Thursday, February 7, 2013

Is it a contest?

This happened to me a few weeks ago. I wasn't going to post about it at first, but I figured I'd get everyone else's opinion.

I hit the stream for an afternoon of fishing. It was relatively quiet with only one other angler working the upper part of the run I wanted to fish. As I walked by him, he said hi. I said hello back, and asked how he was doing. He said he hit 13 fish so far in the past two hours a little downstream. My initial thought was that he was full of it. It's 30 degrees out  and you had to work for the fish here. He then said it's been on fire and he was at "Stream X" yesterday and caught 26 fish. Again, I knew he was full of it, especially since that stream is really tough to fish in the winter.

I looked where he was casting and I said "Oh, I see some there." I counted seven and he responded, with "yep, just got to this run, and I'm going to hit all 7 of them." The next cast he hooked into a small brown trout, brought him to the net, and quickly released him. "Soft hackle pheasant tail" he said.

I congratulated him on his fish and walked about 50 yards downstream and started working 3 trout holding behind a big rock. Three minutes later I hear him whoop and holler and sure enough, he's connected again. This time he yells "Size 26 WD40!".

I keep fishing for about 15 minutes and finally pick up a fish on a baetis nymph. In that time, he's caught 3 more fish. My frustration (and maybe jealousy sets in) and I keep at it. Boom. He connects again. I then notice that after every fish, he's adjusting his leader, switching flies, moving to smaller tippet, and then fooling another fish. This man was fishing like it was a contest to catch the most fish in the least amount of time.

Another 15 minutes pass and I'm with 2 fish landed to his 6. Every time he hooks a fish, he makes a big scene, yells out the fly he used, then releases the fish.

Then I saw a 13 inch wild brown trout floating belly up past me and I got pissed off. As that happened, he hooked the 7th and final fish in the hole and yelled "size 22 orange scud!". He walked past me and said "well, this run is wiped out, good luck" and chuckled as he lit a cigarette and walked off.

This got me thinking. This guy was technically doing nothing wrong. He wasn't posing for a picture with each fish, and was releasing them as soon as he could (even though one inevitably got gut hooked)  but was what he was doing totally ethical? As fly fisherman, we all go out there with our rod, reel, and box of secret flies hoping for a 10 fish day. This guy was obviously a great fly fisherman, but is pulling every single fish out of a hole really the right thing to do?

To me, fly fishing is calming time on the water that gets you away from the kids, wife, job, stress, etc, and constantly changing your rig and trying to nail every last living creature in a run just isn't right. Personally, I would have stopped at maybe 3 fish and moved on downstream.

My personal opinion (and I know opinions are like assholes..everyone has one) is that if this guy does this everywhere he goes, it's actually hurting our streams. As anglers, we should be working to protect our streams and the fish that thrive in them. Pulling every single fish out of a hole just isn't the right thing to do. Or again, am I just sounding jealous right now? I'm curious to see what everyone else thinks. Thoughts?



28 comments:

  1. Sure he was not tipping his flys with pellet dough?

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    1. No dude. He was an amazing nymph fisherman. I really watched him for a bit. High sticking and detecting every strike. I just thought it was overkill to try and sting every single damn fish.

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  2. I wish I could have a day like that. My days usually end up being skunked. I can see both sides to the issue. The guy should have moved on to another area. Let someone else catch them and also giving the fish a rest.
    I think that the guy was pretty cocky yelling out the fly he was using. If it was me, I now some choice adjectives would have been running through my head

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    1. Yeah, I was fishing to calm down, not to start a fight. If it was similar behavior off stream, I probably would have let my temper get the best of me.

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    1. I'd say probably a 9-10 ft 4 weight. Didn't ask.

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  4. On a warmwater hotspot where I know the fish are being caught regularly, even daily, I wouldn't have a problem with it. A lot of the places I fish are fished hard and I sometimes look at it as a challenge to catch every fish in a hole or stretch. But that is when fishing for bass, both largemouth and smallies. They are much hardier breeds. Trout are an entirely different fish, as we all know. This kind of stress alone can kill them without even considering the occasional guthook or other mishap. My personal feeling is that if he wants to hit every fish and take no prisoners, then he should switch species. Save the more delicate fish for those times when we want to bond with the river, not conquer it. Just my 2cents...

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    1. Unfortunately, I've seen the best bass lake I ever fish get hammered to the point where bass were dying off, and the ones you were catching had banged up jaws, ripped out eyes, etc. I think they might be more hardy, but not immune to overfishing.

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  5. I agree with you. Winter is a rough time for most fish. To stress every single fish in a pool does nothing for the overall good of the stream. I personally would be satisfied with two maybe three fish from a location and move on.

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  6. The dead fish is unforunate, his skill his impressive. His attitude is unforgivable.

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  7. Kudos to his ability, but thats about it. Who wants to fish next to that circus. I probably would have just kept walking

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    1. Probably would have been a good idea to move on....

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  8. I think his approach is certainly reprehensible, not matter how impressive his skills may be. It's funny, my approach is usually the exact opposite. I pick a fly and work hard to try to fool fish with that fly. That's the "contest" or game for me- fool the fish the way I want to fool them. I'll gladly take the few that are agreeable to my chosen method for the day. I often go out with the "one fly" tournament mentality. I tie on one pattern and fish it for as long as I can... usually until I lose it in a tree.
    In response to The Mad Paddler above, most of my fly fishing is warmwater and I've seen plenty of mortality with bass too... especially where the preferred methods involve worms and bobbers. In a lot of the streams where I fish, (as hard as it may be for some to believe) the bass can be very selective and the pressure is obvious. As much as bass may be "hardier breeds" they deserve the same respect as the trout. I honestly don't think they fair much better under intense fishing pressure. I wouldn't recommend the rape the river approach for any fishery.

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    1. It's funny you say that about one fly. I've been stubborn enough to "create hatches" on some days because I only wanted to fish dries. If you throw a dry sulphur over a fish 100 times, they'll eventually think there is a sulphur hatch :)

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  9. The fellow angler demonstrated to me a lot of the things that I don't like about fly fishing arrogance. Sounds like he should be a play by play announcer for a fish tournament somewhere. Many a new fly fisher would be willing to give that "run" a chance to test their abilities. I am with Richard Strolis on this, I would not have let him be reinforced by my presence anywhere near him!

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    1. Did Howard give you any of the stickers I mailed him?

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    2. I'm going to make him take me out to lunch to get them! Hahahahahaha.

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  10. I don't know about you but what would have bothered me more than anything his the person yelling out after every fish. It's like he was bragging and trying to share how awesome he was. I'd be like good for you shut up and fish. I don't go fishing to hear other people yelling after every catch. If they want to share fishing knoweldge that's fine and getting excited after hooking a fish is understandable. There is a certain way to handle yourself on the water. Each person fishes for a different reason. This guy was obviously about how many can you catch. I don't judge the success of a fisherman by how many fish they catch.

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    1. True. I cant imagine having to work with a guy like that.


      Thanks everyone for the comments. I'm glad I'm not alone regarding how I feel about the subject.

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  11. There is a percentage of our population that succeeds with arrogance. Fly fishing, business, art, whatever--I don't like it. Yes, I'm jealous that these people catch more fish, earn more money, have greater influence, but take solace in the fact that I'm living my life with respect. I believe in karma and that arrogance displayed by these individuals will come back to haunt them. Stay the course, Mike.

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    1. Dude, I just spent 5 minutes getting through your capcha on my iPhone. Thought you dumped that.

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    2. WTF I used to have it off! I think when I finally was forced to switch to the new blogger interface (which I despise) it defaulted back to on and I never realized it because it never prompts me for it to post. thanks.

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  12. Best reason in the world to fish alone and away from people.

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  13. I agree with the other comments . . . . while he technically did nothing wrong, he could've had a more polite and careful approach.

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