The Art of a Gentle Catch and Release

Fly fishing is an art form – the simple to and fro of your fly rod, the melodic lap of your line upon the river surface, the waiting and wishing. When you submit to the grandeur of nature, you form a kinship with your surroundings; thus, what you catch must be gently released.

Many catch and release fly-fishermen pride themselves on such an ethical practice; however, not many people know exactly how to do so. An article from New Zealand’s Bish & Fish website highlights the commonality for people to snap a few “grip and grin” shots before releasing their trout back into the river. Nevertheless, this seemingly innocent photo often results in the demise of the fish. As such, where and how you hold your catch fully determines its survival.

To fulfill the moral philosophy of a guiltless catch and release, study the trout anatomy beforehand. It is important to note that the heart, gills, and liver are three spots to be avoided while holding your fish for a quick photo. Be sure to abstain from squeezing the pectoral area, which puts an immense amount of pressure on the aforementioned organs. Although the trout may endure temporary injury, it is quite possible that it will die soon after.

The correct method to “grip and grin” is to cradle the head, gently placing your fingers on both sides of the trout, with your pointer finger beneath it’s pectoral fin. Meanwhile, hold the tail so as the fish doesn’t slip away, which has the obvious potential to cause more damage. And, of course, raising the trout only partially out of the water will increase its odds of survival.

As stated in the Bish & Fish article, holding the trout “for 30 seconds reduces the chance of survival by 30%, and 60 seconds out of the water reduces survival by 70%.” There has been quite a bit of debate over the “Grip and Kill” proclamation, as these statistics are not scientifically justified; however, it is always wise to remove the fish for just a brief moment from its habitat.

The relationship we create with our surroundings is crucial in the establishment of a virtuous lifestyle. How we choose to treat our environment determines what this environment can thus offer in return. So, as you wade in the Upper Provo, listen to the gentle babble beneath you and cast your line with ease. Reciprocate the happiness that fly-fishing brings you with those beneath the river surface.

Read the full Bish & Fish article here.

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