Monday, July 19, 2010

07.18.10 I think I forgot what fishing is all about

I'm mad at myself. I allowed myself to get caught up in all the hype about what and how fishing is and how to do it. I think along the way I forgot what fishing is really about, FUN. I have been fly fishing for nearly twenty years. I couldn't wait to have kids. I would take them fishing, fly fishing of course. We were going to be the Macleans from A River Runs Through It. And that's what I did. When they were young, like 3 and five, I stuck fly rods

in their hands and took them, well fishing? They caught few fish. And I think they started to not like fishing. When they did have a pole with bait on it, they caught fish, but they always looked over to fishing...catching a hundred sunnies to their one...all the while explaining that the sunnies couldn't lay off the small poppers or nymphs. And then they didn't want to go. Not
after the custom Fran Betters fly rods, neoprene waders and stocking foot boots, and promises of big fish in beautiful settings. They just wanted to catch fish. Last week the kids got home from 10 days in Hilton Head where my ex told me Sean found a crab trap and couldn't stop crabbing, she told him, " Your dad would be so proud. You are such your dads son." That rung a big clanging bell in my head. That's what I used to like to do....go fishing and catch fish...tons of them. And boy did I, growing up fishing bass and pickerel farm ponds, then when I got my license it was New Jersey trout streams, then a little older it was into PA and NY. But that's what I liked to do when I was a kid. I caught them, kept them, and sometimes we ate them.

It was true, I killed more then I ate, our freezer always had some super freezer burnt fillets covered in aluminum foil in the back...and that's where all this conservation "nuttiness" that is going on today is good and true. Maybe I should have released more when I was a kid, but those were different times. And todays times are different, sort of.
I am reading the new issue of Fly Rod & Reel, and there has been great debate about an angler who kept and killed a record steelhead. In the latest issue, David Seligman, a philosophy professor at Ripon College in Wisconsin wrote into the editorial, "Don't get me wrong; I release many times the number of fish that I keep and kill for the table. I do so, even in stocked fisheries, but I continue to fish and to release fish even after I have killed one or, on most days, even when I have decided to kill none. But in doing so, I confront the reality of my sport, namely that I am engaging in a practice for my own pleasure that, regardless of whether fish feel pain, is clearly not in the best interest of the fish. So please, spare me the self-righteous platitudes on behalf of those magnificent animals. I treasure the experience of bringing them to hand or to net, savoring their beauty, their strength and their fighting spirit. But the only thing that one can do that is purely and completely aimed at the good of the individual fish is to refrain from fishing altogether." And I thought that was well said. When I was up in the Adirondacks and my family said, "Maybe you could catch us some dinner!" my gut feeling was horror that I would even think of killing trout for a dinner. Am I crazy! Have I drank too much of the juice!
I do what everyone else does, join the local TU chapter, fly fish, pinch barbs, use thermometers, and practice catch and release. Clean up the rivers, help the kids with Trout in the Classroom. Read the magazines. Write the politicians to stop the gas drilling. But what I forgot about, aside from all that, is that when you take your kids might have just have to leave that stuff behind for a while. Still be respectful, don't wast the resource...but you can use bait, and you can keep legal fish.
So with that on Sunday, Sean and I went over to the local big chain sports shop and purchased him a new rod, some rigs, hooks, and weights. I dug out some old squid strips I had in the freezer and we went down to the 8th Ave jetty to fluke for a few hours. And we had a blast. Normally I would be next to him with my fly rod duck-n-chucking some combo of conehad weights and bucktails trying to catch a fluke. But today we sat there like gentlemen on chairs with our fluke rig/Gulp!/squid strip setups out off the jetty. Sean caught a huge sea robin and
me two short fluke. It was a blast. Sean's mom stopped down to say hello, and later Cindy brought us dinner to have while we fished. I would have to say it was easy to fish with bait and weight in the saltwater. I'm not a real saltwater guy. The real test would be doing that in freshwater, and if therapy goes well, in a trout stream.