Sustainable fly fishing for beginners

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 Photo: Coty PerryPhoto: Coty Perry


By Coty Perry
With issues such as overfishing gaining more attention day after day, recreational and professional anglers are in the hot seat. People are starting to notice that fishing can actually be quite hazardous to our environment.
Hunters have been front and center for years now while fishermen (and women) were able to fly under the radar but that’s quickly changing. With as much as 90% of the ocean's fish stock depleted, it’s time to take notice. As a recreational angler, it’s time to take conservation seriously and realize that one person can make a difference. We must protect the water we love and become an advocate for respecting it. 
If I can change one person’s opinion in this article, I’ve done my job. It’s time to make a change and recreational fly anglers have the power to do so. 


Tranquil fishing on the river. Photo: Coty PerryTranquil fishing on the river. Photo: Coty Perry

What is sustainable fly fishing? 
What exactly is sustainable fly fishing? What does it mean to practice fishing in a sustainable way? Let's break it down into a few categories. 
Fish stock - You’re respecting the fish stock and realizing that you can only take so much for a reason. Every country and location within that country has a catch limit referring to how many fish you can take for consumption. Follow those rules and encourage others to do so. 
Leave No Trace - The “leave no trace” principles were created not only for fishing but for outdoor recreation in general. Through science and education, this organization was able to produce seven principles that everyone should follow when outdoors. They’re self-explanatory but very important. 
Effective management - While this point may be above most of our heads, conservation managers have a crucial role to play in protecting the water. They need to enforce the laws put in place and ensure that no one is taking more fish than they’re supposed to or using illegal fishing methods to deplete the fish stock. 
Does this even apply to recreational fishing? 
The big question is whether or not this should even apply to your typical fishermen going out to the lake on a Saturday morning. Is that one person really causing that much damage to our waters? 
The short answer is, no. But, after years and years of abuse from hundreds of thousands of people, yes. It’s all about awareness. When you’re aware of something being done improperly, you can then start to implement the changes in your life in the hopes of trickling that down to someone else. Soon we have a generation of ecologically responsible anglers who understand the importance of protecting the water we fish. 

"Handle your trout as little as possible." Photo: Coty Perry"Handle your trout as little as possible." Photo: Coty Perry


Four crucial sustainable fly fishing practices 
For the fly fishermen out there, here are four things you can start doing right now to make a difference. 
Lead-Free - Go lead-free with your flies and swivels. The lead in the water can cause health problems for fish and the wildlife that drink the water. Lead-free materials are becoming more popular thus easier to find online and in stores. 
Handle properly - It drives me insane when I see someone holding a rainbow trout by the mouth like they would a largemouth bass. What you’ve done is actually broke their jaw because it’s not meant to bend back like that and now they’ll slowly die because they can’t snap on their prey. You NEED to know how to handle a fish properly and do so as little as possible. 
Take only what you need - Just because you may be able to take six trout, doesn’t mean you should. Will you eat that many? How will you store it? Do you have freezer space? Will you actually eat it or just leave it in the freezer until it’s time to clean it out? Ask yourself these questions and don’t just take fish simply because you can. 
Clean up - One misconception about a lot of anglers is that they’re only there to drink beer and cause trouble. Some people love the sport and are actually out there to catch fish. There’s nothing wrong with having a good time but you need to clean up after yourself. Don’t throw anything in the water and whatever you brought, goes home with you. 
Final thoughts 
Just as you would implement the proper steps to prevent drowning, you need to help prevent our fish stock from depleting even further. Everything in this article is important and all fly fishermen have a role to play. Don’t think it’s only for the big guys, the little guys can make a difference too. 

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