On the Fly: Letting them go

Scott Spooner
On the Fly
A rare "tiger trout” being released in the Fryingpan River after being caught by Christian Hill.
Christian Hill/Courtesy Photo |

One of my favorite things about this sport is the release of the fish. There is a moment here that can be quite intimate, especially if this is a fish you’ve been trying to catch for an hour, a day, a season or even a lifetime. Eye contact is made. You get a chance to size each other up and you both hope the other will treat you well. Respect or disrespect will ultimately rise to the surface, whether we are talking about the fish or the fisherman. This applies to streams, lakes, saltwater — you name it.

After their fight-or-flight instinct and your skill plays out, you get a moment to hang out together. Some fish will fight you tooth and nail until you let them go, others seem to find a sense of calm. One fish will splash you in the face as you are gently releasing them, another will stay at your feet and hang out a while. Each one is different.

I don’t know if there is a better feeling you can get on the river (or saltwater flat) than when you look down to check on that fish in the “recovery room” and realize they’ve gone. It gives you a grateful feeling to know they swam away unharmed, albeit with a temporarily sore lip or a confused look on their face. Making sure the fish swims away under their own power is even more important (I think) than selecting the right fly, making a perfect cast or any of the other factors involved with catching it in the first place.

Some struggle, others fight, some stay calm. This applies to fish and fishermen alike.

I hope you get to size up a nice fish soon and look them in the eye before you let them go.

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