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How to Handle a Trout

Judging by the Provo river access lots on an average weekday, and my Facebook and Instagram feeds flooded daily with fish porn, I’d say that fly fishing is getting popular.

Over a decade ago when my brother and I started as youngsters, we were the only ones under 30 in our fly-tying class, YouTube hadn’t popped off yet, and we had absolutely no idea what we were doing. Now the secret’s out, and fly fishing is one of the best summertime activities for all types of people, especially those living in mountain towns where shredding pow and slinging trout are one and the same.

Before you can actually handle a trout, you need to catch one, and that’s an entirely different subject.

I’m guilty of mishandling some fish in the past. After all, fly fishing is hard, fish are slippery, and at one point in time I was an ignorant teenager. Over the years I’ve progressed as a fisherman, and through catch and release fly-fishing, I’ve found a way to connect with nature on a level that’s almost impossible to find elsewhere. Being able to interact with a wild animal and tap into your primordial hunting instincts all while releasing the creature back into his environment is a special thing. So it’s up to us as ethical fly fishers to treat the fish with the utmost respect, even as we jab the poor animal in the lip with a steel hook for our selfish enjoyment.

A net is a helpful tool for the fisherman, and it allows you to snap photos of the fish without touching them.

Nobody will ever believe you caught that choice trout unless you take its picture and post it on the Internet. That’s also not entirely true, but I don’t blame you for wanting to proudly display your catch for all to see. And anyway, it’s better for the fish to find himself on Instagram as opposed to on your wall or in your belly. No need to conduct a photo shoot with your fish worthy of Rolling Stone; just snap a few shots and send him on his way. If you’re going to take it out of the water for a photo, consider a few things. He can’t breathe. You’ve just battled this fish for his life, and I’m sure he would be more than stoked to take a breather in some nice oxygenated water. Handle the trout gently. I know they are feisty and hard to wrangle (nets are helpful), but you have to employ some trout-whispering skills at this point. It’s unacceptable to apply the death grip to a fish, causing him to go belly up after being released. If a trout looks like he will not survive after being fought, captured, and photographed, there’s only one thing you should do as an ethical fly-fisherman … take him home and place him on the barbecue.

Steelhead_slab Holding a Huge Trout

It’s critical to handle trout with lots of care, especially those that are wild and those that are native —they have enough crap of ours to deal with as we steal their habitat and pollute their waters. Not only is it important for the trout themselves, but for the generations of fly fishers to come so they too can have the chance to catch and release a pristine trout.