Well, we might as well open this Pandora’s Box early in the life of FFLOGGER. Catch-and-release fishing. Yes, I am a catch-and-release flyfisher. Except in rare occasions when I want to eat the fish I just caught.
For the record, I haven’t killed a trout in three years. But that’s more selfish than noble. Why, you ask? Because I enjoy catching trout more than I enjoy eating trout. When I let them go, I think, “See you later, you poor thing, I’ll be back to work you over again someday.” So I'm a mugger rather than a killer.
Is catch-and-release about preserving a resource? Yes. Do old photos of 125-pound tarpon (not good eating by most standards) strung on a line churn my stomach? Absolutely. Does it upset me when people keep coolers of fish that will only end up freezer-burned and eventually discarded? Of course. Do I bend down my barbs, and think catch-and-release flyfishing is worthwhile and important? You bet.
I received a ton of (mostly positive) feedback on the “Going Deep in the Name of Trout Research” piece we ran in Field & Stream. The one point that earned the most criticism, however, was where I talked about missing strikes, and how, if you get in the habit of lifting or “mini-setting” your fly at the end of every cast, you’ll hook up more often.
Some say that’s snagging. But I wonder, is it possible to snag a trout in the mouth? More to the point, isn’t every fly-caught fish, technically-speaking, snagged in the mouth?
After all, from the bottom of the river, I watched trout routinely inhale and spit out all sorts of things – leaves, twigs, weeds, and yes, flies. It seemed to me that trout were able to taste the difference between real food and everything else, and it only took a moment or two for them to reject the bad stuff, including flies.
The best lesson I ever learned about locating trout in a river actually was taught to me by Steve “Creature” Coulter, 40 miles off Hatteras, North Carolina, as we were chasing tuna in the open Atlantic. I stared out at the blue horizon and asked him how in the world he went about finding fish in a place like that. “It isn’t so hard,” he smiled. “It’s just like trout fishing.”
Watching how your line behaves during your cast will tell you if you’re making mistakes or not. But it is tricky to self-diagnose the exact nature of a problem, and even harder to make the fix. Before you get bogged down in overcomplicated physics lessons, you might revert to watching your own short casts from a fresh perspective.
Many people get frustrated when their line bunches and dies on the forward cast. That’s usually a symptom of dropping your tip too far on your backcast. There have been countless articles and books written to coach people on the best ways to keep that proper casting plane at “10 and 2” on the imaginary clock face, but, in my opinion, most explanations overcomplicate everything. When you start thinking about too many moving parts during the cast, you get confused and your problems compound.