Ethics…

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Forgive me for going on a rant here, but I feel strongly about an issue not usually talked about and I’m having a hard time biting my tongue.

Back in the early spring, I bared witness to the most disgusting moment of my fly fishing life. I came upon an obvious guide trip where the guide was generously spooning fish eggs out of a mason jar into the river just upstream of where his two anglers were simultaneously casting over a  large group of spawning Rainbows. I was disgusted that the guide not only felt it necessary to chum the water for his anglers, but also didn’t consider it his job to educate his anglers on stream ethics. When I learned of pictures being posted by another fly shop that clearly showed browns being pulled from redds, it drew me to an equal level of nausea.

Look, we all want to catch big fish and we have all made that cast before, but as guides, or staff, or as pro anglers it’s our job to promote catch and release, barbless hooks, rubber nets, and all other ways to preserve the resource that we all enjoy. A desire to protect the resource is generally what separates fly anglers from bait fisherman! Walking the line between catching large fish during spawning season and destroying the future generations is a line that many anglers come close to but try not to cross.

Interrupting spawning fish is just bad practice, and it’s generally obvious when it happens. This seasons run of browns had bad news written all over it when the flows in the Dream Stream dropped to a mere 35cfs. This flow presents a real “fish in the barrel” situation where these large browns are forced to spawn in only inches of water.

Here’s the first picture posted:

Nice fish, big brown, you should be proud of yourself. This female was obviously on a redd if she’s firing eggs. It’s one thing to interrupt her spawn but the additional stress of a photo shoot while she’s losing eggs is ridiculous. Dipshit #1 here is giving us a visual abortion of our next generation.

Here’s the next picture:

Same fish, caught in the exact same spot, different idiot. Dipshit #2 here continues to rape the resource. Nicely done guys, you should be proud, you are the new poster children for stream ethics. This is purely tasteless, disrespectful, and it reminds me of when I see pictures of people holding up large fish in their kitchen.

 If anyone has questions on the etiquette or ethics to which I have expressed, please email me and I would be happy to discuss this further. Ben AT frontrangeanglers.com

Respect your Catch,

Ben McGee
Front Range Anglers Guide Service

Erik Myhre

by Erik Myhre

20 thoughts on “Ethics…

  1. Graham Moran says:

    As a guide and a fly fishing blogger I am disgusted by this act. Having read this and the actions of the guide who did what he did I think I might want to hide the fact that I am a fishing guide. I personally would confront the individual who did this and try and stop this from happening in the first place. If I was told who this was I would definitely tell them to stop whether they had clients or not.

    • Ed Meyer says:

      A couple years ago I was on the Salmon River in upstate NY fishing across from the “combat zone” that is the “Sportsman’s Hole. Upstream from me was a redd with Kings attempting to spawn. Not wanting to disturb them I fished the middle trying to target the few Steelhead coming in. After an hour or so 2 anglers slowly crossed and attempted to cast into the redd. I set my rod down and approached the redd from the bank while asking the anglers what their names were, when asked why I stated I was going “make them famous ” by posting on Youtube 2 “sportsman” trying to snag spawning fish. After a short shouting match and noting my grey hair and advancing age 1 said he was going to “break my hip for me” (LOL). His buddy noted my cap and said “ah leave him alone he’s a Nam Vet”, (I’m not), and went back to their original spot. Sadly this past Wed I was in the exact same spot when 4 others came along and fished along side me. After an hour or so observing the Kings they too attempted to hook a King on it’s redd. This time noting they were the same age as I and feeling disgusted with their behavior I just picked up my gear and headed downstream.

  2. Owl Jones says:

    The only thing I can object to here ( other than the two idiots holding the fish ) is the idea that there is some magical line between the almighty fly angler and a bait fisher. I’ve known fly anglers who were idiots just like these guys and I’ve known bait guys who cared as much about rivers and the trout in them as I do. Otherwise, I agree – these idiots and their guide should have their waders filled with month old fish guts.

    • Anonymous says:

      Thank god i’m not the only one who thought this. I have met baitcasters that care so deeply about the fishery and ecosystem they fish that they would do anything to preserve it. And the flipside is most definitely out there, there are some outright disrespectful fly fishermen that don’t give two shits about the place their fishing. So don’t demonize bait fishing like it’s some sort of atrocity but rather promote responsible fishing in general whatever the case, whatever the scenario!

  3. the1andonly says:

    I certainly agree with your beliefs regarding spawning, but everyone needs to lay off of bait fisherman. Sometimes, a guy just wants to see on a chair, drink a bair, and see what a gob of powerbait will get him. It’s f*****g America, let him do it. There are plenty of fly/lure only waters in the state, and last time I checked, I didn’t may my license fees to be told how I can fish.

    • Anonymous says:

      Ditto. I’ve caught fish a variety of legal ways over the course of my life. I LOVE fly fishing, but hate the elitism of some of the fly fishermen. That said, I’ve seen so many egg jars and worm buckets discarded by bait fishermen that it’s hard not to lump them all together when thinking about stream/river/lakeside litter. Unfortunately, there are bag eggs (pun intended) in every sport and activity.

  4. Anonymous says:

    The simple solution is to close streams like this when wild fish are spawning. Several tribs and confluence areas are closed on places like the Colorado River. Jackasses like these will never walk away from highly visible large fish.

  5. Anonymous says:

    BigAl can’t believe this. Sorry you didn’t post the fly shop’s name, guide’s name and the client’s name! I’d support closing the area during spawning.

  6. Anonymous says:

    While I don’t condone chumming or any other illegal fishing practice, the author of this post made several highly debatable assertions…Ben initially made that statement that the issue of fishing for spawning brown trout is not usually talked about, which is flatly inaccurate…every year the debate questioning the ethics of fishing for spawning browns gets thrown around all over other internet forums and various fishing circles and similar arguments to the ones of this original post are the norm, as I will point out.

    Ben states that “interrupting spawning fish is just a bad practice.” However I’d like to see him defend his rule when applied to the interruption of spawning fish by the CPW when netting and milking spawning brown trout for their hatcheries, an obvious exception to this rule, thus it may or may not be bad practice…shedding reasonable doubt on this notion altogether…leading to my next point…

    The original poster refers to the eggs coming out of this female brown as a “visual abortion” and a “rape of the resource” which is a disingenuous gross exaggeration considering that natural brown trout reproduction is low to non-existent in most states and that survivorship of any brown trout spawn in Colorado is around 3% (this coming from the USDA Forest Service, March 2008)…not to mention who’s to say that those eggs that fell in the water where not fertilized by a male shortly after the photo was taken, perhaps beat the 97% failure rate?

    The truth of this matter is that brown trout are not native to North America, let alone the dream stream, and they exist entirely at the expense of fisherman for fisherman (all fisherman, yes even bait fisherman). If the revenue allocated to the state by sportsman were to go away there would no longer be any brown trout to fish for whatsoever, forget a debate questioning ethics for fishing them in Oct.

    Lastly, and for what I take the most exception…very telling that Ben chose to throw bait fisherman under the bus when the fisherman in the photos above where fly-fisherman. This was completely out of context and thus irrelevant making it a great illustration of a mindset shared by many fly-fishermen…an elitist world view that that they think they know better than anyone else. Ben, if it is in fact true that “a desire to protect the resource is generally what separates fly-anglers from bait fisherman” then how do you defend wading and walking all over the brown trout redds and thus destroying the slim 3% chance of viability those eggs had?

    I take the time to write this response as there is an attack by some fly-fisherman on any angler who choses other tackle to pursue their angling endeavors and even though many of their positions are unfounded, I will not stand by and let their assertions go unchallenged.

    Neil

    • Wallace says:

      I cannot find the USDA Forest Service 2008 reference. Do you have a link? The question is 3% of what? the eggs, the fish, the waters? If it’s the eggs 3% is pretty good. That’s a lot of fish.

    • FRAGuides says:

      I can certainly address some of your points with more clarification, like I said in the article I am open to further discussing the matter. You commented on many points, but seem to have shied away from responding to the key emphasis of the article. Pro guides pounding redds at 35cfs, have you seen the Dream Stream at 35cfs? Have you seen a 30 inch fish in 35cfs? I’m just trying to give those fish a break.

      Flows are now back up which actually gives these fish a chance. Now there is deeper water where you can distinguish staging fish from actively spawning fish. If you are going to fish it, please be careful of stepping on redds and respect the fish you catch with proper handling.

      Now to address your points:

      A discussion that often circulates in fly fishing forums is the “General Anglers” stream etiquette around targeting actively spawning fish. The aforementioned anglers above are pro guides, not only condoning this behavior but promoting it.

      CPW and CDOW often “milk” fish all over the state. The purpose is to introduce gene flow into captive (hatchery) populations to produce healthy and disease resistant fish with a higher survival rate once reintroduced. The purchase of your fishing license contributes to the stocking of these fish in harvest fisheries, if you want to chuck bait for them go for it.

      3% is a good number, but even if it’s a 1% survival rate. A mature hen (like the one pictured above) can hold about 900 eggs per pound, feel free to estimate her weight and do your own math on this one.

      I grew up a bait fisherman and enjoyed my time as one, now I fly fish. When I bait fished I had no regard or care for fish survival, it was about harvesting fish. The comparison with these two yahoo’s is that our industry, business, and livelihood as guides is dependent on fish survival and reproduction. In my mind that’s worth defending.

      Ben McGee
      FRA Guide Service

  7. Anonymous says:

    The small 18-19″ brown in the photo is an invasive specie. Not native and not worth protecting, it competes for valuable resources and consumes native species. On the other-hand the “chumming of the water” by the guide is completely disgusting, and is illegal in most fresh water across the USA. Out the guide/ fly shop, shame them and fine them. Boycott that fly shop/ guide.

  8. Warren Pattison says:

    Thank you for posting these pics and letting your readers call out who the shop/ guides are. I have only been fly fishing for the past 14 months and have learned there is always douche baggery on any river by any type of fisherman. However, when it is displayed by a guide – you must call it out since guides should be held to a higher standard; they are the experts us amateurs and weekend-warriors look to for advice both online and in the shop.

    I too have seen some shameful guiding on the Dream Stream. This fall in fact in late September (before the flows went below 100) I saw two guides on the river in the willow section try to help an amateur (who was fishing solo) try to net the amateur’s fish he had on the line. This was a big fish that was not giving up the fight easily. While “helping” net, one guide pushed his net into the amateur’s line causing the fish to snap off. The guide then yelled, “UPSTREAM!!!” The other guide went upstream and started fishing to the snapped fish. The guide ended up catching it after a few casts (or snagging it) and the two guides both took pictures of the fish (swapping camera for fish) as the amateur stood in disbelief as though he had been mugged. Yep, I was the amateur.

    I think one solution for this type of behavior, without creating more bureaucracy is to make guides wear their guide licence with a big number (#123) that is visible from up to 50ft. Then anyone who witnesses douche baggery from a guide can take a picture and report them to the DOW where the consequence would be guide license suspension for 6 months to 2 years depending on the violation (from chumming to poaching).

    Something else for the heavy pressure would be to create a gold stamp for gold medal rivers. Make the cost rather substantial and limit the number of gold stamps or limit the stamp validity for a week or maybe just a few days. Further, a catch and release safety and proper etiquette course would be required to receive the gold stamp. The tail-water pressure here in CO like the Blue, Dream, Pan and even Taylor is creating some unintended consequences that need to be addressed sooner than later.

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