of the main reasons anglers handle trout for too long is because they struggle to remove the hook with their hands. They can’t get a good grip on it, so they squeeze the fish tighter and remove even more of the protective slime. Hemostats are going to allow you to leave the fish in the net, easily find a firm grasp on the hook and remove it without further damaging the fish.
Also, with forceps, you can create a more centralized grip on the hook and not have to tear through the jaw. Ripping a hook out of the mouth of a fish is never a good idea! Forceps can prevent all of this from happening if they’re properly used. Grab the hook as close to the barb or point as possible. You can gently lift up while keeping a tight grip on the hook and it should easily pop out of the mouth of a fish!
Properly caring for fish is what’s going to allow anglers to continue targeting some of these more sensitive species.
2. Cinch your Barbs
Depending on where and how you’re fishing, you’ll likely come across a time when you have to cinch down your barb. If you’re a passionate catch-and-release angler, you’re already familiar with this process. However, if you enter an area that requires catch-and-release, your hemostats can come in handy!
If you’re fishing barbless hooks, place the barb of the hook as far up in between the jaws as you can. This will allow for you to put the most pressure on the barb and snap it off before you begin fishing! This is important to do! If DNR officers or game wardens catch anglers not following these rules, there are likely some hefty penalties involved.
3. Help tie a cinch knot
Hemostats are the perfect tool to use if you’re looking to tie a cinch knot. Thread the line through the eye of the hook and make your loops like you normally would. Place the tips of the forceps through the loop and start rotating them. Complete the traditional five or seven rotations like you would on a normal cinch knot.
Using the forceps keeps the hole in the line near the eye of the hook open! Once you’re done with the rotations, pull the tag through the opening and cinch it down.
This is a great way to tie the cinch knot if you’re fishing in some colder conditions and you can’t quite get those fingers to work as you would like.
4. Use them as scissors!
Another use hemostats have is if you need to cut any sort of fishy things. Whether you’re looking to cut leader, tippet or even some extra material off of your fly, your hemostats likely come with serrated edges that will cut just about anything you need related to fly fishing.
Guide Tip: Sure cut line and help switch flies are obvious tips. But I’ve cut down flies enough to quickly change it from a dry fly to a nymph. A couple seconds with your scissors and you can be catching fish!
Many anglers carry around nippers and a set of forceps, but forceps can do the job of the nippers if you purchase the right pair! You don’t have to worry about using your teeth or a knife; the hemostats are going to fill the void just fine!
5. Open and close split shots
Split shots aren’t only to be used by spin anglers. They’re quite handy in fly fishing as well. Split shots are a struggle to open and close so it’s smart to use your forceps to help you with the parts that require quite a bit of fine motor skill use.
Place the split shot between the open pair of forceps and apply a little pressure. This will allow you to place the line exactly where you would like and close the split shot with enough pressure to hold it in place. Again, you don’t have to worry about having enough grip strength to close it or using your teeth. The forceps are going to apply plenty of pressure.
6. Clean out your hook eye
Depending on the forceps you purchase, you may have a sharp point just below the finger holes. This sharp point can be used to help clean out the eye of your hook. If you purchase flies from large box stores, you’ll often find excess material stuck in the eye of hook. Before deeming these flies useless, use the point on the end of your hemostats to clean out the eye of your hook.
Also, if you tie your own flies and get some cement stuck in the eye, the point below the finger holes can easily clean this out for you.
People have also been known to make wire leaders with the sharp point on their forceps. If you apply enough pressure to lead wire, you can create a small hole just large enough to thread through a swivel. This is a unique tactic that not many anglers think about when they’re looking to add some more weight to your rig.
7. Hook Maneuvering
Whether you’ve straightened a hook on accident or stuck one in yourself, hemostats can come to the rescue. If you accidentally straighten the hook on a hot pattern, you can bend it back into place with your forceps. While this isn’t the best thing to do with the hook of a fly, desperate times call for desperate measures!
Also, if you happen to hook yourself, you must have a good set of hemostats to help you out. You need to be specific with where you grab ahold of the hook and you need to apply plenty of pressure to remove it from your skin. Using fingers or anything else will likely cause more pain and damage. By being able to grab a hook in a specific place, you’re going to save whoever is hooked quite a bit of pain!
8. Make a Sinker or Sliding Weight
Some styles of clamps have a pin up from the grip. That pin is used to pinch and pierce lead wire. If you’ve ever attempted to perfectly tune a heavy sinking setup for fast water you’ll know how hard it is to get a fly down to the bottom and still tumble along in the current.
What are the styles of Hemostats?
You have a few different options when you’re looking to purchase hemostats. Mosquito forceps are fairly common in fly angling. These have a significantly smaller tip so if you’re fishing with smaller flies, you’ll likely use a set of these. You can grab ahold of the flies much easier with a good pair of mosquito forceps.
Crile forceps have serrated blades all along the jaw. Also, you have a ratcheting mechanism that can allow for a much more secure grip. These are great if you find yourself cutting quite a bit of things while on the water and still need a smaller tip to grab onto your patterns.
The final most common type of hemostats is a mixed design. These also have serrations along the jaw, but the tip of these forceps is curved. Some anglers like these forceps because they are easier to operate in tighter spaces than a straight set of forceps might.
Recommended Hemostats for Fly Fishing
Dr. Slick Scissor Clamp Gold Straight– You can purchase these forceps in a variety of sizes, but they’re one of the best all-around options when it comes to forceps. They have the sharp point below the handle, a blade in the jaws to cut things and a small point to help operate in tighter spaces. Plus, they’ll only cost you around $15.
SAMSFX Pliers – These pliers have a curved point to help you gain a better grip in some of those more delicate situations. These also have the small point near the handle and serrated edges to help you snip whatever you might need. These will only cost you around $18.
A good set of hemostats is like a good pair of sunglasses. You don’t really know you needed them until you have them. Anglers often skimp when it comes to these types of tools. They’ve invested heavily into their rod and reel but forget about the importance of tools like hemostats.
Do yourself a favor and buy a solid set of forceps. You’ll wonder why you haven’t had them your entire fishing career!
More Nymph Fishing Articles – WHY because NYMPHS Catch Fish!
- Best Rod, Reel and Line for Nymph Fishing – All about the equipment to nymph fish.
- How to Tie and Fish a Traditional Nymph Setup – An introduction to rigging up for nymph fishing.
- Nymph Fishing Styles Explained Traditional, Euro and Indicator – An overview of nymph fishing techniques and when to use them.
- Reading the Water for Nymph Fishing – Learn how to recognize the right conditions to fly fish with nymphs.
- A Complete Guide to Stillwater Nymphing – The title says it all, learn how to nymph fish lakes.
Danny Mooers is a high school English teacher in Arizona with a love for fly fishing. Growing up in Minnesota gave him the opportunity to experience all types of fishing and grow his skills. After living out in the Western United States for several summers in college, his fly fishing obsession grew. Having the opportunity to share in his passion for fishing through writing is a dream come true. It’s a lifelong hobby and he strives to make it understandable for people of all skill levels