REFLECTIONS FROM A PISCATORIAL CURMUDGEON
Recent discussions between friends and acquaintances on some of the online boards have caused me to take a look at myself in comparison to some of the current opinions. Most often when among fly anglers, I find myself nodding in agreement. Though in recent years, and possibly as a sign of age, I have found myself feeling like an outsider at times. Many of today's articles written are pseudo-green political statements, in the name of protecting either a particular stretch of water, or espousing the latest norm to be distributed as accepted among the fly fishing community. And while I can appreciate both sides of most discussion, I'm quite often of late left asking, "Where's the fly fishing?"
Oddly enough, it appears I do not worship trout. Which is nowadays the requirement it seems, to be a true fly angler? I find it odd in the sense that not too long ago I would have been accused of that very same trait that I now seem to be lacking. Some 20 years ago my den was adorned with trout images, surrounding my tying desk, where I tied and fished 90% dry flies, to trout in moving waters which I loved dearly. Trout fishing to me was the epitome of the wilds. If it held trout, it was perfect water in my mind, regardless of any faults it may have. That mindset in itself placed me in that "fly fishing elitist" crowd. That group that released most or all of their fish, and worried about how clean a stream remained. We put Catch-And Release stickers on our trucks, and donated our moneys to stream projects.
I still feel that way. However, it appears that is no longer enough. After 40 years of trout fishing, I am not much different than "the rest' of those fishermen. These days, most hit the water with thermometers, but not to check for when they think the hatches will come. Rather, it's to determine whether or not it's ethical to catch a fish at all due to the stress of warmer waters. They are not to physically touch the trout, and nets are shunned as too harmful by many. We are to use releasing tools, and insure that we don't overplay a fish in enjoyment, or due to using "too light" a rod. Catch-and-Release is still the mantra, but now it seems to be because they've elevated the trout to nearly the same level as the family Labrador. It has gone from a sound management practice where it was a smart choice for certain waters in the name of conservation, to an ethical requirement that is beyond questioning.
This is where I part ways. Because while I do love trout and their habitat. I love just as much to catch trout on a fly. And almost as much as I love to catch trout on a fly, I love to fry a brace of freshly caught trout in the pan and eat them. A couple times a year I take to the stream, on water that I know can support it, and where put-and-take fishing is the norm more than not. And I fish a day and keep two of the best looking 12-14 inch brown trout I can bring to hand. This practice among some fly anglers is nearly enough to disown me and turn my name and address into PETA. I also still prefer to fish "trout" rods. Those 3-4 weight slow action rods, which are a wonder to play a fish on. And at the end of that fight I much prefer to bring that fish to a wet hand, admire it for a second, and then "feel" it swim from my hand.
I am by no means a "purist" in my mind, or at least not in the commonly used definition within the fly fishing community. And I fully appreciate all forms of fly fishing and gear. That being said, I know what it is that brings the most satisfaction personally. So that's where I remain. I still prefer to fish slowly all day and catch a handful of trout on dry flies. Instead of chunking the latest flashiest bead-head and following my fish count. On some days I catch 2, and other days I catch 20. But each one is perfect, and each one brings a smile. Even the ones I choose to eat. I still release 99% of everything I catch, either because that particular water can't sustain losing fish in my opinion, or I'm just not hungry for fish at that given time. I remain in love with trout, of which the Wild Brown is my favorite. I still draw them, and they still adorn the walls around my tying bench. Trout fishing has been a large part of my life, and will remain so. Whether in time, we travel down the path of English fly fishing, or create our own hybrid of extreme ethics remains to be seen. It is becoming apparent however, that regardless of the path taken, I most likely will remain an observer to the mainstream. I'll be walking that course from a smaller path that quietly shadows the water's edge. And at the end of the day I'll sit back and recall memories of trout and trout waters with my Labradors. Who love the water as much as I but care not in the least for the trout.