October 21st, 2002

Competition
By James Castwell


I have received a few emails regarding my upcoming bonefishing trip to the Bahamas. About divided equally, half for and half against. One mentioned I was against the Bass tournaments too. For the record, I am not. Those guys do not use fly rods and it seems that Bass are pretty hardy. I really do not have any mortality info on the events. I have no reason to have any, I don't fish for them, at least like they do. I am not against competition, it is what has made America the great country it is.

Fly fishing for me is a whole bunch of things, one of which is competition. Not in the hard way, but, more gentle. When you fish with a buddy, isn't there a bit of casual competition? Like, who catches the most or the biggest or the first etc. Who has not been involved in some sort of this friendly repartee? I sure have. When I am alone it's me and the fish. I am completely engrossed in the event. It is a type of competition, just not sure what name to put on it.

I think I am not in favor of a hard numbers type fly fishing contest for trout though. These are help, naturally, on water where there are at least respectable numbers of trout. Such places are managed, managed for the trout, that is. Often they are held on a pay-to-play piece of water. I watched the one on TV recently held in Montana on one of the spring creeks. We were licensed guides on that creek in the early '70's. Never would I, or would have I allowed a client, to fight and land fish as was done. The important thing became after the take, land the fish as fast as possible, so as not to loose it. However, in all fairness, there was one angler, he lost, who did not 'hook em and book em.'

I would not play fish that way. That type of event demands that treatment of the fish. That is why I wouldn't have accepted an invitation to such a thing, not that I would have been asked anyway. There is something inside me which cannot be ignored, a feeling I have that makes me treat my fly-caught fish with respect and a kindness of a sort. I do not horse them in, but play them gently but steadily to hand.

Fly-fishing combines many things, and leaving out just one would change it for me. Horsing in a fish would destroy the whole experience.

But, Bonefish are a 'whole different kettle of fish.' I know you don't have to be a horse to know what hay is, but unless you have fished for 'Bonz' it is hard to have a frame of reference. True, you use a fly rod, fly line, and flies, but the game is by a different set of rules. They do not come up, but swim with their noses to the bottom looking for food, sometimes in shallow water 'skinny-water,' the tails stick out as they go along.

In a stream, you can drop a fly in front of a holding trout, figure the drift so the fly goes right over him and hope he takes it. The water moves, the trout holds still. This is true whether using a wet or dry. In bonefishing the water stays in place and the fish moves offering a different set of computations. Since the fly sinks, and at which rate, and how deep is the water, getting the fly in front of the fish is a bit tricky. Add to that, Bonz do not swim in a straight line. You can see some of the problems you can have. All of which, of course, are fun.

But, not as much fun as when the fish glomps onto your fly. Getting the fish on the reel is not a problem, just hold on, he does that for you. The first run of an average bonefish will take all of your fly line and perhaps a hundred yards of backing. This he does in a straight line if possible. Often he will stop briefly, shrug his shoulders, then rip another hundred yards or so off, in the same direction if there is room.

As you can see, there is a difference between fly fishing for trout and bonefishing with a fly rod. To say that fly-fishing for bonefish with a fly rod is not fly fishing may be overstating it, but not by much. I enjoy both of them, even though they are similar, but different at the same time. So when I was invited to the International Invitational Bonefishing Championship I was not only honored but did accept. I do not feel that I will be harming the fishery in any way, although the fish does not enjoy the game as much as do I, they seem to swim away no worse for wear, especially when handled with care.

Will others treat their fish as well as I will try to? Probably they will. There are some very well known folks joining. Nothing could make me attend the event if I thought I was doing anything that was not the normal accepted way of doing things in that fishery. So, I will try to represent myself with dignity and FAOL as well.

To those of you who do not agree with my choice of attending, I back your right to disagree to the fullest and for you, competing would probably not be the right thing to do. My only regret is that my wife can not join me. She will keep the web site running while I am off working. Tough job, but someone's got to do it. 'Going for the gold.' ~ James Castwell

Till next week, remember . . .

Keepest Thynne Baakast Upeth

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