Monday, December 12, 2011

Fly Fishing and Conservation

When first learning to fly fish, all of our energies are consumed in mastering the basics; getting the right gear, learning to cast, becoming comfortable wading through the stream. Then we hook our first trout. When the line goes taut, our adrenaline spikes. We somehow manage to get the fish to the net and break out in a wide smile, whether the fish is a eight inch brown or an eighteen inch rainbow.

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,, 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,, 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.


Taking It To The Streets said...

Fantastic post!


Anonymous said...

"But I flick the hook out of the corner of its mouth (despite Behnke's evidence, I bent down the barb) and let it swim away. I don't want to keep it. Nor am I comfortable with letting it go. I head toward the shore, thinking, admitting that, in the end, we angle because we like the fight-otherwise all of us would be using hookless hooks. Not one angler in ten thousand does. The hook allows us to control and exert power over fish, over one of the most beautiful and seductive forms of nature, and then, because we're nice to the fish, releasing them "unharmed," we can receive both psychic dispensation and blessing. Needless to say, if you think about this relationship carefully, it's not a comforting one, for it is a game of dominance followed by cathartic pardons, which, as a nonfishing friend remarked, "is one of the hallmarks of an abusive relationship."

Rabbi Eisenkramer:
I enjoy reading your articles and insight. However, C&R does raise certain moral issues re fishing purely for pleasure.

Another “Man of the Cloth” AA Luce, wrote a rebuke of C&R in “Fishing and Thinking” which you may be familiar.

I do practice C&R as well as eat some fish I catch. However, the moral issues surrounding C&R continue to gnaw at my moral sensibility, as they do Kerasote’s and others.


Anonymous said...

Hello Rabbi. I originally found you on Twitter. Checking out the blog and I'm a follower now. JGR

John Pruskowski said...

This is my first time at your blog, and I must tell you the things you write about ring so true! Conservation ans FFing do go hand in hand. I am a long time member of trout unlimited, and I strongly urge anyone who is a fly fisher person, who is not a member of some sort of conservation group to join one! We need to do what we can for the future of the fish, our environment, and our children so they can enjoy the same opportunities we have been able too!

T. Brook Smith said...

Very uplifting post with ethical implications that carry well beyond fly fishing. Thanks for this post.

As far as the "abusive" nature of fishing, all predatory relationships are "abusive" and humans have been predators (omnivores) since we appeared on the scene. Perhaps we are gradually changing and these kinds of things will eventually disappear, but we have not reached that place yet. People care about ecosystems because they derive well being or pleasure from them. We need healthy ethical fishers to have healthy ecosystems.

Carp Fishing said...

Thanks for your article. Really every first work is very fantastic specially carp fly fishing. Once upon a time I’m just going to dream big here… . I take small house boat with space enough for me and my hook & basket. One of these days I might fess up all my hook carp Fishing Secrets...but in this time it is very easy because highly confidentially tips & technique is available in world about carp net fishing.

san said...

i like fly fishing, actually its my hobby . still i am learning it thank you for the post

New Smtrna Beach Fishing Charters said...

Thanks for such a nice and wonderful article here for fishing.

fishing rod mount said...

trout stream is indeed paradise, such a peaceful place for outdoors

Alaska Fly Fishing said...

I love fly fishing. It just takes away my health and mental stress from days of work. Thanks for sharing this.

GLX Fisherman said...

This is my first time here and I wasn't expecting a subject this deep. you definitely have given me some things to think about.