Why do you go fishing? Do you fish for food? Do you fish for relaxation? Do you fish to get away? I know why I fish. I fish for the chance to catch something really big. I want to catch that monster fish. I want to come home with a fish story.
The last time I went fly fishing on the San Juan River in northern New Mexico I hooked into that monster. This trout must have run close to 30 inches. Now I have hooked into, and landed, some awful dang big fish on that river, but this one took the cake. This fish was far bigger and stronger than any other fish that I have run into up there.
Let me give you some quick background on fishing the San Juan before I go on. The trout up there feed on extremely small midges, so most of the time you are fishing size 22 flies on 6x tippet. So obviously, you absolutely cannot fight the fish too hard or else your line will snap or the fish will slip the hook. I know guys who have landed trout that are around 28 or 29 inches on 6x and that have gotten the fish safely back into the water, so it definitely can be done. You just need a good reel with a smooth drag, such as the Orvis and patience. Patience can be learned at the poker table.
So back to my story: I set the hook on this monster trout and knew that it was definitely the fish of the trip, if not the fish of a lifetime. And I am out on the river for that big fish. I am out there for my fish story.
About 15 to 20 minutes into the fight some other anglers on the river started yelling at me to bring the fish in. As more time went by, my body started to ache but I demanded of myself not to give in and do something dumb that would cause me to lose this fish. I just focused on keeping my sage z axis tip high in the air and tiring the fish out. Not only was I having to fight cramps and fatigue, but I also found myself having to fight off other fishermen who were viciously yelling at me, “Bring it in now or you’ll kill it!”
This was extremely annoying to say the least. I was trying to fight my fish and all these annoying fishermen were harassing me causing me to lose my focus.
The sad fact is that even if you are “catch and release” fishermen, the occasional fish you catch will unfortunately parish. I read a stat that about one in ten fish you catch will die due to exhaustion or too deep of a hook set. True, you can cut down on the number of fish that die by using barbless hooks and fighting your fish quickly, however, some will die regardless. Fishing is a sport, and unfortunately there are occasionally some unintended casualties.
So if you are really that in love with fish you should take the hook off the end of your line and get out of the river. If you care that much about fish you should not be fishing, period. And you certainly should not harass other anglers who are just trying to enjoy their time out on the river.
In case you are wondering what happened the fish broke off. She wrapped herself around some debris in the water and the line snapped. I was devastated but I knew I fought my best. I didn’t rush her in at the urging or other fishermen which surely would have caused the tippet to snap. I knew I fought my best and the fish’s best just happened to be better than mine that day.