I watched as the man across the water held a beautiful 20+ inch trout aloft for a photograph. He had a wide smile under a gray mustache; his two teenage children laughed and congratulated him. The son held a camera. I looked toward my little dry fly, adrift and ignored. A few fish had shown interest, but no appetite to speak of. The day was hot and the water was warm here where it flowed through the dam from the lake above. “Shit!”
I looked back at the family gathered on the opposite bank. The father had dropped the fish and was trying to pick it up out of the grass. “Dad, I didn’t get the picture!”
“Ok, OK - I’ve almost got him.” The father got hold of the fish and held it out in front of the camera. “Did you get it?”
“Yeah, I got it. Let me get one with my phone so I can put it on Instagram.”
The father dropped the fish again. “Damn, dad!”
“I’ll get him.” He did, get him, and proceeded to wipe the fish with a paper napkin when his daughter complained that the trout was covered in grass and dirt. I watched, mouth hanging open, much like the trout gasping for breath, as the son got his pic and the dad threw the trout back in the water with a joke about his failed career as a quarterback.
I was speechless.
My concern wasn’t with their method of fishing, though I have my opinion of treble hooks, and I certainly don’t take issue with a dad who spends a sunday on the water with his kids. However, watching this whole scene take place made me wonder, is a picture more important than a fish?
In the name of conservation, I'm trying a new way of capturing my experiences on the river. I've seen too many fish held out of the water, fatigued, dropped on their heads and found belly up as a result of improper handling and the quest for an epic grip and grin to put on social media. When I catch the big one, I'll certainly want the pic, but I'll do my best to respect the resource and keep 'em wet! So, I put a camera on my handnet and made this little video. Hopefully it's the start of something new!