Twenty years ago I wrote a poem. When I delivered the poem in front of my friends on stage at a party it spontaniously became a song. We used to play it at country bars and the guys in the back playing pool always went nuts at the end of the third verse about the fish going free. I think it expresses my feelings about fishing:
Some men spend their money to buy a new car,
My freind payed a fortune just to buy a guitar.
What I want from life, is enough spare time,
To search the clean waters for a fish on the line.
Big fish on the line, big fish on the line.
I'm gonna catch him and make that fish mine.
A junky's got a needle and a winos got wine,
But I'd sell my soul for a fish on the line.
I tell you folks there's nothing so fair
than to see that big Steelhead take a leap in the air
When it makes that first run I get chills down my spine.
And buddy you know there's a fish on that line.
Some men get their kicks from a slide down the snow.
Some men want a women, like Marylyn Monroe.
But I want a salmon, coming home from the Sea.
If I'm hungry I'll eat him, if I'm not, he goes free.
Well it's been several years since I wrote this here ditty,
And the future of fishing ain't quite so pretty.
So protect where they're spawning, or some jerk will pave it.
You're fishermen damn it, it's your job to save it.
Big fish on the line, big fish on the line.
I'm gonna catch him and make that fish mine.
Every Junky's got his Monkey, and I know I've got mine.
I'd sell my soul for a fish on the line.
6837 NE Alameda
Portland OR. 97213
I learned to fly fish in high school and have never gone back to fishing with gear (bait or hardware). I love the asthetic and sporting nature of fly fishing. While in high school in Portland, my friends and I would head the Deschutes at every opportunity. Throughout the years, my interest in fishing has ebbed and flowed, but I continue to love the sport and the lessons it has taught me in caring for the environment. Now in my mid-thirties, I'm discouraged by how much pressure Portland's population boom exerts on popular rivers like the Deschutes and others. Where I used to fish from dawn until dusk with the goal of catching as many as possible, I now focus more on the scenery than the result. In fact, I'm often conflicted as to whether or not I'm hurting the fish and if I'm being a responsible steward of the outdoors by fishing for sport (I'm strictly catch and release unless it's a hatchery-reared steelhead). I currently live in Hood River and fish a few times a week on the Deschutes and other local, but less popular rivers.
Woody Woodall, rural postman on the star route to Sisters and Sally, I'll remember her name, she was on the draft board in Bend back when it mattered in the 1960s.
Two stunningly wonderful folks.
I miss 'em both.
Oh! Just sit down and learn to read the water, taking the time to slowwwwly watch and learn is the answer and when you have done that, well, releasing that fish you just caught is just acknowledging that fish for being an outstanding opponent. You're environmentally genetically new in this world and that fish is very old.
And when you keep a fish please respect it, don't trash it out with spices to disguise it, taste it as if you have some respect for it, honor it as if it has fed humans for many thousands of years because in reality it has.
But do go fishing, allow yourself that intimate connection with the natural world where it really doesn't matter if you catch a fish, you just get back to reality, where TV just is not real, when time slows down and ... well ...
What happened to the HTML that made my last post in italics?
Not bad but un-asked for.
A vegetarian for the past 12 years, vegan for 7, I recently decided that I wanted to consider eating fish. I grew up in Chicago with little exposure to outdoor anything, and no training in fishing.
Just two months ago, I taught myself how to fly fish on a Steens Mountain river. The decision was directly related to a belief that I should be able to be the one doing the killing if I was the one doing the eating. I also long - in a distinctly disconnected and industrial world - to be more connected to my role in the food chain, whether that means picking tomatoes in my backyard or hunting an animal. That I was fishing for food meant that catch and release had no place in my vision. Within 5 minutes of practicing my cast, I caught a fish. Alas, it was smaller than the regulation size and my plan was quickly squashed; I had to release this small fish. In the hours I spent casting and searching for my food, jumping from rock to rock, watching as my partner once again released my fly from a bush or tree across the river, being consumed by the awesome roar of a seemingly tiny flow of water, developing a relationship or - dare I say - conversation with a fish who clearly wanted to taunt me as dusk threatened, I began to see the attraction to fishing as a "sport" or "game." It's a powerful experience.
Nonetheless, I don't think that my desire to kill my own food (within the limitations of the State in order to maintain the population) can be interchanged with sport or, especially, competition for the largest. Killing, or, even, faking at killing, shouldn't be a sport.
It's still been 12 years since I've tasted fish (or any meat), since my first effort at angling left me without a large enough catch. But I did learn a new way to be with a river and its inhabitants. Fish can be quite clever. At least my first effort in over a decade to consume meat will hopefully be on fairer playing ground than the grocery store.
I am a part of the ?River Runs Through It? generation: I who took up flyfishing after the the movie version of the book was released in the early 90?s and I never looked back. I grew up in southwest Montana and I go back there to fish as often as possible. I occasionally fish in Oregon, but I have not found an experience similar to what I get in Montana, where I am often the only human in sight and the trout strike dry flies throughout the day.
I have returned to fishing after decades away. I now fish with my grandchildren, ages 2 and five. My gear is just a little above their level. As they grow in skill so will our equipment. Bend has a few spots where you need a license AND kid under 12 to fish. Wonderful way to spend time. Part of our fishing gear is a childrens? book by James Prosek, ?A GOOD DAY?S FISHING. Beautiful pictures of simple equipment. Our grandkids love it because it looks like our gearbox.
Why glamorize something barbaric into an art-form? Drawing these distinctions between ways of killing, and almost killing, but deciding not to. Sure fly-fishing seems aesthetically appealing compared to other methods, but so what? Some serial killers are quite aesthetically gifted. The end result is the problem. The fact that the pursuit of an animal is entertainment, no matter how graceful, seems repulsive.
These distinctions between grocery store, versus do-it-yourself, are really pedestrian. I think if you are going to eat meat you should indeed know the process. But, to then suggest, because you do-it-yourself you are somehow more moral and a better person, is claptrap.
As someone who's fished across Oregon in its many fisheries,and spent 5 years in the flyfishing industry, so much of this discussion misses the point entirely -- at the root, it's not what people want, but rather what the resource can accommadate.
The question is first based in biology - are there enough fish so that keeping a couple won't diminish the population? And then our social expectation - will killing that fish impact the experience of other anglers? For most of our wild trout river fisheries the answer is 'no'. To maintain high quality fisheries given the pressure, catch & release is required.
But then we have plenty of robust lake fisheries where harvest is sustainable.
And then we have our strong salmon fisheries. And you always have a choice - such as mine to generally avoid taking the hen fish in our coastal wild fall chinook fisheries.
As for flyfishing being an elitist or rich mans' sport -- that's funny. You need to take a look at the boats salmon fishing in the Columbia or Tillamook right now. Most of these anglers have invested well over $35,000 to participate in that fishery. It makes flyfishing look like a poor mans choice.
I've never made the opportunity to fly fish, although I really want to down the road because it seems like it is much more challenging.
I feel that if you need the fish to eat, then catch to feed you and your family. I feel that killing anything that provides us life should never be considered a "sport". I've never understood why hunters kill to put a head on their wall, when they could see the buck, and take a picture and put it on their wall.
I feel that generations have lost respect for nature, and abuse what is provided to us. Whether it's a fish, tree, a bear, etc.
Here's the dirty little secret about flyfishing: Study after study shows a fairly high mortality rate in catch and release fisheries, some as high as 14 percent. Hooking a fish, fighting it, handling it and removing the hook obviously takes a toll. Add to that those who do none of this very gently. Bottom line is that in streams in which we are trying to restore native runs (Metolious for example) fishing should be prohibited.
I wouldn't call this the "dirty little secret"...most fishermen (and women) know that there will be some fish that won't make it a day or even several weeks after release. What we can do as fishermen (and women) is to minimize that with careful handling, barbless hooks, etc. I have been a flyfisherman for almost 20 years and for the majority of that have been a catch and release fisherman and have always been respectful of the fish (as respectful as one can be when hooking and stressing out a fish). I know for a fact that catching fish stresses them out but I also think that people who fish do it more for themselves. For me, once I've been out on a river for a few minutes, all of my worries are washed away. It's very relaxing. If you're overly concerned with stressing out a fish but still enjoy the act of fishing, try this: take a pair of wire-cutters and remove the curve of your hook. Now, you can get the satisfaction of fooling the fish, perhaps even getting 5 or 10 seconds of the fish holding onto your fly, but you're also putting minimal stress on the fish. I've tried this on occasion and it's almost as much fun as actually catching them.
I fished all my life and was an avid catch-and-release fly fisherman, believing like so many of that genre that I was connecting in some sacred way with the fish and nature. I gradually came around to the view that now seems pretty obvious: putting a big hook in a fish's mouth and dragging it to the shore against it's will is probably not a great experience for the fish. Even the "catch and release" anglers would admit if they are honest that they often significantly harm and sometimes kill the fish.
Among the questions in your introductory narrative is "what's best for the fish"? The answer to that question is obvious: leave them alone.
I listen as I am compiling the monthly newsletter for the Columbia Basin Fly Casters in Tri-Cities, WA. I grew up in a sports family but fishing was not one of them. Knee injuries ended the contact but not the love of competition. Upon moving to the west I discovered fly fishing which combines enjoying the outdoors, my love of hand craft (I tie my own flies), my vocation (Plant Pathologist/Entomologist) and competition. The later comes with the fish, the water, my self, what are the fish feeding on? where are they under the water, will my fly entice them, did I read the water and present the fly well enough to fool the fish? It is thrilling to catch a fish on a fly you tied! The grace appeals to my dancer soul perhaps that is why i am hopelessly all thumbs when I try to use spinning gear. But class differences? Both types of fishing can be as expensive and exclusive as your obsession. And a rude, fisherman is a jerk no matter what the gear of choice. Ask many of us how's fishing? and we'll reply "Fishing is great, the catching not important." BTW I mostly "catch and release" but also fish for food.
I have to mention that gender is also not an issue (I am a fisherwoman) until strength is required to row rapids or haul my float boat ...
Finally someone needs to mention that fly fishing has been incorporated successfully into medical therapies, both mental (PTSD) and physical (post mastectomy). I think a program featuring Casting for Recovery would be awesome and share our sport as more than about "Catch and Release" vs food fishing etc.
Tight lines and bright waters - eb
I think that fishing is one of the few times that people are able to let go of the awareness of time passing, to enter that state that Joseph Campbell said was the original definition of "eternity" when time has stopped, the worries of the world are somewhere else, and there is only you, the river, and the fish and absolutely no other distractions. It's a pure state of being, fine, rare, and wonderful to be in.
While camping last summer on Mount Hood, my husband and I decided to take our girls, ages 3 and 9, fishing at the Rainbow Trout Farm. Who could have predicted that the bucolic scene with waterfalls, ponds and picnic tables would prove to be the setting of a TCM - traumatic childhood memory for our kids?
Approximately 8 seconds after casting into the pond literally writhing with fish, our three year old smiling happily for the camera, we hooked a 12 inch trout. It began thrashing around, and the expression on our girls' faces turned from joy to horror. As I reeled in our catch, the children ran away, screaming and crying and hid behind the trees. With no option to release the fish, my husband took over with the fish as I comforted our children.
The girls now refuse to eat trout, though they still love salmon. As a result of the experience, each night we thank the animals who gave up their lives to nourish our bodies.
Fishing is Oregon's most sustainable and beneficial activity.
What this discussion is missing it that to have any fish - or fishing - you have to preserve the high quality habitat that trout or salmon need through their entire life history.
This point, the environmental foundation needed to sustain fisheries is much more important than this debate over the personal choice of whether to harvest a fish or not.
IF and WHEN they're is abundant fish populations, the whole "catch&release"-versus-"harvest" debate goes away.
Re: Fishing for Passion, but finding insensitivity
This is rather blunt, so forgive me, but some of the reasoning I hear today is rather thick and muddied.
What are the morals involved in thinking that killing- for sport, or inducing pain -for sport, engenders any experience except a numbing experience?
If one wants to meditate, there are multiple other choices. If one wants to do intricate things with one's hands, there are multiple other choices, none of which need to involve killing or inducing pain.
Look at it this way - what is the difference between catch and release, and an older boy tormenting your younger son, but not killing him? Is this the bully's redemption, that he did not more severely maim or even kill your boy?
What kind of morality makes such distinction except a dysfunctional morality?
One that allows perhaps, balloon payments on mortgages? or allows the very rich to hire a very expensive lawyer and not be found guilty of a murder the common man would have been fried for?
The sometimes necessity of killing to eat is one question which is often answered by an attempt toward balance via some sacrifice, but what do we sacrifice in order to kill for our entertainment.
What sort of excellence is attained by harming the innocent? Surely the fish are not pests.
From small seed grow great weeds -
so, when your boy comes home with a bloody nose, or bloody fists, maybe you need to look at something in your self very deeply, and apologize to that boy you have misled.
Some. indeed most, of the 'reasons' offered to support fishing-as-sport sound just like drug use - attaining a state of mind using something as an intermediary - rather than one's own mind and quietness.
Few would defend as educational or civilizing the gladiatorial games, either roman or those on present day TV. Would you? The difference is only in scale and not in principle. The pure although undeveloped child mind sees directly though these rationalizations re: sport, character building, zen (the sound of one hand killing???) poetry in motion -
as difficult as it might seem for you to grasp what about the fish's sense of poetry, which bible does the fish read that says he must give up his life or suffer great pain so someone can despoil his habitat, kill him or a part of his unknown family -
there is no end to the reasons most so-called sport is the decline of civilizing forces, and not any sort of necessary prop or edification, unless it be to one time cause, see and comprehend suffering and vow to never door allow that again.
I just heard some say that salmon should be eaten plain, no spices to cover up its intrinsic natural flavor and that folks have enjoyed it that way for generations -- what a know-nothing ridiculous pronouncement - completely inaccurate - the native americans have used sea salt and juniper berries and honey for hundreds if not thousands of years - the norse also used sea salt to cure their salmon for smoking - in fact it is impossible to smoke salmon without salting -- in fact salting the fish flesh and the roe is something that has been done for eons -- how preposterous and arrogant to say people need to eat fish the natural way -- in fact if you really want to eat it natural - don't cook the salmon - eat it raw - cooking changes the protein structure and gives a flavor thatis decidely not natural -
I am a flyfisherwoman. I meet my brother once a year in Colorado to fish the Taylor, Frying Pan and Arkansas rivers. We have participated in both catch and release and BONK them if you will. I feel better with the catch and release and we now bring our own food!!! It is soooo wonderful to just be outdoors and looking at the insects flying around my head and finding the perfect fly to match. I once caught the most beautiful brown trout on a dry caddis fly while my brother was still using nymphs. He couldnt believe my catch!! When he asked me what I used I told him it was from my OREGON box but that I had just seen a fly go by that matched my choice. All in all it is a ZEN thing and it is wonderful to let them go to be later enjoyed by someone else who appreciates the beauty of the sport.
I hope you'll devote a show to the fishery that most people are unaware of -- the lower Columbia commerical gillnet fishery and its indiscrimate killing and wastage of salmon, steelhead and sturgeon.
I realized several years ago that I could not reconcile my love of fly fishing with the uneasiness I felt about my inability to walk through habitat without disturbing it. Even though I enjoy the outdoors and indeed I gain much from it, I'm a city dweller and I never learned how to tread softly or carefully.
I also couldn't reconcile my catch and release ethics with a growing awareness of my responsibility to do no harm. Whether or not a fish can feel pain is not the question; my administering of it with hooks, barbed when I first started fishing and then barbless later, in a selfish pursuit of entertainment, is. Hooks damage fish. It?s as simple as that. And since I wasn?t trying to feed myself, I stopped fishing.
I'm a passionate fisherman. I love to catch fish, but I know that in doing so I'm inflicting "pain and panic" on the fish (as one of your contributors suggested). Another contributor in response, claims he doesn't think it hurts them much (an absurd self-justification). Fishing, ALL fishing, hurts the fish somewhat. If our first concern is for the health and well-being of the fish, fishing should be banned. If we allow fishing, we need to be mature enough to admit that we are taking something (either food, pleasure, or both) at the expense of the fish. I usually fish in managed fisheries that allow harvest (the proper word) while requiring the release of certain native species or fish outside a mandated size range. I always release those fish with the greatest of care and respect toward the goal of minimizing the trauma I have inflicted, not with some pretentious notion that I'm doing the fish some good.
Not keeping fish allows the fish to propagate. "Bonking" them does not. It is a tool to keep the native fish in the river. Stocking has been eliminated in many of the streams in Oregon because the hatchery fish were polluting the gene pool and increasing the risk of disease. It is harassment to fool the fish hook it and create a struggle which is not a lot of fun for the fish that is struggling to survive. I have been fly fishing for 40 years and it is still a moral dilemma with me. I do love the environment and the equipment but I do not consider it a noble venture. It is a challenge to choose the right fly and fool the fish but it is still harasement. I do release them to get fooled another day but it doesn't give me a great deal of pride. I do know people who fish with a fly with no hook at least they say they do. The challenge is to fool the fish not hook it. I am not there yet. It is not a sport. The fish is out gunned. One can shoot a wild animal but it is difficult to release it when it is dead. OK, I harass and I occasionally hook a good fish. Maybe some day I will stop doing it but I am not there yet.People say to be agood fisherman one has to think like a fish. OK, think like a fish. Why are these dumb humans bothering me. I have enough natural predators to worry about.
I used to fish for food until I graduated from college. My entanglements with Buddhism made me think more about the suffering I caused fish. Also, I was concerned about the effect of loss of fish habitat, over-fishing and pollution. I've seen too many nature shows where humans abuse our life support system recklessly.
Today I would fish for food. I have not become "don't eat anything with a face" because plants have "faces" too in my view.
The point is I want to be respectful and thoughtful in action. I'm not going to fish for pleasure when I cause fish pain and fear. I want to be aware of pollution, over-fishing, and making sure we help provide sufficient habitat for fish to thrive.
I'm Gail Campbell in Eugene and I've been teaching fly fishing for about 30 years. By the way, are you aware that Masako Tani is a renowned writer in Japan on fly fishing?
Lately, I've come to realize that what I do is really hook people, through fishing. Fishing has an evolution: you start out wanting to achieve, to catch, to show what you can do, and to eat and be proud of your catch that you've brought to share. As you catch more and more fish, you realize you can't eat it all, so you start to put fish back. As you become a better and better fisher, you start to handicap yourself with smaller hooks, lighter line, and then, fishing with flies. In truth, you progress to caring about the fish, the stream, pollution, good forestry practices that make streams viable for life, and sound laws that protect fish and their environment. Your interest expands not simply for the benefit of your possibly catching more fish, but of the fish continuing to thrive and prosper. Your horizons expand into areas of conservation, restoration, and preservation as you witness our relentless savaging of the environment. You've seen beauty out there on the stream, and you know it must not disappear.
I love fishing. It's my passion. And I love to empower others to enjoy the same passion. But I'm also very reverent about fish. I turned my catch and release corner in '88 on the Bulkley River in BC. I caught a magnificent, wild, 40" steelhead in full spawning color. He was so fine a living creature, My immediate reaction was, Oh, EXCUSE ME, I'm SO sorry I bothered you! and I immediately put him back, resuscitated him and he charged off, to my and his relief to live some more, to spawn, and perhaps to spawn again.(Steelhead can return multiple times to spawn during their lives.)
I teach people how to "trick the fish" with flies. And how and why it's good to put fish back. After all, what do you want with a dead fish at 9:00 in the morning when you're planning on fishing all day? And why would you go to the bushes less than 200' feet from the stream if you knew that your waste would pollute the very stream you're fishing in? The very fish you plan on eating, and other organisms - birds, otters, martins, deer - like Terry said, all life, need clean water. So I teach about that, too. I've concluded that my teaching fly fishing is essentially a great ruse to teach others about the natural environment and how to keep it healthy.
Who among the vegan and vegetarian crowd thinks of spirit in all things? Do they, Thank God, everytime they make vegetable soup, or vegan humus? I'm thinking that the noise against fishing from this crowd may do well to look at it's own use of the environment and other living things. Believe me, the fly fishing community does care a lot about fish and the fish's environment.
I'd also point out that fishers serve a vital purpose in reporting back what they find in the fishing environment - where they find a species illegally dumped which will, and does, upset an ecosystem, e.g., chub introduced from bait wells on boats into Diamond Lake which resulted in a massive and deadly cleanup of that lake. It was flyfishers who also reported early sightings of bass illegally dumped into Davis Lake for fishing purposes. We are a link of information in the state to the natural surroundings. And we're advocates for the health of waterways, of sound fishing regulations, and of responsible fishing when we teach.
In other part, I also help cook at the Simnasho Longhouse on the Warm Springs Reservation. Every part of the salmon is thoughtfully used there, except the guts - and they used to be before modern leaders and lines came into existence. The fillets are cut off but with enough meat left on the backbones for them to be dried and then used to make a very health-giving fish soup, to flavor dumpling dishes, and to make fish powder. The heads are cut in two and baked. Some heads are boiled with the roe to make a dish favored by elders. The fillets are of course used. Leftover salmon is sent home with the guests to help them feed their families.
I've fished for trout, salmon, steelhead, bass, tarpon, bonefish, etc, but I've ceased to fish for salmon because I don't need to help deplete that resource. And I personally consider any salmon left to be treaty fish. At the Simnasho Root Feast this year, there was shock in the kitchen which received only one fresh fish to cook. It was unthinkable that salmon, who are invited to nearly every meal, were not there. No one knew what to say, the ramifications were so awesome. As Terry said, these foods are needed to sustain feed people. Please know that there is a lot of reverence for the fish and for all the foods served there. In context, these foods were put on this earth by the Creator to help sustain them, and the people who eat them have reverence for them.
And yes, my friends in the Longhouse kitchen seem ashamed and disgusted if someone leaves a net in the water and the fish in it don't get to be used. There are lawbreakers in every society. Maybe, too, due to poverty, the netters couldn't get back because they couldn't get gas money for the return trip. But you know, those fish actually do get used in a wider sense: they're taken back by the river to become food for more of the river's creatures, including other salmon. In ODFW's regulations, if an illegal fish dies at your hand (maybe it's too small to keep, foul-hooked, or the wrong species), you must leave it and put it back in the water: It goes back into the river to help sustain more life there.
Of all the methods of fishing, fly fishing seems the most thoughtful to me. I tie, I've made my own rods, and I hope I'm a responsible user of and teacher about the resource we enjoy. When I teach others how to trick the fish with a fly, I also teach them how to be kindest in letting that fish go. And even little kids get it.
Gail Campbell firstname.lastname@example.org
It was great to hear an open discussion about angling, flyfishing in particular, though the topic of catch and release was only partially addressed. At the heart of catch & release, at least here in the Northwest (I define the Pacific NW as that region of North America where salmonids - genus Oncorhynchus - do, or have historically, spawn...)is the issue of hatchery vs wild. Hatchery salmon and steelhead are essentially man-made fish that have been raised specifically to contribute to the overall "sport" fishery (originally as mitigation for dams) and are genetically, aesthetically and intrinsically inferior to the wild, totemic salmon that have been making their epic spawning runs in NW rivers for thousands of years, their very presence establishing stream and forest regimes that identify out region. Anyone who fishes, or is concerned about the future of our wild salmonids is virtually obligated to step up and take hatchery fish out of the system and into the freezer. Invariably, wild fish will be caught in this pursuit. They must be handled with delicate care and respect (reverence is legitimate, though it may not be known to all)and released to complete their destiny. They are the best gift of all, the completed cycle, the opportunity to see and know for the briefest interlude a wise and tremulous fish of spirit and flesh.
As a former fisheries student, I know that salmon, trout and steelhead have a rather simplified nervous system and do not experience "pain" in a way we would recognize. Their response to being hooked is a reaction to pressure, or being pulled in a direction they don't want to go. Most people I know would react in a very similar fashion... But flyfishing at its most essential transends all of these mundane topics. I'm not sure I'm completely comfortable with framing it as "religion", but you could say it is absolutly a way of life, of being, of believing in the unseen. Technical or intuitive, attractors or hatch-matching, flyfishing is a low impact, direct line connection to the aqueous world and the mysteries held within.
I am an artist, salmonid advocate, fly tyer & designer and have been plying Northwest waters for 30 years. Today you merely grazed the potential for lively discussion on this topic - I hope to hear more in the future.
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