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Always a Catch

Skill and perseverance are needed to snare a fish in moving water, even more so if it’s a native variety. Of indigenous locals, brook trout are most prevalent, and arguably the most beautiful. They’re coy and sly creatures, and having had about ten million years to perfect their camouflage only enhances superb stealth. A trout can be underfoot and you might never know it. So, a catch is a delight which brings much satisfaction.

In short, to succeed you need to be a refined stalker and trickster. The trout is the one attuned to and at home in the water, not we terrestrials. Its super-sensitivities must be matched or there’s no chance, one false move and it’s usually game over. Within this critical pursuit, selection and presentation of an artificial fly must so evoke a real morsel, the fish is willing to risk his life chomping it.

Within these challenges, I’m finding fishing to be a dark game of sorts. If you’re prone to bouts of conscience as I am, catching fish, the raison d'être of fishing, raises all sorts of sticky issues. Whether I let them go or take them, their flesh is not a necessity of sustenance, so having to play the overlord hits hard.  

Even with a firm catch and release ethos, there’s still a chance to mangle the fish. Despite every best intention there’s the possibility of having to face up to a fatal swallow. Fish gulp deep when they eat so it’s not uncommon for a them to get hooked so far down the gullet, practically to the gills. You can cut the line if that happens, sending a Goth trout back to its holding waters. But that piercing is hardly treading lightly.

Really, the whole enterprise is riddled with problems. What does the fish get out of it? At best, a reprieve from the reaper and a mouthful of thread and feathers strung on a metal hanger. Imagine if you eagerly bit into your chicken Caesar wrap, but it was actually some kind of death roll, you’d be pissed. Recall the philosopher’s categorical imperative; apply no action towards others that you would not wish to become universal law.

Rationales and justifications only muddy the waters….If one eats fish we ought to face up to the kill, or admit our hypocrisy…. Much daily slaughter we already vouchsafe, or tacitly condone by our lifestyles, keeping shadowy deeds under the threshold of attention in the undercut banks of consciousness...The state allows daily quota, even encourages it, to keep waters healthy... None of these I find too consoling from the perspective of the potential victim.

The whole activity becomes a juicy dilemma once you immerse. Fishing’s so old an activity, deeply peaceful, and in the best sense of the word, primal. The ego does relish conquest after a chase, however much we’d like to convince ourselves otherwise. I also find it indescribably rich to adhere closely to the rhythms of streams and rivers. We’re so lucky to have them around us, usually taking their flow and wonder and fecundity for granted.

In politics, business and war, these concerns of mine are not only trifling, they are practically laughable. To gods, and leaders, mercenaries, or merger and acquisition ninjas, taking a life is all in a days work. A time may come when fishing is a valuable survival skill again, but in the meantime, if one wishes to take sentience seriously, how is this riddle at the razor’s edge of leisure resolved?

"Give a man a fish and feed him for a day, teach him to fish and make anxiety for a lifetime…"


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All the little fishes in the deep blue sea

I think the answer may be that catch and release may be the wrong way to go.

The trout isn't in it for a fun afternoon. It's life and death, and survival of the fittest. If the trout "wins", the fish doesn't swim over and say hello, then let the fisherman go. It gets away.

It isn't an exhibition match. If the fisherman wins, there is a fish for dinner.

That's all well and good, you say, but what about the too-small fish? For them, I'm somewhat stumped. The order comes from above that the pierced fish must return.

Is there such a thing as a hook that isn't a hook? Should a fisherperson catch fish with nets, or by hand?

I once heard of a way to catch fish by hand - it involved killing a frog, and leaving it at shoreline for the fish to come nibble on, then SCOOP, they were caught.

Of course, we make these sorts of trade-offs all the time amongst humans. Do we kill the enemy, or capture them? Do we keep driving cars, or stop polluting? Will the prescription heal us, or kill us? Do we speak up, or remain silent?

It's a tough question. The older I get, the more I see all creatures as equal. I was complimenting a spider this morning on its web, and apologized for bumping into it. (Web developers must stick together, of course…)


Light Battle

The Sioux have a sublime practice of counting coup in warfare. The essence of the act is to sneak up to the enemy and tap him on the shoulder. It's an honor for the warrior, and shame to the 'victim', that he must live with, knowing mercy was granted him in a big way.

I tried for awhile making flies without hooks, but it became an exercise in the ridiculous. Even with the quasi- satisfaction of getting a strike, it just didn't feel authentic. Sort of like those pantomime ball games played when bored and without equipment, that disintegrate after a few minutes.

For me the problem is that I'm really enjoying the activity, and getting better at the hunt. It's been a great antidote to the shenanigans of civilization. This all comes down to maybe thinning an already small population, catching more fish than I'd ever eat, and possibly having to kill by my hand something so magnificent in its form that I'm humbled just to touch it.


edible hooks

Maybe there's an opportunity here, to come up with a non-metal hook? Maybe something 3-D printed, but made out of a hard food substance. It would work for a catch, but would dissolve quickly and be nutritious?

Our cats count coup sometimes. A sneak and a tag. One cat, knowing that my visiting father didn't like cats, snuck in to the room he was in and pounced on him, then pounced right off and left the room. "Gotcha!" she said.




There was much fight in this fingerling..young and small, but wild...he lives to see another day...


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