Please forgive me for trying to write about something when
I don't know my subject. It is a feeling that I have. A nagging
emotion festering inside of me; about 'catch and release.' In
some ways I think I am against it. The same kind of feelings
that some guys have about 'pay for play' fly fishing. They think
that is just terrible, bordering on evil, but that's for another column.
I wonder why I don't ever read anything against C&R. PC, maybe.
It's the 'in thing' these days. Catch all you can and count them and
toss them back. Fast paced fly fishing. I know what fly fishing has
become, it's now 'Speed Fly fishing.' Catch 'em and unhook 'em
and move downstream one step. Why can I so easily picture that.
I think I have been there.
I've done that. Make all my plans, get to the water, gear up, make
the cast, catch the fish and turn it lose and go after another one.
That's not what fly fishing is supposed to be. Well, I guess it is
today, but it is not what it was, what it used to be, what I learned.
There you have it, my fly fishing has changed and during that change
I think I have lost something. And I don't think I like it. I am not sure
what I have lost, but I can feel a nagging vacuum. An empty place,
where a 'day on the stream' used to live.
I used to kill fish, especially trout. I ate trout. There was a surplus
then, a harvest was possible, there were some extra fish, ones not
necessary to sustain the brood-stock. It was alright to kill fish. It
was socially acceptable. Ah ha. There it is. It used to be okey to
fish for food. No one looked down their Polaroids at me when I
went fishing and actually got some. I guess killing fish these days is
not socially acceptable anymore. I am sure it is not. Darn shame.
I never enjoyed killing any fish but it was part of the game, a
necessary part. Those were the days of, "You catch it, you clean it!"
There was a special tool made just for killing fish, called a priest. I
had one too and used it. Later on I went to another method of
dispatching them, but dispatch them I did. There was a certain
cache. Almost ceremony, ritual.
I can remember that the leather harness on my creel had to be dressed.
A good going over with a special oil/paste secret goo. The wicker had
to be maintained, sometimes varnished. Washed out often or a strange
smell could otherwise develop. How about looking for ferns while
walking to the water. Ferns to line my creel so the moist fish could
cool in the air circulating through the greenery. There were other
canvas creels offered but they had no class and I did not use one.
There were just a ventilated bag on a strap. Where's the magic in
that. Apologies to those of you who used them.
There were other elements that went along with fly fishing for
me back then too. Planning ahead about what to do with my
fish, for one thing. What to do for chow if I didn't catch anything
was important as well. Starving was to be avoided at all costs.
Swapping fish cooking recipes was another delightful pastime.
Of course actually dinning on them had it's high points too. One
of my fondest memories of an evening meal was in a log cabin on
the Au Sable river with Vince Marinaro preparing trout with a
cheddar cheese sauce. Heady times those, good times. Sometimes
I would build a small fire and cook mine along the stream, the old
'on a stick over the fire thing' but usually took a few back to camp
and prepared them for dinner; bacon for the grease and raw potato's
fried in the same pan. Then again, brookies for breakfast are a mighty
There was a completeness about fly fishing back then, before it changed.
More of a circle of life as it should be. It all seemed right and proper.
Normal. Go fishing. Catch fish. Eat fish. Forgive me but, catch fish
and then toss them back does not quite fill it for me these days. I
think the old days were better.