Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Mid-Winter Trout Thoughts

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For several centuries, anglers have touted the sporting value of trout fishing. But what is it that makes thousands of anglers dream all winter about catching these lake and river game fish?

Really, why are 10-inch trout prizes to be cherished? Why should people spend good money and time to buy fine tackle just to catch a small trout? It makes one think.

Here are several idle thoughts that have made me wonder as we look forward to a long dry spell without a trout to fish for in our local streams. Here are some of my fishy conclusions.

*These beautiful, colorful and fragile game fish act as a great barometer of our times. What hurts trout isn’t good for humans, and when these species are gone forever, can our civilization be trailing very far behind?

*Brook trout are the prettiest of all. They come in four sizes: tiny, small, a handful and lunker, each with an array of spotted beauty that hints of wild places and remote waters. With their tiny blue spots, and white piping along the outside edge of orange fins, brookies take first-place in the beauty pageant. Most taken are so small they are returned to the water, and hope that others will allow them to grow.

*Trout respond well to a careful approach and a delicate delivery. Fancy waders and top-of-the-line rods, reels and nets do not impress them. They feed when hungry, fast when not, and nothing we do can or will change this pattern.

*Trout inhabit some of Michigan’s most beautiful places. Towering pines, beaver ponds, impenetrable cedar swamps, sparkling streams, gurgling meadow brooks, remote Upper Peninsula rivers dotted with waterfalls—all are home to stream trout, and humans are nothing more than infrequent visitors to their world. We should come, enjoy, and when the urge strikes us, keep a fish for the frying pan. Trout fishing is not a sport for gluttons.

As such, it behooves us to put back more fish than we take away. Conservation of wild trout means joining and backing such organizations as Trout Unlimited, who fight for our fish and their special environment.

*I fish because of dimpling rises, blanket hatches, selective trout, wild places, stream-side camaraderie, wild fish and the romance of trout fishing. Trying to outwit these game fish is for the thinking angler, not a gluttonous fisherman intent on a full creel.

*One last and untapped trout bastion are the inland lakes. Such waters produce robust fish, and for those who learn lake-fishing secrets, the rewards can be many and great. Huge trout are taken from inland lakes, and these fish seldom, if ever, see a bait, fly or lure.

*My familiarity with trout forces me to fight for them and to proceed in a manner that gives each fish every advantage and opportunity to escape. Trout fishing means much more than a limit catch. This sport is and always should be a major challenge.

*Seldom are trout kept. Trout deserve to be caught more than once, and on occasion I will keep a few small ones for the frying pan. My thoughts are that big trout should be allowed to spawn and reproduce, and small ones should be released as gently as possible to avoid harming them. The keeping of a few fish will not harm a trout population.

*I have a problem with those who regard trout fishing as a social event. The fish are not impressed by the size of our homes or the cost of our cars, so why clutter a stream with people who are there only to impress clients or other fishermen with fancy creels and expensive fly rods and reels?

*People go through three trout fishing phases. The first is to catch as many as possible; the second is to catch the largest trout possible; the third is to exact a challenge from trout and tackle while giving the fish every opportunity to get away.

*I’m in Stage No. 3, but can remember as a kid passing through stages 1 and 2. It’s easy to remember the heavy catches, huge fish and the bragging of yesteryear, and I’m ashamed by the number of big trout taken during my earlier years.

*For 10 years, guiding trout fishermen was my life and my way of making a living. The hours were long and hard, the weather sometimes bitterly cold, and although memories still linger, they foster no strong urges or feeling about returning to that way of life. It was a tough way to make money to pay bills, support four children and put cooked groceries on the table.

*I fish for trout now because I want to, not to prove anything to myself or to others. I fish because of the enjoyment it brings me, and the challenge of hooking trout from difficult places with tackle that gives every edge to the fish.

*I now fish for trout because fishing soothes a troubled soul. It energizes tired fishermen, and it provides me with something I deeply love and something to look forward to in beautiful areas where it’s not necessary to rub shoulders with other anglers. It offers me peace and solitude in a world of turmoil and unpleasantness.

That’s me. A guy with simple ideals and needs that make me happy to be alive with gurgling water running over my wader-clad feet. It beats sitting at a computer all day, and that’s a fact

Posted by Dave Richey on 02/05 at 03:49 PM
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