It’s been a long time since I’ve sat down to write a blog post. Between family, work, and school, life is busier than ever, and the free time I do have I’d rather spend on the water with family and friends. As fly fishing becomes more popular, the social media scene associated with it continues to grow at a seemingly endless rate. Is this a bad thing? I don’t think so at all, in fact I think anything that puts fly fishing on the map is fantastic. More minds willingly working together towards stream access and conservation is a wonderful result of the social media movement. With that said, there are a few points that I would like to touch upon. Some have been on my mind for a while, others only for a short time, but it has taken me some time to think of how to properly gather my thoughts. The last thing I want is to come off as arrogant or condescending. Please keep in mind the disclaimer that I have been guilty of many of these things myself, and my end goal is to help others from learning lessons the hard way.
Respect For Fish:
One thing that I feel in some ways has been negatively affected by the social media scene is respect for fish. Here is a common example.
Fly angler “John Doe” is so excited about the large brown trout he just landed and can’t wait to post it on Instagram when he gets home from the river. The problem is, he doesn’t have any pictures yet. All the things that he has been taught about catch and release are suddenly forgotten and his mind is overcome with one thing. At all costs, he must get the best picture ever of this fish!
Just because you saw the fish swim away does not mean that it will survive. In fact, even the best catch and release practices can result in fish mortality. Hooks get lodged in the wrong places, and there is very little that can be done to prevent death. Fly fishing is after all a “Blood Sport”, and this is the nature of the beast. My comments are not directed at those wishing to keep a fish or two for dinner, rather they are directed at those who wish to practice catch and release. One of the most frustrating things that I see time and time again on the water is other angler’s holding fish out of the water for way too long. My personal opinion is that anything over 10 seconds is too long. I prefer less than 5.
Here are some of the more common examples of what I witness frequently.
- Carrying the fish over to their buddy for a picture (out of the water for up to 60 seconds)
- Holding the fish out of water for the picture (out of the water for up to 60 seconds)
- Taking an excessive amount of time to unhook a fish (out of the water for up to 60 seconds)
- Pulling fish on the bank because the angler didn’t bring a net (out of the water for up to 60 seconds)
- Throwing fish on the bank to take your own picture (out of the water for up to 60 seconds)
I will again add the disclaimer that I have been guilty of some of these things, if not all of them. My purpose is not to preach, rather to educate in a common sense way on why some of these things are not good for fish.
Point 1. If you have to carry the fish out of the water to get to your fishing buddy, you need a bigger net or you need to find another way to make it work. In my mind, there is no excuse for this one. If your buddy is far away, keep the fish in your net in the water, kneel down, and wait for your friend to make their way over to you. Fish breathe water, and they aren’t going to go anywhere if you keep them gently resting in your net.
Point 2. If you are holding the fish out of water for more than 10 seconds for your photos (5 seconds ideally), then that is too long. Brain damage will begin to occur shortly thereafter. If it is cold, damage will occur to the gills. Learn how to properly hold a fish, or do not remove them from the water at all. It’s that simple.
Point 3: This is one that I see more often than is necessary at all. Ideally, the fish should be unhooked before ever taking pictures. If you’re scared it might get away or want a fly shot, I can understand why the hook might be left in. What I don’t understand is why the fish must be held out of the water for up to a minute to remove the hook. Just as it is ok to lift for a few seconds for a picture, the same can be said about the hook removal process. You have a net, you most likely have forceps, you probably have some fingers, so get the job done in the water as often as possible.
Point 4: This is one that there is absolutely no excuse for, and I honestly see far too often. This is also one that I myself did not understand for several years. Pulling a fish on the bank, letting it flop all over the place, and then expecting it to swim away unharmed is unrealistic. Not only is the fish not able to breathe air, it is also beating its body against the rocks, covering itself in mud, or removing its slime in grass. The solution to this problem is a simple one. Purchase yourself a net or learn how to properly tail a fish in water.
Point 5: Similar to point 4, don’t throw fish up in the rocks to snap a picture. Not only will you come away with a poor quality shot and you’re putting the fish in a situation that will be difficult for it to recover from. Learn to use a self timer (it’s not that hard), or keep the fish in the water for your photo shoot.
If you witness any of these things on the water, do not approach the person in a condescending or rude way, because chances are they have no idea that what they are doing is harmful to the fish. As was mentioned in the example earlier, it is easy to get caught up in the moment of catching a trophy trout. At the end of the day, we’re all trying to have a fun and enjoyable day on the water.
Respect For Resources:
The resources we have available to us as a fly fishing community take us to some of the most beautiful and wondrous places on earth. When I say resources, I am referring to the waters we all love to fish. Social media has made the discovery of once “secret” places a much easier task. I say “secret” because chances are, someone else was fishing your secret hole long before you ever were. There is however a balance that must be struck between hoarding information to one’s self, and sharing everything you know about a fishery on the world wide web.
One of my favorite things about fly fishing is the adventures it takes me on. Exploring new water and discovering new places that fish like to hold is a huge part of the draw. There is a feeling of satisfaction that can’t be replaced that comes when you figure out a fishery for yourself. It is similar to the satisfaction that comes from solving a complicated puzzle. As I have spent thousands of hours exploring different bodies of water and figuring out the nuances behind them, I think it’s fair for me to feel a little frustrated when people try to, and at times successfully take closely held information so freely. If you are not familiar with the term “Hot Spotting”, it consists of a few different things.
If someone posts a picture on a social media platform and they do not reveal where they are fishing, it’s probably for a reason. Trust me, there are many places I would love to know a little more about, and perhaps I’ll be able to figure them out at some point in time. Have the courtesy to let them keep it to themselves, if that is what they want to do. If you’d like to know more about where someone is fishing, try sending them a private message. The fly fishing community is a pretty tight knit group, and most anglers are willing to at least point each other in the right direction. If they don’t want to tell you, respect that and enjoy the challenge that comes from playing “Where’s Waldo.”
There are a lot of things that have been said about blurring the background of fishing photos. Some people love them, some people hate them, and everyone on social media seems to have some sort of opinion on them. Many people make assumptions about why an individual chooses to edit the background of their photo, and most of those assumptions are off base. Here are a few reasons the backgrounds of photos are commonly edited.
- The fishery can’t handle the pressure
- The individual has been threatened before
- The person doesn’t want people to know exactly where the fish was caught
- The person is self absorbed and wants the entire river and every fish in it to themselves
Point 1. Some fisheries are small and in all honesty can’t handle very much pressure. They have low fish counts and are often small in size. Places like this usually take a lot of time and energy to discover, but often hold very nice fish. If too many people end up fishing the fickle fishery, chances are it won’t stay good for too much longer. This is something that I have seen happen first hand, and is a reason I choose to blur backgrounds.
Point 2. Some times anglers receive threats from other anglers because they feel that they somehow own public water. To avoid further confrontation, the background is blurred. This is another thing that I have personally experienced, and needless to say it is not a comfortable situation.
Point 3. I think that this is the most common reason for blurring backgrounds, and in my opinion, it too is an acceptable reason. Others may disagree with me, and that is perfectly fine. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion. Even in a well known fishery, take the Henry’s Fork for example, blurring or changing the background can prevent an area of the river from becoming overcrowded. In the case of the Henry’s Fork, it can handle the pressure just fine.
Point 4. Kidding. Although this is not a real reason in my opinion, it is one of the more popular assumptions made in regards to anglers who blur/edit their backgrounds. I have read things like, “Another blurred background, what a joke!”, “Blurred backgrounds are stupid”, “Can’t you just take water shots?” Again, everyone is entitled to their opinion, but I am attempting to clear up some common misconceptions. Water shots don’t always offer the same perspective on a fish’s size as a shot with the full angler in view. The main reason that I blur the backgrounds in some of my photos is because I am attempting to protect the resource, while at the same time providing my blog followers with the content they enjoy. It is after all about the fish, so a blurred background shouldn’t be a very big deal. If you don’t like a blurred photo, lucky for you, no one is going to make you look at it!
Don’t Overuse the Resource:
Although it might seem like fish are an unlimited resource, they are not. As was mentioned earlier, even practicing catch and release will result in fish mortality from time to time. When I refer to overusing resources, I’m not talking about the many big rivers and lakes we are blessed to have in Idaho. I’m referring to the small streams and lakes, the places that can’t handle more than a few anglers at a time. If you go day after day, the fishing is going to turn south rather quickly. Once again, this is something that I have unfortunately seen happen due to angler’s getting gluttonous. It is OK to take a break, sit back, and enjoy the moment.
Respect For Others:
One of my favorite things about social media is the opportunity it has given me to connect and meet with so many amazing people. It has also allowed me to discover new places to fish, and I love playing “Where’s Waldo?” to discover new fisheries. When I first started my blog, it was as a personal journal. Since, it has transitioned into fishing stories, photography, and tips to help you have a better day on the water. Part of having a good day on the water is respecting our fellow anglers.
Keep it secret, Keep it safe:
Receiving information from other angler’s about a location they hold close to them is not something that should be taken lightly. If they have asked you not to show that spot to anyone else, not post revealing pictures from there on social media, etc., have the respect to listen to them. Don’t take it upon yourself to show the entire world your new found location. As the old saying goes, loose lips sink ships. It only takes a few loose lips to quickly sink the ship of a phenomenal fishery. Some fisheries may never recover from the damage that can be done. I’ve seen it happen.
Keep your Distance:
If you roll up to the river, only to find your favorite run occupied, move on and find somewhere else. An easy way to avoid any frustration happening from this is by having a plan “B” or plan “C” backup plan. You can go fish the secondary water and head back in an hour or two. Chances are they will be gone and no one likes to be crowded. Similarly, if you see someone coming to fish a nearby run, don’t hurry and spread out so they don’t have anywhere to fish.
I once pulled up to the river and saw that the run we were hoping to fish was occupied. I had a plan “B” near by, so it was fine. To my surprise, the anglers occupying the run I had hoped to fish saw us and took off running to the other run (We didn’t even have our waders on yet). They left the prime water they already had because they thought they might miss out on a fish or two from the secondary water. If you’re in a good run, enjoy it and learn to share.
All too often, rude comments are said on the various social media platforms. There is a big difference between being malicious and making a joke. Things as simple as name calling, calling people liar’s about the size they claim their fish to be, etc. are all uncalled for. If you don’t like the way someone is fishing (Dry vs. Streamer, Nymph vs. Swinging, etc.), keep it to yourself. There are a lot of ways to go about catching fish, do the one you prefer. We’re all on the same team and if we don’t have anything nice to say, we’re probably better off not saying anything.
As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, many of these things are lessons that I have learned the hard way. It is my hope that my words will help at least one person see things in a new light. Remember to always be respectful, and things will work out for your good.