What’s up with the cutty squeeze?

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(Courtesy The Flyfish Journal)

Two years ago, I got pretty excited by the cover of The Drake, showing the ultimate in fish handling: this salt-water fav actually stayed totally submerged, with the fisher’s hands and rod in the background. I thought that was a model for handing catch-and-release fish, and one that made me question some of my own fish wrangling, especially when taking that all-important beauty shot.

Over the weekend, I received the latest The Flyfish Journal with the above cover. Doesn’t it look like this cutthroat trout is getting squeezed? The magazine features a bunch of excellent pictures from fishers in a photo article called “Rises,” but to promote this kind of fish handling on the cover I find questionable.

From that 2015 piece, something to ponder from Gordon M. Wickstrom, the author of “The History of Fishing for Trout with Artificial Flies in Britain and America: A Chronology of Five Hundred Years, 1496 to 2000,” who wrote about six periods in fly fishing for the Orvis News blog in 2011:

“In closing, allow me to play the prophet: I think that, in this New Period of angling, we are part of an important cultural shift toward a deeper humanity and mercy of the good Earth. We may find ourselves living quite differently, living better with less, with a greater delicacy, clarity, balance and honestly. Fishing a fly on a clear, cold stream may well serve as a working model and inspiration for what we want. It shows forth qualities — environmental, psychological, social, economic and political — that we need to incorporate into the future.”

See you on the river, Jim Burns

Wickstrom was right. We’re entering an age where understanding environment is the key to survival. Those who have a reverence for nature will have to set a template for the future. To what degree we learn the hard way remains to be seen.

Keepemwetfishing

 

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The Drake shoots for ultimate catch and release cover

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Could this cover from The Drake’s winter, 2015, effort be the ultimate beauty shot? (Courtesy The Drake)

When this image confronted me through its plastic-wrap encasing in the mail, all I could do was marvel — and possibly feel a bit dismayed. Undoubtedly, this is the ultimate 21st Century hero shot, in which the angler completely disappears in favor of the fish, and, apparently, the fish never leaves the water. Conversely, it takes two to create this image : fly fisher and media wrangler. (Maybe better three, including the fish), not the “me, myself and I” team most of us fish.

Gone are steps most useful in careful catch and release: no dipping net and hands in water; no reviving the fish before release, in favor of total angler immersion.

Gordon M. Wickstrom, the author of “The History of Fishing for Trout with Artificial Flies in Britain and America: A Chronology of Five Hundred Years, 1496 to 2000,”  wrote about six periods in fly fishing for the Orvis News blog in 2011. He pegged catch and release to 1960-2008, his Trout Unlimited Period, and reminded us of “Lee Wulff’s famous 1939 statement that ‘game fish are too valuable to be caught only once’ that became the basis for the catch and release movement that took hold over the last two decades of the 20th Century.”

The Drake cover reminded me of an art history prof I took once upon a time who said that American painter Albert Bierstadt’s depiction of human beings in his later-1800s landscapes represented people dwarfed by the habitat in which they traveled and were no longer the center of the story. Epic nature took center stage.Screen Shot 2016-01-16 at 10.28.18 AM

There’s much evidence that catch and release fishing tends to keep native fish populations healthy, especially in high-pressure areas. Who knows People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) might even grudgingly endorse this image. The organization is vehemently opposed to sport fishing.

It’s a sure bet that until GoPro invents an underwater camera on a selfie stick, not many of us will be repeating this beauty shot anytime soon. For most, the trophy mentality is still there and we document our hunt with a photo instead of going to the taxidermist or the dinner table with our catch. We are, after all, still fishers fishing, but there may come a time when we join the ancient Taoist philosopher Lao Tzu by fishing along a stream with just the pole and no line. That may be the next step after Tenkara removed the reel.

Jokes aside, it is impossible to fly fish without becoming acutely aware of the environment in which you ply your passion. After all, this blog began after years of wondering what the hell was happening to the Southern California no-kill areas I’d come to love. When the fish is the star — not the gear, or the outfit, or even the destination, I see hope.

Back to the resonating words of Wickstrom:

“In closing, allow me to play the prophet: I think that, in this New Period of angling, we are part of an important cultural shift toward a deeper humanity and mercy of the good Earth. We may find ourselves living quite differently, living better with less, with a greater delicacy, clarity, balance and honestly. Fishing a fly on a clear, cold stream may well serve as a working model and inspiration for what we want. It shows forth qualities — environmental, psychological, social, economic and political — that we need to incorporate into the future.”

See you on the water, Jim Burns

 

Earth Quotes: Garrett Fallon

The UK’s Fallon’s Angler is the sharpest magazine about fishing and writing to come out since Gray’s Sporting Journal in 1975. After all, it takes some braveness to bankroll a print magazine in this digital century. As he says, “Some of my friends think I’m two sandwiches short of a picnic to launch my own angling magazine.”

The writing includes some of the brightest young urban angling writers, including Dominic Garnett of the “Crooked Lines” blog, and Theo Pike, who published the highly regarded “Trout in Dirty Places” in 2012.

Each quarter, Garrett’s writers take readers to the intriguing and the far off, such as fishing for Atlas trout in Morocco’s mountains of the same name; or catching dorado by catamaran in Cuba. And I’m happy to say you can read my piece about carping in our river in this latest issue. It’s not available online, which makes it even more exotic. It’s worth a deep dive if you love longform journalism about fishing places you may only get to dream on. Better still, many of these stories may inspire you to actually pack up and go. Currently, mine would be to catch giant trout on Hottah Lake on the edge of Canada’s Artic Circle.

Here, an excerpt from Garrett’s 1994 musings:

     “I like to take my fishing very seriously, planning everything down to the last detail and hoping in the process to catch some fish. Yet occasionally, for reasons unknown, the fish just don’t bite, and so I am consigned to hours of fruitless labour. But during these times I have earned some of my fondest angling memories, as I find myself lapsing into a state of closeness with the environment around me. I have sat there, on the banks of the canal, watching my float and wondering why on earth it has not dipped or slid under the surface in the past hour or so, when suddenly my eyes catch something moving at my feet, and a field mouse makes its way across my shoes. Once, when I was sure there wasn’t a fish within a mile of me, the biggest tench I had ever seen cruised from the depths to browse for offerings beneath my feet.

     “The English writer Tom Fort has a theory about fishing, believing that somehow (using some super sixth sense), the fish waits for a lapse in the angler’s concentration, and in this moment of weakness, bites, removing the bait from the hook. There isn’t an angler alive who, during a fruitless session, hasn’t left his rod fishing by itself in order to empty his bladder in the local shrubbery, only to turn around and witness his (fishing) tackle sliding away into the depths, pulled by a great fish.

     “I find sinking into the background of my surroundings deeply satisfying, but you only reach this point if you’re not thinking about it. Izaak Walton ended his later versions of The Compleat Angler with the words “Study to be quiet,” and surely these resonate with all anglers? The fact he was quoting Thessalonians 4.11 shouldn’t be held against him. He successfully makes his point with all the effort of a gentle kiss blown from the lips of a milkmaid.”

See you on the river, Jim Burns