Blood choices

At first blush, a sport that measures success by ripping a creature from its environment, putting it in fear for its life, and sometimes taking that life would seem to have more to do with survival of the fittest than more soulful notions such as ethics and principles. But there is a lot of right and wrong in fly fishing, and the right carries over into much else that humans have the choice of doing rightly or wrongly.

Peter Kaminksy – The fly fisherman’s guide to the meaning of life


I stopped at my parents house on the New Line on my way to fishing, late in the evening. My father was there and he asked me how the fishing was and on my way out, fending off my children, he asked if I could bring him a fish. It was rare of him to ask me for anything. I was rushing of course and raising my voice out the door said I would drop him one on the way home. I drove for forty minutes geared up and walked another forty five. On the first cast a fish took my Bicouda stick, as it walked and swung in the horseshoe of current and shallow swirling tide. It was damp, misty overcast and beginning to rain. I killed the fish immediately and put him above the tide line in wet seaweed. Perfect eating size for two people tomorrow.

I continued to fish and to catch and release. On one occasion I looked to where I had placed the fish I had killed and could no longer locate it. I stopped fishing and went to check but could not find the fish. In one of those nonsense moments of rationalisation I reasoned the fish had flip flopped back into the tide. Unlikely but stranger things have happened. Two casts later I killed another fish and placed him above the tide line, dead this time. Five minutes later he was gone.

I had never seen any other person fishing at this location for many years, in fact I never saw any one at all down here. It was so prolific that I only fished at the times when I reasoned I would never see or meet anyone, wet and windy, foolishly believing that if I didn’t see anyone then it must be my sole preserve. My friend Paul was the only person I shared it with. I suspected he was behind the taking of the fish from the shore, it would be just like him, and he knew the timings too. I tried to find him hiding but as it darkened and cooled a little I realised what I already knew, it wasn’t him. I caught another fish, killed it and placed it on the beach and backed away, watching, I was beyond my kill limit now but I needed to understand.

Out of the darkening line of bank that ran along the shore of the estuary I saw an otter come towards the fish, pausing, standing, then dropping and running in that Loch Ness monster shape. It immediately picked up the fish, struggling a little but getting there, turned and carried it back towards the bank with some difficulty to its holt. He had taken three fish, I had none. He was better at this than I was! I caught and killed another fish.

My sum total of fish killed and taken that entire season, including whilst working with customers was eight. I had no problem doing this, its not why I fish for bass but it is certainly a part of it, it is a part of who I am. I can responsibly kill and eat a fish I catch when I chose. I learned quickly over a period of years that numbers of fish caught held no personal interest for me, (I can do this anytime and what am I catching them for?) The more I developed as a bass angler the more I wanted to level the playing field. I was never going to let advancing angling technology diminish the experience for me by decreasing the challenge of the activity. A catch and release ethos has always been central to my guiding services, killing of fish was actively discouraged on guided days, often to my detriment, but people always had freedom of choice.

Now that I am happy with my preferred technique, and after many years of work and investment and belief around good ‘angling ethics’ no matter how I deem the level of fairness I impart in the challenge with my adversary I cannot kill and eat him. It is illegal to do so.

Thursday, 21st December, 2017: The European Union has introduced new regulations for the Irish seabass recreational fishery, which will operate on a catch and release basis for 2018. This outcome is a result of successful negotiation by Minister for Agriculture Food and Marine, Michael Creed TD, at the Fisheries Council in Brussels last week where the initial proposal from Europe was for a complete ban on recreational fishing for six months and a catch and release fishery for six months.

Inland Fisheries Ireland now awaits updated Irish legislation from the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine to allow for the enforcement of a catch and release fishery in all areas of the country from January 1, 2018.

The new rule, which applies to Ireland, states: ‘In recreational fisheries, including from shore, in ICES divisions 4b, 4c, 7a to 7k, only catch-and-release fishing for European seabass shall be allowed. It shall be prohibited to retain on board, relocate, tranship or land European seabass caught in that area.’ The new regulation sees a consistent approach being applied throughout the Irish coastline’

Source – IFI

I am not quantified by killing fish, I am responsible in the numbers and size taken which is very very small, I work extremely hard to catch any bass with the technique I use. Deep within me, rooted in ways that have led me to believe and to sometimes feel that my fly rod is a spear that I must throw to impale a fish, I am inside what I am doing, fully experiencing it. However infrequently fortunate I am, my angling success always leads me to the choice of killing a fish or not, but its never ‘about’ the killing of fish. One general rule I have is that if I happen to hook a fish badly, or somehow the angling activity has killed the fish I always bring it home.

The activity of angling is itself very important, the ‘type‘ of angling activity is increasingly relevant and in a world seeking to satisfy its narcissistic self through constant promotion and achievement by using ever faster and efficient means to catch fish which challenge us less by achieving the ‘endgame’ much more easily, we move further away from any real and wider sense of value or satisfaction, we are losing a truer connection.

Bass angling activity is diminished the moment we seek validation and satisfaction through measurements that are related to catch and release only. There is so much more that we shouldn’t be afraid to allow ourselves experience and express.

Some of that should be a sense of dissatisfaction as to how, as anglers, the group whom have contributed the most to bass conservation, provided the greatest socio-economic benefits, who engage in an activity that creates a sense of ‘well-being’ – have we ended up in a situation where we seem to be on a path which could lead to a close of the recreational bass fishery?

As credible and fair bass anglers, denied the responsibility of choice through enforced catch and release we have thinking to do to save the fish certainly, however we need too to think of ourselves and our interaction with the environments where we conduct all the aspects of our angling.

We must make the best catch and release decisions we can with the fairest methods possible during 2018.

Catch&Release