Fly fishermen may be guilty of killing their
own sport. A rotten stench of snobbery is
running through the fly-fishing community.
No one else has the arrogance to make up new names for things, as in calling a
bobber a "strike indicator" or saying the knots in leaders are "wind knots" when they are
a result of bad casting. It's an oddity that can be humorous.
This one is not funny. It may be deadly to fishing. Not just fly fishing, but fishing as a
whole. Do you have the perception that "all" fly fishers release all the fish they catch?
Does the phrase "Catch and Release" fall on your ears with the same effect as a slamming
Back in the '70's Bud Lilly's Fly Shop, in West Yellowstone Montana, gave out a
button with a drawing of a smiling fish and the words, "Limit Your Kill - Don't Kill Your
Limit." Those buttons appeared on thousands of fly vests. My husband and I still have
Back in those days some limits for trout were laughable. Montana's daily limit was
twenty fish per day. Good grief, who "needs" twenty fish a day? In time those limits went
by the wayside. The idea of limiting your kill was valid for the time and the local
Personally, I would rather see "Limit Your Kill" totally replace the current Catch &
Release (C&R) mind set.
My Dad Can Beat Your Dad!
Is it somehow morally wrong to kill a fish? Is it wrong to want to eat a fish you've
caught? Or is lightening going to strike if you even think about keeping fish? Of course
not. The whole C&R bit has developed into an "I'm better than you are because I release
all the fish I catch."Fish For Dinner?
Or, "I'm so superior to you slob bait or spin fishers because I release my fish." "You
are not really a fly fisher if you don't release your fish." Or "All fly anglers are better than
all other fishers because . . .yada, yada, yada."
Horse pucky! Let's get real here. Most fly fishers started as either bait or spin
fishers. We caught and kept fish, and ate them. Every time we could. Fly fishers evolve -
they are not created.
The exception to that (and there always is one, isn't there?) is the whole yuppie group
who saw "the movie." Yes, The River Runs Through It, which is now in rerun on the 'telly.'
Those people thought it looked graceful, might be interesting and cool, went out and
bought a ton on expensive stuff.
A great share of that yuppie group have stashed their fly gear in some closet and are
now pursuing the newest craze, gourmet coffee and cigars. Those who stuck with it are
hooked for life.
So how is C&R killing fishing? It is the never-ending preaching that C&R is what fly
fishers do. That puts a bad spin on all fishing, and especially on any angler who does keep
fish. We desperately need more people who care about the fish. Not less. Fly fishing
should not be elitist. Not all fly fishermen put everything back. Not all fly fishermen keep
their limit. Truth is, most do not even catch their limit.Key Word Is Choice
Would I keep a bright hatchery steelhead? Probably not. How about a big salmon on
the Kenai? Probably. Would I keep trout from a stocked lake? That's a wash because I
don't much like fly fishing on lakes. But I wouldn't - not because of C&R, but because I
personally don't like the taste of hatchery trout, or scotch either. That is my choice. For
the record, the fishery managers refer to stocked trouts as "put & take" fisheries.
Stocked trout usually have no spawning ground. They intend them to be kept. That is
what the state raises them for . . . to give you and me and our kids opportunities to catch -
and keep - fish.
Where there is a surplus of other fish, like some Pacific salmon runs and Great Lakes
salmon runs, there is nothing "wrong" with keeping fish. Let me say here, I am not in
favor of wasting fish. If you are going to eat it, great. Not using what you keep is wasteful
Mel Kreiger is a famous fishing personality who has taught thousands of people to
cast. He believes anyone who takes up fly fishing ought to keep some fish. It is a direct
tie to our hunter-gatherer heritage. Mel specifically instructs his students to get some
fish blood on their hands. Personally to know the rewards and liabilities of killing fish.
That choice should always be yours to make.Pass The Lemon
Do you know where the C&R notion came from? Trout fishers had nothing to do with
it. A guy who sold boats was promoting Bass Tournaments in the south. They mostly hold
those tournaments in lakes. He realized that if all the bass from these tournaments were
kept and killed, eventually his boat business and bass tournaments would fade into the
sunset. It was a marketing tool. Bass fishermen bought into the C&R idea big time, and
smart of them to do so. Bass tournaments have become very popular and highly
Fly-fishing organizations glommed onto the idea and sold it to members as a way to
conserve the resource. "Any game fish," as Lee Wulff first put it, "is much too valuable a
resource just to be caught once." Lee was a fine gentleman. The current stench would
No question, some fish are in trouble. Some fisheries are gone. Frustrated and
disappointed anglers sold their boats, gave away gear and turned their back on the water.
A wonderful recreational opportunity lost.
Will demanding everyone practices C&R save our wild fisheries? Are there any truly
wild fish left now? Will it save the Pacific or Atlantic Salmon? If instead, people fishing are
encouraged to limit their kill will they have more interest in preserving the fish?
Can fly fishermen take credit for saving any specific fishery because of C&R? Can we
credit C&R with saving any fishery or does repeated catch and release further stress the
fish? Can we depend on state fishery management to set realistic seasons and limits?
As for me, if it's legal and I'm hungry for fish, I will tip my hat to Mr. Salmon when I
land him. Pass the lemon. ~ The LadyFisher
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