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December 16, 2017
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A bridge over troubled water

November 16, 2016

The 2016 fishing season is all but over. The huge issue facing America has not yet been fully settled or resolved. I am speaking, of course of whether fly fishing trumps all other fishing methods. Now that’s power and influence.

Sure, we know some of the facts. We know there are 325 million Americans (let’s not squabble over this item). All together there are 99.2 million of us participating in outdoor activities. This sounds like a huge number, but it is “only” 30.5% of our total population. Imagine what power this group would have with even more participation. For example, look at the huge number of those eligible to vote, who actually find time to get to the polls. Wow, it’s all the way up to 49%!

Of those who engage in outdoors activities, 33.9 million individuals fish. This is second only to the giant, catch-all group of people (71.8 million) who participate in at least one type of “wildlife watching activity” such as observing, feeding and photographing wildlife (speaking of “feeding,” 13.7 million of us hunt).

With so many who fish in America, it is not surprising that there is no consensus yet on the best way. Historically, the debate has been civil without nearly the rancor we experienced this year. Things seem to be heating up more than ever. It appears that this “heating up” is now in its 11th straight year. As things heat up, so does the rhetoric.

Today it is difficult to find consensus on any major issue, and there are all the related sub-arguments: catch and release vs. fish on the table; artificial lures only vs. bait fishing (is one form barbaric?); there are even dry fly vs. wet fly debates, and bamboo rods vs. graphite/boron/fiberglass. Each subject is potentially acrimonious. It doesn’t have to descend down to taunts of “Barbarian!” “Effete snob!”

Many fishery advocates observe that mortality rates are the absolute lowest with fly-fishing and that dry fly-fishing clearly has the highest survival rate. Survival rates, it must be added, are dependent upon careful handling of fish during the release process. Bass fishers almost entirely ignore the fly-rod, but also encourage careful handling of caught fish and catch and release.