It's with this exposure and with these realizations that I approach fly fishing today. Catch and release fishing is an ethic indelibly part of the fly fishing culture and thank goodness. Catch and release fishing has helped bring back fisheries that have been decimated by a myriad of excesses. That being said, keeping a fish or two to feed yourself and your family should not be a sin. Let me be clear, I have strict rules for myself that far exceed state fish and game laws. I have these personal rules for aesthetic, emotional and ecological reasons. The first rule is that I fly fish rather than fish with bait or lures. I fly fish because I feel a true connection to the environment I'm in when I fly fish. It's also because fly fishing does less harm. If I plan to release 85% of the fish I catch I want to use small, single hooks (often barbless). Secondly, I always release the first fish of the season as a tribute to my father who first brought me to the water. Third, I never permit myself to keep more fish than I release on a given day. To ensure that this happens the first one I catch always gets released just in case I don't catch another. Fourth, I rarely keep native fish because I feel they provide a certain balance in our ecosystems. There is also something so beautiful about watching a fish swim from my hands.
All that being said, it is important to have connections to where your food comes from; to grow your own vegetables, to get eggs from a local farm and to keep kill and eat a fish once in a while. I am off to the Rapid River just over the border in Maine to catch and release some native brook trout and perhaps I will bring home a landlocked salmon or two. After all my better half loves fresh fish fillets.