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Diversity in Fishing is Good

by: David Coulson 10/17/2013

Every now and then, on a regular basis actually, a forum thread goes off tangent and becomes a heated discussion about the “proper” way to fish.  As an avid fly fisher, I often get a finger pointed my way accusing me of being a snob, which from some folk’s perspective, maybe I am.

From my view there really isn’t a right or wrong way to fish, provided, and that’s a big provided, it’s legal.  That’s my first measure. As long as it’s legal, I’m typically OK with it. Now I will grant there are fishing activities that I’d personally be happy to see go away and I do comment on them now and then.  I also discuss those activities with employees of the managing agencies when I can.  It’s my hope things will change to my way of thinking someday. Sometimes they agree my thoughts, sometimes they don’t and I appreciate hearing their differing views.

There are many ways to fish.  While I may not choose to fish many of the techniques, I try to accept that as long as it’s legal, there isn’t a right and wrong way to fish.  It’s just fishing.  As anglers I feel we have the responsibility to accept and appreciate other folk’s ways of fishing.  If we believe the methods are or have potential to damage a fishery then we have the responsibility to speak out and express our beliefs, to work with the managing agencies and others to change the regulations so as to protect the fisheries.

However, that does not give us the right to debase others for fishing in a legal manner, just the opposite in my opinion.  We need to respect our fellow anglers while we explain our point of view and make an effort to understand their viewpoint.  Ultimately, I believe there’s room for all of us and our myriad of techniques.

I solely fly fish out of choice.  I find the activity of casting and retrieving a lure with a weighted line to be both challenging and fulfilling.  Yes, catching is important, but for me the journey is more so. 

Note I said a “lure” rather than a fly.  The reason is many of my “flies” can be and are viewed as lures by some.  There are those who feel that you’re not fly fishing unless it’s on a stream with a “dry” fly.  My father-in-law was one of those.  He once asked me to help him catch more fish, but wasn’t willing to consider any other style of fishing.  I’m OK with that view, but it’s not mine.  I have imitations of all sorts of fish fodder in my fly boxes, including aquatic and non-aquatic insects, fish, crustaceans, eggs, worms, seeds, . . . you name it, if fish will eat it, I’ll try to tie it.  I’ve even gone so far as to imitate a few popular lures, such as tube jigs and spoons.  Recently I picked up an out of print book on tying spinnerbaits for the fly rod.  If it’s light enough to cast with the long rod, it’s fair game.

Further, I make no secret that my first experiences with the long rod were dead drifting bait (whatever I could find streamside) through runs on streams. My tackle consisted of leader material, hooks, split shot, and a Prince Albert Can to put my streamside finding in until I used them. In my youth, I kicked over a lot of cow pies looking for worms.  And I can tell you that tipping a fly with a bit of worm, can be more deadly than either alone.  Used to fish yellow perch this way, it’s deadly at times. Today, however, I eschew the use of bait and scents while fly fishing, my choice.

So before you go jumping down someone’s throat for choosing to be different than you, for choosing to fish different than you, and ask yourself if you really want anyone else to be just like you, to fish as you do.  Personally, I’d like to think I’m unique, thank you. I’m quite happy with a little diversity.  And knowing a number of you, I’m ecstatic you’re one of a kind.

Blog content © David Coulson
Member comments
longdraw, CO   10/18/2013 8:34:50 AM
Soccer and Bait Fishing should be reserved for children seven and under.
David Coulson (Flyrodn), CO   10/18/2013 8:47:21 AM
I've had as much success getting kids into their first fish with a fly and bubble as I have had with a worm and bobber. Having said that, why should the use of bait be limited to kids? Why teach something to kids and then tell them (eight year olds) they can't use what they learned? I think we give options and let folks figure it out for themselves. Personally one reason I quit using bait was because I figured out I was catching more fish using flies/lures.
Coyute, CO   10/18/2013 11:55:26 AM
For me it depends on who you ask and what their agenda is. So, as long as I use fly or lures without scent I can hold my nose a little higher. :P I get what you're getting at but by relating what you personally eschew, the message gets kinda muddled. Thanks for the blog.
Coyute, CO   10/18/2013 8:29:55 PM
I do like reading new stuff Dave. Keeps it fresh.
FISHRANGLER, CO   10/18/2013 9:30:43 PM
It's kinda funny sometimes when you think about it. I have heard of fly fisherman preach it is the only way in the world to properly catch a fish with a fly or bass fisherman talking doo doo about bait fisherman while they take their kids to a local pond with power bait or worms in the other hand. I just scratch my head and wonder.
anglerwannabe, CO   10/19/2013 7:32:49 AM
great blog flyrodn. I'm with you. Haven't used bait in quite some time simply because have caught more with lures and flies, depending on what rod I'm using for that time. Growing up, we used crappie rigs with minnows.
David Coulson (Flyrodn), CO   10/19/2013 9:20:56 AM
thanks for the comments and views. I, too, know a number of "purists", be it fly, lure, or species, that start their kids out fishing with salmon eggs, powerbait, or worms. Can't blame them as bait can be a rig and wait (doing something else/nothing) for a bite. However, it is possible to teach fishing without ever using bait. There are species that are extremely difficult to come by without bait, such as catfish. Oh I get one now and then on flies, but I tip my hat to those who have them dialed in, especially the lunkers. Given the number of big cats I've caught (don't need all my digits), it's obvious to me, that being a "bait" fisher doesn't necessarily show a lack of skill, quite the opposite in many cases.
skiman, CO   10/21/2013 8:16:20 AM
Dave, It's about fly fishing vs. bait fishing, spin fishing vs. bait casting, or any one of a number of other fishing techniques. It's more then that. I think Henry David Thoreau said it best... "Many fish their entire lives without knowing that it is not fish they are after." Thanks for a good read, and Good Fishing! Ski
Lloyd Tackitt, TX   10/21/2013 9:03:32 AM
I grew up bait fishing, we caught our own bait too. Seines for minnows and crawfish, fingers/shovels for worms, chasing down grasshoppers and crickets, smashing snails out of their shells and so on. Eventually swung over to spinning rig and lures. Mainly because I didn't have to spend half my fishing day collecting bait. Then to fly fishing because I love the rythm of the cast and I can feel the fish so much better without a set of gears between it and me. But the point, for me, is to get a fish on the line, and I don't care what I put on the end of the line as long as it catches fish. If I could figure out a way to keep a live minnow on while fly casting I'd be all over it. But...that's not to say that the purists are wrong. If they have a set of self imposed rules that makes the fishing more fun for them, more power to them. In fact by imposing strict rules on themselves they have learned quite a bit that they have passed on to the rest of us. So double more power to them.
esoxrocks, CO   10/21/2013 12:45:02 PM
Nope….just because a technique is legal does not make ethical or sporting….and just because it’s legal does not shield it from critique. Like most things in life there is a continuum regarding the ethical vs. non-ethical. Fishing is no different. For example the debate between bait or no bait, or how far should electronics go to help us catch fish, or what are competitive high-dollar tournaments turning the sport fishing into, ethics of spearfishing, etc., etc. are all are open to discussion and debate. To be productive the debate should be well reasoned and civil…but where better for the debate take place than a site (like this) where the entire user population is composed of enthusiasts? My point is to say that we all don’t have to be politically correct all the time. A little “productive friction” is ok. If someone posts asking for an endorsement to allow them to swim up to game fish and spear them from three feet away…I’m going to tell them what I think. If I hear of people going back day after day and pulling out limits from small lakes…they will hear my opinion. Catching pike and throwing them on the shore…ditto. Legal or not, there are many practices that are not good for our fisheries. Being “legal” is just one step in determining if a practice is ethical or sporting.
David Coulson (Flyrodn), CO   10/21/2013 1:18:18 PM
I don't disagree that we need to express our views, but also feel we have to respect the legal rights of others whether we agree with them or not. Personally, I'd like to see the laws such we couldn't harvest trophies, any trophy fish regardless of species, but it is legal to do so, so I respect others right to harvest said fish, even if I feel they should release them. Work within the system, take your concerns to CPW commissioners, voice your opinions, report illegal activities, be proactive, but always respect the rights of others following the law. Don't like the law, work to change it. But don't break it by getting into others faces inappropriately.
Lloyd Tackitt, TX   10/21/2013 1:41:42 PM
Perhaps another way to frame the discussion is to not use the word "ethical" and instead discuss "best use". On private property the owner can do whatever is legal since it would be his best use. BUT on public water best use is more or less what is best for the fishery, what is best for the other people that fish that water. Over-fishing, killing fish that won't be eaten, fishing spawning beds are actions that lower the use for others. I have no problem with killing fish to eat - within reason - but I have a real problem with killing fish that won't be eaten, trashing the water and the area, changing the habitat in ways that damage the fishery. I agree with David that killing trophy fish should stop, because it damages the fishery. Trophy hunting is as backwards a form of management as it is possible to imagine.
esoxrocks, CO   10/21/2013 2:57:57 PM
Good points. I like a good, well-reasoned debate…and have learned a thing or two from actually listening to the other side of an argument…plus, who actually listens when the discourse gets really heated anyway, everyone just shouts past each other. That’s when it’s time to take a breath and remember why we fish in the first place. Agree, “best use” is a very good alternative term for “ethical”, especially given the points I was trying to make. Without getting too esoteric, the goal is “maximizing utility”…how to get the most out of the resource given the possible alternative uses. If you own a lake you get to maximize its utility for yourself. If the lake is public, its "utility" needs to be maximized for the greatest number of people, not just a select few.
David Coulson
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