The rivers of the west have been showing increased use by anglers the last few years. If you are a regular user and you've been there over the years, you've seen it happen. In fact, there are getting to be more of us all the time. While more and more friends of a particular river can be beneficial to the river, it can be a problem too. Understanding and respecting other people's sense of space, recognizing that the sight and sound of your group may have a negative impact on another user or on a landowner, and mixing in common courtesy can enhance the quality of the day's experience for everyone. Courtesy towards others is a topic worthy of considerable ink here, but we'll save that for another day.
Let us zero in on an ugly fact about angling with hook and line one most of us who enjoy the sport would rather not think about. I'm speaking about the fact that catch and release fishing does injure trout. Yes, I'll admit that most catch and release anglers try to be quick and careful when releasing their trout. Hopefully they all know that squeezing them, dropping them, re-catching them in the bottom of the boat, holding them out of the water more than twenty seconds, fighting them too long, or releasing a stressed trout in fast water can kill them. Most of us know that if the fish is hooked deep, it's best to cut the leader as short as possible rather than attempt to remove the hook. But the fact remains that even in the best possible catch and release situation, that trout will be stressed and scarred. That is an undeniable fact. You and I may not be able to see those impacts. We may not want to admit it, even to ourselves. But it is true.
It is time for catch and release anglers to go the next logical step-limiting your catch. No, I am not suggesting that we limit our enjoyment. In fact, by emphasizing the quality of and de-emphasizing the quantity of the angling experience, you can actually enhance your enjoyment on the stream. Instead of trying to catch every fish in a run, try just the toughest fish, or the one you think is the brown, rainbow, biggest, or littlest. If no one is waiting to fish your water, try laying your rod down and sitting on the bank to study the run. Pick out one or two trout, or one or two spots you will work and give it a shot. When you've taught a couple of trout a lesson-or they have taught you one, sit down on the bank again and look around. Take the time to really look at the trees, the flowers or that water oozle working the far bank.
Have you ever caught one or two fish and then changed flies because the fly was working? That's a fun thing to do. Diverge when you are being successful. You are bound to learn and often you give the trout a break.
Any guide will tell you that you will usually catch more trout if you nymph fish. In fact, if you can keep from hanging yourself, you'll catch more if you use two nymphs, or three, or ? And it's important to get those bugs where the fish are, so use some lead-and a bobber. Now cast that mess if you can, and have fun. To me this line of reasoning proves my point. Catching lots of fish is not truly why we are out there. If it were, then for heaven's sake why not use worms, or dynamite.
Have you ever watched a bunch of kids shooting hoops when the coach isn't around? Do they shoot the best percentage shot-a lay-up over and over? Not on your life. They shoot thirty footers, hook shots, bounce shots, you name it. The fun is in the challenge. It's more fun when the odds are stacked against making the shot. I rest my case.
Has anyone tried breaking the hook off of his or her dry fly at the bend of the hook? Raise and Release. Just kidding. Or am I?
Paul Roos has been fly fishing Montana rivers for many years. He is the owner and operator of Paul Roos Outfitters.
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