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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I have lurked over here for some time without seeing a need to speak up. As someone who sees great value in young people learning to flyfish, I was excited to see a “beginners” site pop up. I’m sure this will offend some of you but in essence, that is what this site is. For those of you who are not beginners, please forgive me this generalization.

There is nothing wrong with being a beginner. We all were at some point and I for one remember fondly those early days of discovery, exuberance and wonder. Included in this though is an expectation to strive to grow and to learn to do things the right way. Call this the price you pay for the joy the sport brings.

None of us are perfect and we all make mistakes. Lest you feel I am preaching at you from a glass house, I will relate that I still ashamed of my actions regarding the first steelhead I ever caught on a fly. In my ignorance and my exuberance, I pulled this lovely little wild male 10’ up on the rocks and then held him for a ½ dozen pictures while he gasped for air and spilt milt down my waders. I have one of those pictures at my desk, not to commemorate the glorious catch but to remember how easy it is to let happiness at an accomplishment overshadow what is right. That was many years ago now but no matter how hard I work to improve the future for steelhead, and I have worked hard to do just that, I can never shake the question of how many fish did I potentially remove from the gene pool by my careless actions that February day.

All of which brings me to the recent focus on ethics. This has been disturbing to me because of the backlash and hostility these discussions have brought out. I have read things like “I want to read fishing stories, see pictures, read reports about fishing and have fun!” and “I need more knowledge, not controversy”. Well gentlemen, I am sorry to have to tell you that there is more to flyfishing than pictures of fish, finding out what fly works where and fun. There is also responsibility.

Up until current times, picking up a flyrod meant more than catching fish. It meant subscribing to an ethic and in many ways a perspective on recreation. I recently heard someone refer to flyfishing as the art of learning to manage ones expectations. I like this because except for rare instances mostly centered around trout, one casts a fly knowing that doing so will be less successful than fishing gear. That is ok though because the challenge is part of the appeal. We flyfish not to catch more fish but to catch them in a way that is sporting to both the fish and us. Becoming a flyfisher meant excepting the unwritten code that came with the sport. You can refer to this as ethics or tradition or simply what it means to be a flyfisher. I am certainly not qualified to list all of this out but know that it encompasses everything from proper etiquette in fishing through a run to casting over spawning fish.

Maybe as a by-product of the Internet age or maybe just as a symptom of “progress”, there now seems to be a push to enjoy the benefits of flyfishing without the responsibilities. A belief that the new breed doesn’t need to subscribe to the restraints of old. I sincerely hope this is a passing fad as while it might seem like a good idea to not have to worry about the conventions of those that went before you, I assure you that you will be much poorer because of it.

In closing, for those interested there is no need to list out the traditions and ethics I mentioned earlier as they can be largely boiled down into “do what you know is right”. Most of us know deep down when they have crossed that line. Just because it’s legal doesn’t make it right. I f you start listening to that little voice inside, I guarantee you that flyfishing will be become more meaningful. If you find that you can’t or won’t listen, might I suggest that this way of life may not be for you.

Sincerely,
Duggan Harman
"sinktip"
 

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As much as I want to, I will not retaliate to the obvious finger pointing of my previous writings that you make referrence to. I respect the sport, enjoy the sport, and protect the sport to the best of my knowledge. I enjoy the sport, thus bringing out the enjoyment of reading and looking at other posts, whether or not they contain pictures. It is these types of threads that bring out the defensive nature people are displaying lately. If you know it is going to ruffle feathers, then why post it? Life is a learning cureve, as is flyfishing.

EVERYONE: let it be and get on with enjoying this site....quit pointing fingers and get back to what makes us all happy...flyfishing!!!!!!

~Patrick
 

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What a bunch of garbage. Just because one chooses to partake in the same sport as you does not in any way imply that they have to live by your way of doing things. Flyfishing has just as much of a history of killing fish as those people using bait or gear. We've all seen the pictures in old magazines of lines of dead fish in a boat. I believe you are wrong when you say "just because its legal doesn't make it right". If it is legal than it is perfectly OK for a person to feel "right" in doing it. I am one of those who read this board to hear where people are fishing and how much success they are having. I live in SW Washington so most of it doesn't really apply to me but it is usally interesting to hear about the fishing up north. I don't come to this site to get a lesson on ethics from people who are in no postion to teach ethics.
 

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How can you refer to sinktips post as "garbage"?. I usally don't get in to these types of discussions but I for one agree with what he has to say. Just because it is legal walk through redds doesn't mean its right. I can think of all types of activities that are legal but not necessarly right. How many of us have been "low holed" on our favorite steelhead runs recently? Happened to me three out of the four runs I fished last sunday (one was a flyfisher). I don't see any problem with trying to communicate over such a broad media about the do's and don'ts of this sport. If we all play by the same rules than we will all have more fun without the expense of others fun. IMHO there are plenty of places to learn the hotspots and not enough places of good discusion about other topics that pertain to flyfishing like ethics. just my 2 cents.
 

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One of these days we'll all reaslize (well, maybe all of us...) that fly fishing is just another form of fishing. I know many bait and gear fisherman who do way more for the environment and the resource than most fly fisherman. It all boails down to making decisions about your actions based on your experience, knowledge about the resources\fish\environment, respect, and having a pretty good understanding of the impact you are making with those actions.

When I pick up a fly rod, do I somehow become an environmental superhero with a secret code of ethics? And then the next day, if I choose to pick up a spinning rod, do I turn into darth-snagger, bent on destroying all that flyfishing is about? No, I'm making decisions about how I want to fish based what I want to epxerience that day - taking into consideration what impact I'll have on the resoucre. "Hmmm - I'm fishing a put and take lake on the opener with my kids - I think I'll use powerbait and keep some for dinner." The next day I decide to fly fish on the yak - doing careful C&R. Am I a hypocrite, or just being realistic and responsible with the 'resource'?

Yes, there are plenty of ways to abuse the resource inside and outside the law, and we should all ask our selves "what might my actions impact?" If you are comfortable with your answer, and are dedicated to learning and be responsible and respectful, then you are living within a sportsman's code of ethics that need not be looked down on my traditional or elitist flyfisherman.

Just my 2 cents on this whole thing. Now if we could just get some rain, I really need to go fishing for some fresh salmon :THUMBSUP
 

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I agree 100% with Johnw and Chadk,just because you have a predetermined set of morals and ethics dont mean that I must live by them.It is a known fact about disturbing redds,But for someone to tell me what fish to target,that to use my bait gear is wrong,Or for that matter any issue that is legal, is a bunch of crap.I am tired of coming here and having people tell ME what I need to be doing.I am a full grown man,I enjoy smoked salmon,And according to the law,I am allowed to go to where it is legal to catch and keep these fish and do so!Sorry for the rant but I am tired of people telling me what is best for me.Dont push your beliefs on me,I am only speaking for myself and am sure there are people that dont feel the way I do ,but I dont preach to you to change your evil ways either.Have a good day and go catch some fish
 

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What-ever always means yes

I fly fish because I like it alot, not because of any one else, just because I like it. If anyone wants to snivel about it I don't hear them. I just fish for the fun. Since people seem to be sniveling all the time here, I think I'll just fish and not listem to them.
Later - Brad
 
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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
A few quick points of clarification:

First off, I have never badmouthed gear fishers nor claimed they are not conservation minded. I simply said that except in rare instances, gear is more effective. Some of the best steelhead flyfishers I have ever met are converted drift fishers. All things being equal, I think they just read the water better than most. As for their conservation ethic, I know many gear guys who have no equal when it comes to fighting for the future of our anadromous fish. In fact, I believe that if sportfishers ever are going to gain a strong voice in reforming anadromous management, they are going to have to work together. As a friend of mine is fond of saying, “divided we beg, united we bargain”.

Next, there is a difference between what’s right and what’s legal. It goes both ways and there are many instances where one is not the other. What’s legal is defined by law and what’s right, as I mentioned in my original post, can most often be found inside oneself. Example, is it legal to low hole someone? Yes. Is it right? You tell me honestly.

As for me forcing my morals on you, I don’t buy it. I have simply used the soapbox that Chris has so kindly provided to explain my opinion that there is a big difference between fishing with a flyrod and being a flyfisherman. One is a method of fishing and the other a way of life. I have no problem with everyone doing the former. I do take issue when they don’t know the difference. This isn’t a C&R issue. It is an issue about the rewards of the sport. Hard is it is for many to believe, flyfishing is not a numbers game.

Finally, I like smoked fish myself and count on a few salmon every fall to feed the smoker. You might feel I am preaching to you and I guess in some regards I am, but please attack me for what I write not what you assume I must stand for.

sinktip
 

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Sinktip: I think you are trying to teach, not preach, and I admire all teachers very much. Much of what you say is true and very well put. The problem here is that when anyone broaches this subject, a torrent of criticism will surely follow. No one likes anyone who says something that is of something in anyway. In brief, all stands will draw fire. But I have always preferred fire to lying on my face in the mud of battle, hoping thlat everything will just go away.
Problems in this sport continue to escalate. We need thinking.
I applaud you for that.
BOBLAWLESS
:THUMBSUP
 

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Thanks for your post Duggan. In the spirit of a healthy exchange of ideas (and not a spirit of confrontation) may I respectfully disagree with a few of your ideas?

As someone who sees great value in young people learning to flyfish, I was excited to see a "beginners" site pop up. I'm sure this will offend some of you but in essence, that is what this site is. For those of you who are not beginners, please forgive me this generalization.

AND you wrote:

Up until current times, picking up a flyrod meant more than catching fish. It meant subscribing to an ethic . . . [But] there now seems to be a push to enjoy the benefits of flyfishing without the responsibilities. A belief that the new breed doesn't need to subscribe to the restraints of old. I sincerely hope this is a passing fad . . .
QUOTE #1
I will forgive your generalization, but I must respond. There are nearly 1,000 members of this site. We run the entire gamut of experience, knowledge, and expertise -- beginners, passionate intermediates, experts, and even a good number of professionals -- all gathered in one spot to help each other. I would guess I fall somewhere near the middle of that gamut. I'm not offended by your assessment of this site as a "beginner site", but I couldn't disagree with you more on that point. I looked at all kinds of flyfishing websites, and I have yet to find a regional site as practical and enjoyable for beginniers, intermediates, and experts alike. Whether this site is "beginner" or not, I hope you can see how condescending your assessment appears. Perhaps you can recommend 2 or 3 "advanced" sites so that we can all go to them to get properly educated?

QUOTE #2
I have a pretty extensive fly fishing library (I collect all types of books, but the flyfishing variety are my favorite). I'm sure you've read many of the great fly fishing literature as well; authors like Sparse Grey Hackle, Nick Lyons, W.C. Stewart, Theodore Gordon, John Gierach, Roderick Haig-Brown, Isaak Walton, etc. (many dating back more than 100 years). One thing I learned about the pioneers of the sport, is that virtually every one of them went through the same progression as every serious fly-fisher today. Most of our most revered flyfishing forefathers went through periods where they caught trout, salmon, and steelhead (all wild), and threw them onto stringers. It was only after decades of experience and education that they too learned the ethic you speak of. And so it is today. You speak of the "restraints of old" but I'm here to tell you those restraints are in your imagination. To the contrary, I believe that "those who went before us" (as you say) would be absolutely astounded (and quite proud) at the restraint even beginners use today. Ecological and environmental awareness has NEVER been anywhere near the height it is today.

db

"If I don't catch them today, I'll catch them another day." Art Flick
 

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As to ethics, in my expreience flyfishers are far more "in tune" with their surroundings that those who use other methods. Witness a hatchery planted stream or lake especially in the first few weeks of trout season. Styrofoam bait containers, snelled hook wrappers, beverages cans and other general litter abound. Go to a "selective fishery" location and compare what is left behind.

To be successful as flyfishers we must be observant and adapt our technique to the conditions of the moment. That tends to develop a respect for the overall setting and that means the environment as well as the fish.

I'm into well over fifty years as a "feather flinger" and I can say that flyfishers tend to be fine people with whom I enjoy spending my time. I view the "Power Bait" crowd as potential converts.
 

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That's the whole problem - too many of us are trying to draw a dividing line among fisherman. Anyone can litter. Where there are crowds, there will be trash. Just because a bunch of white trash jerks gather at certain times to trash a lake does not mean that all men who fish with gear or bait deserve to be lumped with that group and that they are not 'in tune' with their surroundings. In fact, I'm just as 'in tune' when I'm spin fishing the MF snoq or the yak as I am when I'm trying to match the hatch with my bug rod. And I even particpate in bait fishing for planted trout during the early spring becuase it can be a fun change (and the rivers aren't fishing well at that time...) - and I can assure you that I don't litter and no one with me does either.

To be successful as a fisherman, whether bait, gear, etc - we all have to "be observant and adapt our technique to the conditions of the moment". Being able to do that is what seperates the people who sometimes fish from the true fisherman.
 
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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
Chad -- Well said. There are good and bad in every sport and in ours, in every gear type. It is easy to characterize gear guys as beneath the fly fishermen. My experience says this is often not the case.

Bright Rivers -- If I may explain my rationale behind the two statements you quoted.

First, I am well aware that this site has members from across the spectrum of experience. I am well aware of a few who are very senior to myself both in age and experience. I labeled it as a beginners site as for the most part, again please forgive the generalization, these are not the ones I see posting. As I mentioned I have lurked for a while and only once before found a reason to speak up. What I see mainly is people new to the sport, many of which are reveling in posts that fall into one of two categories: 1) Where exactly did you catch it and what exactly were you using? or 2) Guess how many I caught and here look at the wonderful pictures. The first I find personally distasteful as I believe part of the appeal of the sport is the joy in discovering for oneself. As for the second, I love a good fish picture as much as the next guy but when the pictures are of old boot like salmon or the discussions about the number of smolts one hooked, I will pass. Finally, I characterized this as a beginner site in that there seems to be little tolerance for dissenting opinions. As for pointing you to what I consider a more accepting site, I have my favorite(s). They are not perfect but I cherish them as at least so far, they have not succumbed to the faults I listed above. I would be more than happy to share a URl of two via pm if you would like.

For the second quote, please forgive me if I inferred that I saw this as an issue of C&R. I have many strong opinions on C&R of wild fish but I'm confidant these have not rared their ugly head in my previous posts. I am familiar with many of the authors you listed and would agree that most spent their years filling the stringer. This did not make them any the less accepting of the ethics I mention. When I refered to subscribing to an ethic I was more concerned with accepted etiquette and the understanding of the fishers place in the fishery. The noble nature of the sport if you will. To give an example, when RHB states that he is heading back to his home with his afternoons brace of fish even though there is much time left in the day. As he puts it, to take more from the river would be selfish. In the numbers focused posts I see here regularly, this concept has not just been abandoned, it is now held in distain. For this I am truly sad.

Finally, I agree that we tend to be "greener" today than ever before. That is good as there are many more of us out there competing for much less of the resource. Maybe this is all for naught and the tragedy of the commons is pre-ordained. If so, then so be it but I choose to not let it slip away quietly.

Tight lines to all.
 

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I post very seldom on this site. I do have fun reading most of the posts. I grew up in Montana and have had a fly rod in my hands for the last 40 years. I started fishing when the limit was 10 fish or 10#'s and 1 fish. We ate fish at least once a week if not 2 times a week. We kept everything we caught. Now that's maybe the reason I'm not much of a fish eater today. I got tired of them. Fishing is a great sport that all ages can enjoy. Flyfishing is just a much improved way of fishing. Who do you think will catch more fish? The guy throwin' a chunk of steel with a brass hammered finish on it or the guy who is using a leader so small that the fish can't see it and he has sat at his vise tying for hours to come up the fly that imitates exactly the natural food of the fish. I love to fly fish and I love to tie flys. (Just because someones goes to church) doesn't make him a better human being or for that matter even a better Christian. I catch hundreds of fish a year and I do take a few home. My wife loves fish. I flyfish for trout, steelhead, bass,
crappie, bluegill, walleye. I have been living in Eastern Washington a while now and most of the lakes in Washington have to be stocked. The fish there cannot produce and will die in 3 to 5 years. So I some times don't understand what the big deal is about C & R in these lakes. I believe that puttin' a fly rod in your childs hand is pretty good insurance. I don't know how many times in my teen years, my brother and myself were up on the might MO' catchin' fish while a bunch of the other kids were off getting in trouble. Flyfishing is what I do. I enjoy the act of coming up with a fly pattern that will fool the fish. I enjoy talking flys, leaders, rods, reels etc. with other flyfishermen but I don't think that because I flyfish I am better in any way than anyone.

Tight Lines (From a sport that is to be enjoyed)
:THUMBSUP
 

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I don't know Duggan extremely well, but I have met him and I know he is a sincere fellow who cares about the sport and works very hard to help conserve the resource. As will probably not be very surprising, I think he is more or less right on the ethics thing (though I will say that as a "professional" I am a little bored with his focus on some of the "traditions" of this "noble art" or whatever it's called).

I have also said here before that while I won't beef with someone fishing legally, it is true that just because it's legal doesn't make it right. Every one of you knows that's true. It's LEGAL for commercial and tribal fisherman to commercially harvest listed chinook in Puget Sound. The LEGAL harvest rate for listed Sksgit chinook is 54%, even thouugh those fish have been officially designated as threatened with extinction. How many of you think that's right? Seems to me I hear most of you complaining about it most of the time. Then why is it "right" to say, fish for Endangered steelhead smolts in the Methow, just because it's legal? Could it be because that particular ox happens to be yours, and you'd just as soon see it left un-gored? How "ethical" is that? If nothing else, these are issues worth thinking about and discussing. I'm thankful for this forum, and I respect and appreciate Duggan's take.

I am not one of Duggan's "beginers." I will openly admit that I do appreciate opportunities to wax "expertly" and dispense adivise when people ask for it, whether it's on techniques, tactics, OR locations. I'm also not above asking for advise from time to time, or induling in a little bragadoccio on return from a successful outing. And as you are all too aware, I'm not afraid to express my opinion. But I've been doing this and writing about this for a long time; it seems to me there's more to think about and talk about and write about than what's hatching where or what phase of tide will get the fish all snappy. The coolest thing about a BB like this one is that if I don't like the topic I can very simply click to another one; I don't have to begrudge anybody their right to the converstaion they want to have. It's pretty obvious that a lot of people have opinions on this general issue, from a lot of perspectives, many of them pretty damned articulate and thought-provoking.

I do think that Duggan is more or less right in his admitted over-generalization about this site, though I think I would call it a Beginners-friendly site rather than a beginners site. That's what I like best about it. For one thing, it is more or less free of the raging egos that populate moat of the more "advanced" sites I have had pleasure to peruse. I DO NOT find it distasteful when people ask for and get specific advice on where to go. One of the things that bores me is that old "find your own way" crap. In a place like western Washington, it's a bit anachronistic, if not downright assinine. Sure keep your secret spots, but spare me the piety when it comes to how to find Buck Island or which section of the Solduc or the Yakima to float this weekend. Some of the chaps on this site may have a few things to learn, but I find that more pleasant than dealing with a group that believes it already knows it all.

That said, I think Duggan's overall point is that there are a number of ways to think about flyfishing, a number of ways to "be" a flyfisher. Of course everybody gets to choose which way to go; he's simply offering and advocating a particular direction. You could do a lot worse than following the path he's laying out, or at least listening for a bit.
 

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chadk: I'm not trying to distinguish one method as "more noble" than another but to point out that the practitioners of bait fishing tend to be less caring of the resource and are more prone to slaughter fish needlessly. They may "throw 'em back" but usually with mortal bodily damage inflicted. How can you release a gut hooked fish with any hope of survival? I see only a thin line of distiction between a single barbless hook lure and a barbless hook fly.

I've been flyfishing well over fifty years and have seen "the good, the bad and the ugly" (sorry Clint Eastwood). As a long term member of several organizations that promote sport fish management rather than simply sport fish production, I find representatives of the bait fishing "art" largely missing.

Personally, I have specialized in catching large trout on flies for most of my years on the water. I believe there are more large trout now than ever before largely due to selective fishery management and catch and release policies. For that I'm grateful and for that I will work until the end of my days.

Sure, you'll call me an elitist but remember the fish that I release will most likely live to give you pleasure should you be skilled enough to catch them. Motrality rates on C&R fish are extremely low as shown at Trophy Lake Golf and Casting Club near Port Orchard.
 

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Just wanted to add one thing, Welcome Sinktip! You are welcome here anytime. And Wow, Ray Helaers said it the best. Kudo's to him, whoever he might be??? a good mostly friendly debate here, we could all learn something. :THUMBSUP YT
 

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A few points and then I'll stay quiet...

You still seem stuck on calling anyone who bait fishes a ******* idiot (i'm paraphrasing for you - and I think that a lot of bait fisherman fit that description - just not all of them). As if when using bait (like I do several times a year), a fisherman wouldn't know that if the hook is in a bad spot (like in the gut as you note), then it should be kept. And you assume that a bait person does not understand about C&R techniques ('throw 'em back). When I fish with bait, and plan on keeping a few for dinner, I carefully look at each fish I reel in to see where the hook is. If it is in the lip\jaw, as it is most of the time when I'm trolling, then I simply grab my barbless hook with my pliers or hemostats (never touching it or lifting it from the water) and quickly pop the hook out and watch it swim away. Of course if it was a bigger fish that I fought pretty long, I will make sure to revive it for a few moments. But of course, when using bait, my goal is to catch a few for dinner, so I keep either the first few that are hooked badly, or when I approach my daily limit (even if the first few have been let go, since that's the law), I keep the last few. Usually when doing this type of fishing, I'm with others who don't fish often and I take time to show them how to safely release a fish, how to use other methods besides bait, and that keeping only a few - instead of what you are legally allowed is more responsible. And we always leave with more trash than what we came with.

Anyway, let me sum up by saying that I love fly fishing, and if it was the only method allowed in this state, I would be very content and I think the resource would be better for it. But I don't like seeing people over generalize and put down a group of people for a few bad apples. In fact, if the arguemtent were going the other way, I would have been standing up for the fly fisher and and letting the others know that we aren't all snobby elitists, but that most of us are just fisherman who've found a more responsible and resource friendly approach to the sport and have found ways to make it at times more effective and a bit more scientific (or a lot more depending on the end of the spectrum you may be on).

So what I'm trying to say is I agree with most of what you are all saying - sometimes I just don't like the way the message is delivered. And while I've been flyfishing for 15 years (not giving up my other methods completly), I know I have a lot to learn and look to this site as a place that can help me grow.

-Chad







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