Moral practices, moral principles, code of right and wrong,
social values, social laws, conduct, morality, decency.
So what do these things have to do with flyfishing? I would say
a lot. Every day on the water, one is forced to deal with many
issues involving ethics. Do you keep the fish? Do you release it
although it is gut hooked? Do you take home more than what is legal?
Do you kill fish at all? Should you even be fishing where you are?
Do you fish that hole you know always produces, even though someone
else is already fishing there, although they are busy trying to
get a knot out of their tippet at the moment?
These are all things one must take into consideration on a typical
day on the water. The biggest problem, so it seems, is when your
idea of ethical or polite is not the same as someone else's idea
of it. When you see someone taking a fish out of a catch and release
only fishery, do you say something? Do you call the game warden?
Does it make a difference if you know that the person taking it
needs that fish to feed their children who would otherwise not eat?
If you are alone, and catch a really nice fish in the same catch and
release fishery, and start to think about how nice a dinner of fresh
fish would be, do you keep it? What if you are in the same situation
in a fishery that is not catch and release only and catch a fish that
is really too small to provide much of a meal? Do you keep it anyway,
killing it, in hopes that you will catch another to go with it? Do you
keep more than you know you will eat in one sitting? Is it ok to use
powerbait? What about chumming?
If someone comes right up on where you are fishing and starts to fish,
although there is not a soul around for a mile in either direction, do
you say something to them? Are you rude or do you strike up a new
friendship? If you say something polite, and they respond rudely back
to you, do you retaliate with the same rudeness that they displayed?
Are you more tolerant of another flyfisher than you are of a bait
fisherman? Do you ask first if it is ok to fish near someone else?
Do you fish posted waters if you know you won't get caught? Do you
fish out of season? Will you pinch a fish's tail to make it "legal
sized"? Will you also shave a bit off of it? Would you fillet a fish
on the boat and throw the remains overboard if it was an illegal sized
fish but you wanted to keep it anyway? Do you fish without a license,
even if you don't agree that you should have to have one?
Do you blow the flats for someone wading or another boat fishing
because you are in a hurry to get to a hot spot and you know that
going right past them will cut 5 minutes off of your time getting
there? If you are in a boat, and there is someone wading nearby,
and a fish appears in between you and you notice that the wader
is obviously going after it, do you race them to it knowing that
you can beat them? Do you participate in tournaments that will
cause a lot of fish to be taken and killed and support it?
These are but a few of the situations in which ethics arise in
the world of flyfishing, or any kind of fishing for that matter.
I will not supply the answers to the questions given above. It
would do no good. Each of us has to know for ourselves what our
standards are, and then live by them, and most importantly, with
them. Each of us has to form our own opinion of proper etiquette
on the water, and enforce them by our own actions. To try and force
your standards on someone else usually does nothing but create
tension if it is unsolicited. Often times you will find that
politeness and ethical behavior exhibited by you will inspire
it in other people.
Deep down, we all know the right thing to do. It is whether or
not we do these things that separates ethical from unethical
behavior. ~ Tammy DiGristine (aka "Tam")