Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Some ties, and a thought on catch and release

In my last post I showed a fly I "created" recently.  I say created in quotes because I'm sure someone else has tied it.

My favorite example of this is how, for about 15years I thought I had created a really cool fly that I called the ugly damsel.  The fly started as a cray fish, then turned into a damsel simply because the olive worked best... Then instead of a normal streamer hook that the fly started off of, I started using a short shank hook - actually a standard wet fly hook - and using extra long marabou for the tail.  This gave the fly great action, but the addition of dumbbell eyes and rubber "legs" made it likely a little more sculpin like.  Regardless, the fly is a total killer on most of the rivers I've fished, especially on the Millers River here in MA where I did much of the field testing for the pattern.

I figured I was a genius, until I saw Whitlock's Sculpin a few years ago and saw Sir Dave had created a very similar fly.  At least my creative process lead somewhere Whitlocks did - that's good company!

Here's the Ugly Damsel:

So, I'm sure others have done this, or nearly this, before.. but, I'm really digging this style midge.  I'm going to use some bleached tan peacock I have to tie some of these so they look like tiny scud's too.  Overall, this is a fly that just feels good... Here's a newer version of the pumpkin headed variety:

Here's a pic of the fly with a clear/silver center glass bead.  Both this one, and the one above are #22 scud hooks.

 I snapped this pic yesterday driving around running errands.  Fillet and Release is what the sticker says.  I found it funny in the same way I think the little "Christian Fish" with Darwin written inside and feet sticking out the bottom are humerus.  Creative is creative.

The following is stream of consciousness, so I apologize if it's tough to read :)!

In the name of full disclosure, I dont have any issue with folks keeping a fish or two... in general. Heck, I hunt - and that is not a catch and release activity obviously.  I also occasionally go panfishing for sunfish, crappies, perch through the ice or even during warm weather - and my wife has some magical methods for filleting those fish and creating amazingly delicious dishes that most of the north east US grew up calling "trash fish" and avoiding - or using for bait!

My snag though, is that some how seeing that sticker flashed in my head the image of a guy that one day showed me a stringer of awesome 12-18" brook trout he'd caught, then said he had to leave, and they'd go bad in his trunk, so would I like them?

Why the heck would you not just let them go?  You know your not going to get to eat them, so why even put them on a stringer?

It's amazing to me, that it feels as if even the most novice of bass fishermen today think nothing of catch and release - as if it's just expected.  But some how, the world of trout has not gone that way.  Despite the work of TU and similar organizations, it seems like cold water fish are either viewed as put and take, or snobby catch and release area fish.  "The state stocks em for us to eat em" seems to be a prevailing mentality.  Fine.  Then stick to that mentality on highly stocked river/lakes, and do not fish wild trout streams - those little fish have a hard enough time as it is.

It's really to bad.  Cold water fish are awesome - just like warm water.  And if someone wants to eat a few - do it!  But think long term.  Think about YOU fishing in 15 years... and your kids or grand kids fishing in 30-40-60+ years. While I suspect most reading this are strongly C and R, if your not, but are a responsible catch and eat fisherman, then pass the word - help remind people that catch and eat is ok, just not catch and eat em all!

Sometimes having this discussion, people suggest the fish wont survive a new england summer.  The water warms to much, and they will die of thermal stress.

Maybe... but that does not explain the rainbow's I and others have caught in tiny streams or even highly stocked rivers - in the middle of august.  OR those same places - that do NOT receive fall stockings - in January or February.  Sure, some will die, but if given a chance, fish are resilient creatures and find a way to survive.  Just look at native brookies that survive streams nearly drying up almost every year!  

I'm not passing judgement on the truck driver who had the sticker in the pic above.  It's clever, and I see the humor in it.  I just ask folks to think sustainability.  I'd love to still catch fish when I'm 80... and I hope all of our kid's can teach their grand kids to fish as well! 


  1. Great post and I appreciate the thought put into it. I think going forward more and more anglers will have to practice catch and release to remain sustainable and also how we handle fish will become more and more important.

    1. That's a great point Atlas. Figure 10 years ago no one used rubber nets to protect slime. Now many do. I always debate if it's better to net fish so they dont accidentally fall on rock or what not or to just gently grasp them with wet hands...