Shedding Some Light on Fly Fishing Conservation

By Sara Golden–

There are quite a few topics that are covered consistently on fly fishing blogs. Everybody likes to read the newest gear reviews and fishing reports from exclusive locations. That’s what people generally enjoy reading and don’t get me wrong, I totally see why, in fact I myself spend a big part of my free time on fly fishing blogs absorbing those articles.
That being said, there are certain topics that -in my opinion- need a little bit more attention. As with most other sports, that heavily rely on nature, conservation should play a much bigger role in the scene than it does.

Why do we need it
A big part of why I enjoy fly fishing more than any other form of angling is how close it brings you to nature. While this might sound a little cheesy, just compare spin casting from shore to the process of stalking up on a beautiful fish you spotted, wading to the perfect position and present that carefully chosen fly just in the right way. IMG_1196A basic knowledge of entomology and observing present insects might have played a role and if the right conditions are given, you might just land that fish you were after. However, those conditions are more sensitive than most people think and especially trout as a species rely heavily on cold and perfectly clean water. Only minor changes to an environment lead up to dying fish and a collapsing ecosystem.
While you might think about big factories unloading their waste right now, the average trout river usually faces different challenges. In today’s age we have one big problem, more and more people want to enjoy the outdoors and everything that comes with it. While the revenue of fishing license sales went down in Colorado (http://www.krdo.com/news/money/fishing-hunting-license-revenue-down-in-colorado/33627880), there is no doubt that rivers get more and more crowded. Hatcheries struggle keeping up and face higher costs than they once did. People working for wildlife management lose their jobs and Colorado considers doubling costs for hunting and fishing licenses (http://www.denverpost.com/2016/08/27/colorado-parks-wildlife-hunting-fishing-licenses-cost/).
Those sensitive environments we talked about earlier face more and more challenges, overfishing, pollution and the lack of practiced catch and release, just to name a few.

A Few Basic Guidelines
It should be obvious by now, that it’s crucial to this sport to have some basic guidelines that every fly fisher should follow, although they aren’t defined by law. After all, you probably want to be able to catch trout in your favorite river, even a few decades from now, don’t you?

Practice Catch & Release
While frowned upon in most parts of Europe it’s still pretty common in the US to take that nice trout you caught home. Don’t get me wrong here, I love eating freshly caught fish myself. In terms of taste it beats everything you can buy and every once in awhile, I catch dinner myself. However, the huge majority of fish you catch should go straight back into the river. Sure you could hit your daily limits easily on some days, but do you really have to? Released trout have a survival rate of over 90% (http://www.westernsportsman.com/2014/01/fish-mortality-catch-and-release/) which assures, that others or even you are able to enjoy reeling that fish in on another day.

Handle Fish With Respectfullsizeoutput_1a
9 out of 10 released fish survive. Sounds pretty good right? Well, there is a catch. Achieving those results is only possible if you handle fish the correct way. A few basic rules that have a big impact on said rate:
-Reel that fish in as fast as possible
-Reduce air time to a bare minimum
-Wet your hands before handling
-Use your landing net only if needed
It all comes down to reducing the stress for fish you are catching. Keep those basics in mind, follow them and you might land the trout another time.

Never Pull Trout Out Of Redds
This should be self evident but going after trout during spawn is highly questionable. Especially if you see big fish swimming over bright and clean gravel, leave them alone! These are their spawning beds, referred to as redds, and disturbing them at this point is an absolute no-go!

Wade Only If Necessary
Since those complex environments we talked about earlier are pretty fragile, walking over all those aquatic organisms eaten by trout doesn’t really help. Wading is a big part of this sport and generally it’s impact is negligible, IF you limit it down to only what’s necessary. If you feel like reading a bit more about that topic check this article about The Impact Of Wading Fly Fishers. (http://www.wadinglab.com/impact-of-wading-fly-fishers/)

Take Only Pictures, Leave Only Footprints
You probably heard that one before and I really like the philosophy behind it. Leave nothing behind. No trash, no flies and especially no line. Take it to the next level. See something that doesn’t belong next to a river? Take it with you when you leave.

My Final Words
I hope my point came across and hope even more, that people reading this realize how easy it is to make a difference. Try to limit the negative impact you have on those eco-systems we all enjoy fishing in. After all it benefits everyone and sticking to a few basic rules isn’t that big of a hassle, if you get a healthy river full of beautiful trout in return.
Tight lines!

A little bit about Sara: Based in Oregon, I picked up fly fishing pretty early in my life. Since then I am pretty much hooked, always looking for the next pool to fish. I am currently travelling Europe and when time allows, I enjoy writing about topics like conservation or fly fishing gear. Occasionally I get some work published on different fly fishing blogs and might start my own one in the future.

4 thoughts on “Shedding Some Light on Fly Fishing Conservation

  1. Terry

    Really interesting read and I am happy to see this topic discussed on here. In my honest opinion conservation should be as important for a fly fisher as catching the next fish is.

    Just FYI: It seems like the links aren’t working properly, for some reason I can’t click them. I am using Chrome.

    1. Matty Valdez Post author

      Terry–
      Agreed! As anglers we need to remind ourselves that we are the stewards of our rivers, trout, and the entire eco-system. When we see other anglers fishing to Redds or not properly handling caught trout for pictures we should use those times as teaching moments, because there is a good chance said angler didn’t know any better.

      Also, thank you for pointing out the broken links they should be up and running now.

  2. rocdoctom

    “Take Only Pictures, Leave Only Footprints”

    Even if it is not yours, pick up any trash you see. I like to fish Clear Creek in Golden and I make it a point to pick up any plastic bags, cardboard, bottles, cans or other trash I come across. Most often I take it to the bank and when I am finished fishing I go back and collect it all and put it in the trash barrels.

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