We begin to become comfortable in our own skin as anglers and we have held a good number of trout in our hands. Then at some point when waist deep in the cold water stream, we pause and look around. We see the yellow, orange and red leaves of Fall. We hear the sound of the water flowing over the rocks. We realize that the trout stream is a Garden of Eden, paradise, a perfect place in all of creation. And we come to understand that the rivers we love are fragile and need our help to thrive.
Trout can only live in cold pure water streams. When temperature and pollution levels run too high, the rivers can longer support the sleek salmonids. There is a long list of human activities that threaten trout streams, but perhaps the most fundamental is our ever-expanding use of our earth’s limited resources. If our grandchildren are to fish the same streams where we cast a fly today, we must find a way to live in harmony with the trout, so that they too can flourish.
Conservation in fly fishing begins with the desire to give back. We receive so much from a day on the stream that enriches us, the excitement of a rising fish, the peace and harmony of being in nature, the joy of holding a beautiful trout in our hands. And we come to realize that we too can give back a little to the fish, the rivers and to our planet.
Caring for the trout stream can begin with the smallest of steps. I am always disturbed when I see trash in a river or on the banks. How someone would want to ruin such a beautiful and perfect place? So when casting a fly, I pick up the empty beer can or plastic bag and shove them in my waders to throw away later.
Catch and release is an important part of conserving the precious resource that is the trout themselves. If we kept all of the fish that we caught, our streams would soon be empty. I also take steps to help ensure that the trout will survive its brief time out of the water. I do not play the fish to exhaustion. I wet my hands before picking up the trout from the net, as the oils on our hands can harm the fish. If I take a picture, I do so quickly, and then return the trout gently to its watery home.
Conservation is such a natural part of fly fishing, that anglers have banded together to increase their efforts to aid the rivers that we love. Trout Unlimited, www.tu.org, boasts a membership of over 100,000 anglers. Local chapters of TU organize stream clean-ups and educational programs. At the national level, TU works to advocate for protecting the cold-water streams where trout thrive. I am a proud member of the Candlewood Lake TU chapter in Connecticut. The Federation of Fly Fishers, www.fedflyfishers.org, has as its motto “conserving, restoring, educating through fly fishing,” and has projects that focus on native trout and protecting against the spread of invasive plant and algae species that harm rivers and streams.
God placed the first human beings in the Garden of Eden to till and to tend it. We are to work the land, to till it, to use it for our benefit. Yet we must also tend to it and protect it. In our Garden of Eden, the trout stream, we as anglers likewise seek ways to tend to the stream and to the fish to ensure that our rivers will continue to flourish for all the generations to come.