Point­less fish­ing

The Field - - Letters -

Lee Wulff, the St Hu­ber­tus of angling, taught us a good game­fish is too valu­able to be caught only once. That was 75 years of global cli­mate and habi­tat degra­da­tion ago. It is time to ex­pand fly-fish­ing to em­brace fish­ing with­out points, with hooks cut off at the bend or even fur­ther to­ward the eye. Con­ven­tional gear and bait an­glers prob­a­bly won’t con­sider this pos­si­bil­ity but fly an­glers, es­pe­cially skilled ones, might very well.

Game­fish need fish­er­men as much as fish­er­men need game­fish. If we didn’t love pursuing salmon, trout, steel­head, tar­pon, bone­fish, et al, they wouldn’t have a large enough con­stituency to pre­vent their de­struc­tion through habi­tat loss and com­mer­cial slaugh­ter. It is es­sen­tial to the con­tin­ued ex­is­tence of game­fish that rods prize pursuing them. But as rods re­fine their skills, they might re­fine their philoso­phies as well.

Novice or in­ter­me­di­ate rods needs the ex­pe­ri­ence of hook­ing, fight­ing, land­ing and re­leas­ing game­fish. With­out mak­ing mis­takes and busting fish off, it is hard to know you are do­ing it in­cor­rectly. But once you have honed your skills you need val­i­da­tion less of­ten.

Per­haps it is no longer re­spon­si­ble to catch huge num­bers of fish, even if they are re­leased. If you have caught 1,000 salmon, 50,000 trout, acres of stripers… maybe it is time to con­sider snip­ping the points off your hooks and fish­ing for the grab and run, and set­ting an

ex­am­ple to those who as­pire to your suc­cess. Af­ter all, if you can fol­low a hooked fish by foot or boat, mod­ern tackle has made land­ing it much less un­cer­tain than it was 50 years ago.

The cost/ben­e­fit anal­y­sis of fish­ing game­fish with a point­less hook is pro­foundly pos­i­tively asym­met­ric. The self-as­sured rod can de­rive 50% to 90% of the ben­e­fit of the plea­sure and val­i­da­tion from suc­cess­fully pre­sent­ing the fly and mak­ing the fish eat with­out in­flict­ing even 1% of the cost of harm­ing the fish. Even the best rods reg­u­larly in­flict in­jury and do enor­mous dam­age to parr they do not in­tend to hook.

If you aren’t quite ready to give this a try, wait for the next trout-stress­ing, warm, low-wa­ter con­di­tions when you know you re­ally shouldn’t be fish­ing any­way. You might find you give up lit­tle and ac­tu­ally net more plea­sure from point­less fish­ing.

David Lewis Good­man Ocean Reef, Florida

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