Outdoor Writers Association of America
Northwest Outdoor Writers Association
This Week's View

by Deanna Lee Birkholm

May 4th, 1998

Fly Fishing Tournaments? Not!

A few days ago I received an email all about a hot new event. A flyfishing tournament being held in Montana. The tournament is called, "Montana Ollie's Grand Slam (tm)". The premise is that folks will be willing to pay $1950.00, not including airfare to "catch and release a native Montana Rainbow, Brown, Brook, and a Yellowstone Cutthroat (GRAND SLAM)." The News Release goes on, "There will be 2-person teams, floating with a local guide, on some of the best rivers this country has to offer. The object is to catch the largest fish per species. This tournament will be a non-profit event, with any profits going to Trout Unlimited."

I've got real problems with this so-called non-profit event. First of all, I am absolutely appalled that Trout Unlimited would sanction such an event. TU of all the organizations in the fly fishing world should be saying something to the effect of , "We appreciate your continued interest in Trout Unlimited, but the event you are promoting is not something TU either finds appropriate or proper within our conservation efforts. Numbers of fish caught, and the concept that catching the biggest fish are not and should not be the focus of our programs. We do not wish to have our organization associated with such a venture."

Maybe this Grand Slam event is something that really floats your boat. If so contact me, and after a lecture on why you should not be involved, I'll give you the email address for it. But I reserve the right to disagree with the idea.

Fly fishing is not about number or size of the fish caught. Add to that one, big fish, caught on light gear fought to near death and then released is an outrage. Do we assume that everyone who catches and then releases a fish knows what they are doing? Not on your life!

A letter to the editor in the current issue of FFF's magazine, Flyfisher from Pat Rash in Branson, Mo., reads, "I just got my current issue of Flyfisher, and read with great interest the article by Charles Fox. I have to assume that in the 1940s everyone who handled fish and practiced C&R was a responsible angler. The sad fact is, that in this day and time we do not have the luxury of having that many well-educated folks on our waters."

"Let me quantify that statement by giving a little background. I own and operate a fly shop/guide service on a tail water fishery which I also fish daily. Just last year we were finally able to eliminate bait fishing in the first three miles of this tail water. There was also a slot length limit put into place. This means more fish caught and released may be alive but in what condition. I have observed more (trout) than I care to count, with their mouths all but ripped off, marks on them where theyhave been incorrectly handled, i.e. slime gone. Or played on light line to exhaustion then not revived."

"I would like to think that everyone who fly fishes knows the proper method of releasing (there has been plenty of material written addressing this matter). I guess my question is this: Is there a solution?"

My "solution" is not just to renew the emphasis on proper release of fish - but to discourage in every way we can, the idea that how many fish you catch, or on how small a rod, how light a leader, or the size of those fish, some how makes you a better fisherman or person! Horse Pucky! Fly fishing is an individual avocation, a frame of mind, a challenge, a solice for the weary mind and soul. It is a place where we each judge our success or failures on the basis of our own personal experience. The rewards are being there.

The many journeys each of us take in our fly fishing careers are exactly that - Journeys. It is not a "destination". Fly fishing tournaments of any kind are a disservice to the sport, and encourage stinking dead fish - and stinking thinking on the part of those fisherman involved.

No Thank You. Not Interested! ~ LadyFisher

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