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playing…landing…handling…etc.

My brother and I would have preferred to start learning how to fish by going out and catching a few, omitting entirely anything difficult or technical in the way of preparation that would take away from the fun. But it wasn’t by way of fun that we were introduced to our father’s art. If our father had had his say, nobody who did not know how to fish would be allowed to disgrace a fish by catching him.

Norman MacLean, A River Runs Thru It

some bullets on the subject.  I know there are others…let me know ones I’ve omitted.  These apply to catch-and-release, conservation fishing, to prevent damage to the trout and ensure their healthy release.  Even many fly fisherman are unaware that improper handling often results in the death of the fish after release.

  • always use barbless hooks
  • chances are there are plenty of fish close by you, which you have a better chance of catching.   Casting for distance to the other side of the river will not necessarily net you more trout, it will only draw out the play, possibly injure the fish, and spook away all the ones close to you
  • avoid walking on gravel beds (where fish spawn), stay on larger rocks and boulders
  • stay clear of spawning fish, and be aware of spawning periods for the various species in the rivers you wade 
  • follow regs, always release wild species
  • false casting for a few minutes every cast may make you feel like a fly fisherman but it is not going to catch you fish.   Cast only enough times to work line into the cast and get it going in the direction you want.  You can’t catch fish unless your fly is on the water 
  • if you keep a fish, properly kill and clean it
  • keep tension on a hooked fish- play the fish quickly, land the fish quickly; the lactic acid which builds up in a fish during the fight can be deadly
  • keep the rod at 30 degrees to the river surface, not more than 45 degrees, to avoid over stressing the rod when bringing in a fish
  • wet your hands before handling the fish
  • keep your fingers out of the gills and away from the eyes
  • don’t take the fish out of the water to release the hook, if you have to do it briefly
  • certainly don’t hang the fish by the hook, dangling from your line
  • never hold a fish vertically- it’s organs are not designed to resist gravity this way and can result in death
  • use forceps to remove the hook.  if it doesn’t come out easily and quickly, cut your line at the hook eye and release the fish
  • if the hook is set deep, in the throat, consider cutting the tippet
  • unless you really know what you’re doing, don’t have your buddy take a picture of you and your goofy grin and a death grip on a dying fish
  • if you insist on the picture, handle the fish properly and be awfully quick with the camera and please do not attempt to hold the fish in one hand and take a picture with the other
  • always support the head and tail together, horizontally
  • if its late in the summer and the rivers are low and the water too warm don’t fish- they aren’t strong enough to survive a catch
  • if you’re using a net only use very fine mesh knotless nets
  • cradle the fish during the release, pointing into an easy current, to allow it to refresh until it swims off
  • don’t intentionally cast to fish larger than your rod is designed to handle; one, it could damage the rod, two, it may draw out the fight to the point of injuring the fish
  • be aware of your impact on other anglers nearby
  • don’t pull out a bull horn to announce to your buddy 100 yards away you have a fish on
  • practice “Leave no Trace” fishing, which includes not disturbing fish habitat and stream banks, ‘tread softly’, and don’t litter-to include small pieces of tippet
  • always pick up at least a couple pieces of someone else’s garbage before you leave the river;  to some degree it becomes your garbage as soon as you notice it laying there 
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