30 Sep Conservation Manifested in Recreation
By Quincy Milton III, Environmental Consultant, CvCC
Imagine the feeling of being alone or with friends on a freestone river, casting a light line with small flies attached to the end placing you in touch with the trout that lay below. Noise is minimal and the area is wild. This is feeling of a classic fly fishing setting. In this way, fly fishing has placed many of its participants at the heart of conservation. Many of those who are drawn to fly fishing yearn for this type of wild and free experience and as such, have adopted a way of life that helps to preserve and promote the advancement of nature.
The sport of fly fishing is, at its core, ecologically based. Many people enjoy fly fishing because of the need to utilize stream knowledge, entomology, and increased skill when casting a fly rod. The combination of these factors makes fly fishing more difficult than other conventional methods of fishing, and in a way, more sacred to those who practice it.
Fly fishermen can often be observed picking up trash and cleaning other pollution in the bodies of water they frequently fish on, not only because it will help promote the fishery, but also because there is an inherent care for the fish. Additionally, many fly fishermen practice a catch and release policy. Although fly fishermen often catch fish in places where it is legal to retain fish, many will often still set fish free so they may procreate and continue to serve the ecosystem. Part of this catch and release policy includes a safe handling of fish. As such, fish are kept in the water as long as possible and are only removed for a short few seconds if the catch is deemed picture worthy. In doing so, post-catch mortality is significantly reduced.
Conservation among fly fishermen is also not limited to the United States. Fly fishermen, and especially fly fishing guides worldwide are known to challenge the unethical nature of poaching, environmental harming processes, and poor fisheries regulation to name a few. Tourists travel all over the world to various fly fishing destinations and those who guide those destinations are acutely aware of the threats that face our environment. Such people might fight poachers and other aforementioned issues partially because they act as a threat to their livelihood, but it should not be lost that they themselves continue to fly fish because of their passion for both the sport and their environment.
Conservation permeates those who participate in fly fishing and they live it out not only on the river, but in their everyday lives. One would be hard-pressed to find a serious fly fisherman who does not do their part to curb the climate crisis currently facing the world. To this end, many organizations have emerged to use fly fishing as a segue to conservation. Trout Unlimited is an organization that promotes conservation through fly fishing by offering resources, outreach opportunities, and by donating to various conservation-based projects and organizations. Additionally Bonefish & Tarpon Trust participates in its own research around preserving bonefish and tarpon fisheries in the tropics. In addition to research, they also promote and engage in habitat preservation projects for tropical fish. Large organizations such as these have brought to light the nature of conservation in fly fishing.
If you consider yourself a conservationist and enjoy the outdoors then consider buying a fly rod and giving the sport a try. More people involved in fly fishing will likely mean more people involved in conservation. Participating in fly fishing also forces one to always think about the effects they have on the environment so they can preserve their fishery. Being apart of the fly fishing community means being apart of the solution.