Article Contributed by Field Staff Writer H. Jefferson.
Something interesting I have noticed among all of my angling friends is the set of ethics and expectations brought to the water is never the same depending on the person or the situation. All my fishing companions would agree that a massive brown trout sucking down tiny emerging caddisflies is much more preferable to a sunfish hitting poppers on the bass pond, yet all of them will still fish bream on the farm ponds. But otherwise, the way they grade their experiences and their drive to fish is unique. For example, some think a native, wild 8 inch brookie from a remote mountain stream is better fishing than a 16 inch pellet-pig rainbow that would eat the same fly. Some would rather drive hours to fish somewhere scenic and isolated with a technical hike in, while others would rather fish the easy public access parks in suburbia where you can practically fish out of your truck as long as you watch out for joggers and dog walkers in the backcast.
The thread that links us all together is that we all like to fish, and despite our subtle preferences we are happy to fish just about anywhere there is water. Even my “purist” friends who prefer to fish a royal wulff on an isolated brook trout stream in the Pennsylvania coal region can be (slowly) convinced to jig a spin casting rod on the crowded bass lakes while avoiding jet skiers and drunk water skiers, or wading the trashy polluted urban rivers looking for carp between sunken shopping carts. Each of these flavors of fishing is what makes it such an interesting and diverse sport, and the differences help unite as all as anglers.
On the other hand the subtle differences that can sometimes divide us are ethics. I have fishing partners who are strictly catch and release anglers and are very particular about never taking fish out of the water, while others who use fishing as nothing more than a source of food acquisition, and they go home the moment they catch their dinner.
These sorts of thoughts were going through my head last week when I was on an eight day backcountry canoe trip in Algonquin Provincial Park in central Ontario. I found it hard to quantify my own ethical standards and my own subtle preferences for fishing flavors. On the high end of the spectrum is matching technical hatches for monster brownies on a slow moving, gin clear limestone creek, while the low end would be catching a creek chub on a worm and bobber. I prefer scenery and solitude over a large quantity of fish and pretty fish with bold colors are always better than bigger, fatter stocked matte colored fish. Of course, any fish that fights with vigor and gives runs and jumps and is convincingly unwilling to be caught is much better than the fish that roll into the net like a wet sock. All of these revelations were easy to come by and felt pretty obvious to me when I reflected on the sorts of fishing I usually do.
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A little more difficult for me was the ethics of keeping fish. As a sport fisherman I am often ridiculed for the fact that I don’t care for the taste of fish all that much. As a kid I ate fish and still do, but it’s not something I would ever buy at a grocery store or restaurant and it’s almost never something that crosses my mind while I’m fishing. On a political level I agree with the fish and boat agencies and think it is important to allow anglers to keep their catch, and even though it’s not really for me, I support people feeding themselves by their own harvest. The only times when I do eat my catch is when I’m camping or when I’m trying to impress someone, usually a pretty girl.
For the record, when trying to impress someone I’d recommend cooking filets in the kitchen using spices and breadings and such to make a meal out of it, but when in the backcountry it’s almost necessary to keep with the tradition of using an open fire.
Overall I think the differences in the way people approach fishing is what makes it such a personal pursuit and is what keeps it diverse and innovative, and at the end of the day we are all out on the water for the same general reasons and we all care about the resource, so it’s not worth it to get too hung up on our subtle differences.