On the Fly: Keep ’em wet

Scott Spooner
On the Fly

There is a new twist starting to develop in the fly-fishing community relating to photography. The classic “grip and grin” photo of an angler and their fish is starting to go by the wayside. There are many reasons for this, and the primary one is that we need to treat our trout better. Trout have a protective slime that encompasses their body, protecting them from bacteria and disease, and when we unnecessarily overhandle them (especially with dry hands), this wipes out their protective barrier.

Taking fish out of the water is very stressful for them, especially when days are hot and the water is cold. I tell anglers to hold their breath when handling a fish so they understand the urgency of getting it back to the water. If you’re starting to gasp, you might appreciate how that trout feels out of its natural environment. The classic photo of a fish lying on the grass or rocks next to a fly rod is especially bad if you care about that fish and want to catch it again. This needs to stop!

I know many Roaring Fork Valley guides who catch tons of fish over the course of their day and never touch any of them. Soft bag landing nets and a release tool that slides down to the tippet and pushes the barbless fly free make this possible. The best stewards of our bountiful waters realized this awhile ago, and it’s time for everyone else to get with the program, too.

The answer for taking a quality picture these days is to keep fish wet in their natural environment. Trout look better in photographs when they’re wet, too. Close-ups while the fish is in the net, highlighting bright gill plates or an interesting array of spots, make for gorgeous shots. You still can hold the fish in “keep ’em wet” shots — just hold it in the water. If we all resolve to treat trout better, maybe they’ll treat us better by eating our flies with reckless abandon!

“On the Fly” is provided weekly by the staff at Taylor Creek Fly Shop in Basalt.