Let's Talk About Wet Hands
Over the past few years, I've read articles on demonizing anglers on everything from photographing fish to felt boots, to using strike indicators. Some of these things I agree with, some I think come with parameters (i.e., do you clean for felt soles after every fishing trip) and some I feel are just a little extreme.
However, in all those articles I very rarely see any focused in the fundamental treatment of fish.
*Disclaimer* I may not be looking in the right places!
When a lot of us got into fly fishing, it was because of a buddy who took us out, or maybe a guided trip was taken on a whim. Either way, we were taught the proper handling of fish immediately and fly fishing ethics. We fell in love and eventually moved on to buying a used fly rod, neoprene waders, and whatever other bargain things we could afford, still costing us well into the hundreds of dollars. Over time the obsession deepened and so did our debt, by investing in better gear and more comfortable waders. All the while frequenting fly shops, befriending others in the angling community and ultimately gaining knowledge daily.
Today, you can go to a superstore and get "outfitted" for less than $200, sometimes $100. While I'm glad that our community has broadened, it's also caused a severe lack of knowledge.
The other day while fishing Jacob and I came across a beautiful brown trout, probably a good 12 to 14 inches with fantastic coloring. It was dying, quite slowly, too.
You could tell the fish had been severely mishandled, most likely with dry hands or gloves. I asked Jacob to scoop him into the net so I could try and get a shot or two of the damage. There was another pretty horrific spot near his tail, but I didn't want to cause him any more stress by additional handling. It's most likely that this fish died because of ignorance.
So, I've got a pretty big problem with this. Here's why.
Ignorance is not an excuse. Fly shops are happy to answer your questions, and most stores even offer free 101 classes, regardless of if you bought your gear from them.
If you're fishing catch and release water, or you intend on releasing whatever you catch, you are well aware that the 14-inch brown you find will not be going home to a frying pan, but back in the water. Treat him with respect, treat the aquatic ecosystem with respect, and treat your fellow angler who is also fishing this river with respect.
Moral of the story, don't handle a fish with dry hands, it's just not cool.