There's been a fair bit of attention drawn to this subject lately by a number of folks.  It's pretty easy to find links on social media to articles as well as access them directly.  Seems like some folks feel so strongly about this that they're even willing to take people to task themselves.  Yup, it actually happened to me.

Check out my posts and you'll see that I photograph a trout in my net in the water.  That has the trout aT least partially in the water, as well.  And, yes, setting up for a photo takes time.  EVERYTHING we do takes time.  It's a fact of life.  Main thing is I'm as careful as I can be and I take as little time as possible out of respect for the trout and to ensure it's survival.  Well, based on what I'm reading on this subject and what my accuser said that ain't "in the water" and I guess that makes it disrespectful to the trout.  All or nothing?   

The photo in question was of a hatchery rainbow I caught in a freestone mountain stream managed for wild trout and this stream is a tributary to a larger stocked stream.  The water temperature of the stocked stream had already reached lethal levels and I'd assumed the rainbow's survival instinct kicked in and ran (for it's life) up the colder trib.  My motive for the photo was to get anglers to thinking about finding a hatchery trout in a wild trout stream.  (NOTE:  sometimes assumptions are o.k. and sometimes they're not.)

My accuser took me to task for what he saw as my promoting a product and then he hit on what I believe was his main gripe as he questioned why I even had to take the photo in the first place   He stated for all to read that he had recently returned from a fishing trip out west and he had not taken even one photo of a fish he caught and released and he felt great about it.  He iterated his belief that we should extend to the trout the courtesy they deserve:  "immediate release out of hand or net without delay."   His comments included #keepfishwet which he obviously wanted to use as support for his position.  I suspect his major beef was that I took a photo, period.

Since my accuser referenced #keepfishwet I decided to check it out on the same social media platform and, lo and behold, I was greeted with exactly what I expected:  a multitude of photos of anglers holding up their catch for a photo.  My accuser used something to support his position that flew in the face of the point he was trying to make.  Not too smart!

I have my suspicions as to what's driving this issue.  Some are obvious and some are not.  Most of us are aware of the drought conditions combined with abnormally hot weather plaguing the west.  We're seeing fishing restrictions being placed on them as a result.  Another factor appears to be increased fishing pressure as associated with the wide ranging effects of Covid-19. Again, this is primarily focused on the west.  Seems like the west thinks and approaches things differently.  Sometimes this is good...

Here in the east, and particularly in Pennsylvania, we've not had the severe conditions of drought and heat this summer like we experienced last year.  Last year I focused on educating anglers about the relationship between water temperature and trout.  Actually, I do this year in and year out.    

I respect those who hold to their view on this issue;  however, my concern is that they could be alienating some anglers as a result of how they are presenting it.  I see references to "hero shots" and "grip-and-grins" and when I read them in context even I could interpret their use as derogatory.  It's as though those who advocate for not photographing a fish out of water - even partially - believe that there is only one motive behind these photos:  to show off or brag about a catch.  I believe there's a difference between showing off and sharing.  I get the feeling they don't;  however, I hope I'm wrong.  Now, don't get me wrong.  When an angler feels the need to take a photo of each of the 30 or so trout brought to hand in an outing and post every one on social media that may go beyond just sharing one's success.  Of course, that's the exception rather than the rule.

The more thought I give to this issue the more I realize how important my photos of trout are to me and it goes beyond just me.  I've had a number of other folks thank me for sharing my on-stream success.  Photos of trout and the process that an angler follows to capture that photo can still be respectful of the value that trout represents.  And that can provide satisfaction to not only the angler who practiced CPR but others, as well. 

Then there are the posts of fish which are meant to bring a specific issue to the attention of others.  Case in point:  my photo of a hatchery trout taken in a stream where we may not want to find any hatchery trout.

I believe that rather than placing such a strong emphasis on taking photos of fish out of water we would do better to focus our efforts on educating anglers on best practices for fighting fish as well as handling them once they're brought to net or hand.  These pose at least as much risk to a trout's survivability, and possibly more, than the process of photographing them out of water.  When I'm guiding I find that many folks don't know the limits of their equipment and without my guidance would extend their battle with a trout much longer than necessary.  I emphasize the importance of getting a trout to the net as quickly as possible.  Then I walk them through the best practice of handling the trout in a safe manner to get that memory shot.  It's not a hero shot.  It's not a grip-and-grin.  It's building memories!  And, NO, posting photos of scenery just doesn't cut it.  It may add to it but it's no substitute.  Let's be brutally honest here.  If conditions are such that we shouldn't put a trout through the time and effort of photographing them out of water then perhaps we shouldn't be fishing for them at all.  And I make this statement after having read a number of peices on this subject and not seeing any conditions in which photographing trout out of water would be appropriate and acceptable.  They are meant to convey that it's not good everywhere and all the time.  

An equally important issue to educate anglers about is, as I mentioned earlier, the relationship of water temperature to trout.  I'm absolutely stunned at the number of anglers who don't know they are likely killing trout when water temperature rises above 69 to 70 degrees.  In fact, I educate anglers to cease trout fishing if water temperature is expected to reach this level at any time during the day.  Even if water temp. is 66 degrees in the a.m. the stress of rising water temp. throughout the day may reduce their potential to survive.  Too, the belief that conditions improve in the evening is an erroneous one.  The highest water temp. of the day is usually late afternoon and early evening.        

I feel very strongly that we, as members of the fly-fishing fraternity, must be very careful regarding our approach to some of the issues we see rising to the surface at this point in time.  Yes, it's true that this isn't the only issue being addressed right now.  In fact, I believe that some of this could approach the level that I would label as dangerous.  Let's not lose sight of the fact that not only are our fellow anglers watching.  The universe of those who watch us is larger than we might think.  And I already have to defend the fly-fishing fraternity against accusations of elitism and more.  Are we adding more fuel to the fire?  I know how I'd answer.  How 'bout you?

Stay tuned for my old musty opinions and observations concerning some of these other issues surfacing today.  They're right around the corner...

Footnote:  The photo of the brown at the top of the article represents the third time I performed CPR on this fish over a 2 year period with one of the worst droughts in recent history in between.

4 Comentarios

  1. Nice article Dave. As long as I've known you, you have always sided on the "trouts side". You even got into an
    argument about fishing too late in the season with another person who wished you harm after that. Long time ago,for sure. I've had mixed feelings about taking pics of fish out of the water and we all have seen people more interested in the photo op than the fish. My personal commitment is you hold your breath as long as the fish is out of the water. When you are starving for air,so is the fish. Nothing wrong with keeping the fish in the net until you're ready with the camera,all the time while the net is in the water. I've fished with you, you do this. I find a lot of chest pumping and jealousy in the fishing industry. Do it my way or you're wrong. OK, I'll move downstream and fish. Sometimes you need to light up a good cigar, pour a shot bourbon, watch and say--"I wonder what the poor people are doing back home, and forget the nonsense.Life is too short.

  2. Appreciate your thoughts on this topic Dave. I will continue to carefully take photos of trout without any feelings of guilt to document my fishing excursions. I see no issue when the fish is wet and out of the water for a minimal amount of time.

  3. Thanks again for sharing more specific details about not fishing for trout in high temp waters. The great outdoor artist ,Bob White, suggests the fish is the most important part of the story not the fisherman, so keep that trout in the water!

  4. Very good article Dave. Could not agree more with your positions!