Can Anglers and Trout Have Mutual Admiration for Each Other?

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This photograph reminds me of the blissful feeling I’m overcome with, just before I release a big beautiful trout back into the wild. There’s something very special about the last few seconds that an angler spends with his/her prized catch before it’s released. Everything seems to slow down, almost as though God is making sure we have time to capture the splendidness of the moment. I like to pretend that when our eyes lock, we mutually feel admiration for each other. I respect the trout for it’s majestic beauty and the thrill of the hunt. The trout in return respects me for my angling skills and belief in catch and release.  

I’ve often thought about what it would be like to come back as a trout in my next life. I joke  around with buddies that if I was a trout, I’d be one of the first one’s to be caught out. After all, I’m always saying, “If I was a fish, I’d eat that fly.” In the off chance that there is such a thing as reincarnation on this planet, and some of us do go on to become trout in our next life, it would make sense that some trout would already know being caught is inevitable. As depressing and unpleasant as it must be for a trout to be caught, I wonder if there is some sort of similar blissful-like feeling that a trout is overcome with, when it looks out of the net after being landed, and sees the smile of a catch and release fly fisherman. None of this probably happens, but these are some of the reasons why I love fly fishing so much. You just never really know do you?

Keep it Reel,

Come fish with us in the Bahamas!

Kent Klewein
Gink & Gasoline
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20 thoughts on “Can Anglers and Trout Have Mutual Admiration for Each Other?

  1. I think Oh My God – is this real? I take in the beauty of each fish, noting something unique about it’s color, spots, spunk, and then I talk to it. It’ll be over soon, thanks for letting me get a glimpse of you and the challenge. Like the one in this net – I know my Dad sent it my way. Kent – you’ve been there on a few of those moments. Thanks.

    • Carolyn,

      If there’s anyone that gets this post, it’s surely you my friend. You appreciate every trout and will never become a fly snob. I love it when I guide you and we talk about your Dad watching over you and you saying, “That’s Dad, all right, he’s messing with me again.” Man he’s got to be proud of the fly fisher you’ve turned into. We need to get on the water again soon. It’s been far too long.


  2. Glory to the Creator of these wonders! We are apart of living art in motion. From the drift, to the hook set, to the fight, and finally the embrace and release. Its hard for us to know what perfection is, but this is one of the pure things has to be really close. I do think there is a moment with mutual respect for each others fighting skill and I know the fish and the angler both thank God for it all. Its the stuff great art and well written books are made of!

  3. I’m always so paranoid about handling it too much and releasing it quickly that I can barely remember what it looked like. I need to slow down, keep the fish in the net in the water for a second to admire it more.

    • Eric,

      Admiring the fish in the net and in the water is the way to go and it’s really good for the fish b/c the net acts as a cradle, allowing it to catch its breath before the release. Far too many people release a fish after a long fight without adequately giving the fish time to revive. Thx for comment.


  4. Kent,

    I enjoy admiring every fish I catch, large or small. When I am fishing out west, many of my guides release the fish so quickly I never get a good look, or a look at all. When I ask them to slow down a bit I get the death stare.

    I’m not asking to handle the fish, just want to admire that sucker for a minute (whitefish excluded). The guide fishes every day and sees thousands of trout a year but I don’t. Suggestions for how i tactfully tell my guide to give it a minute so I can inspect each fish?

    • Tim,

      I agree with you. I probably shouldn’t have mentioned “big beautiful” b/c it made me sound like I don’t appreciate the smaller fish as much. That’s not the case at all.

      As for releasing the fish too quickly, I’ve probably done that a time or too but I do try to let the client admire their catch. It’s really important. Thank you for the great comment.


  5. Awesome read. Fish are wild beautiful creatures. It amazes me how many people think the other way. Catch and kill them all, like they are a never ending resource. I wish more people could see that the colors of a fish are more vibrant when it is swimming, not hanging on the dock. I had a young teenager fishing with me in AK a while back and he caught a big beautiful leopard rainbow. We looked at the fish in the net and I marveled at the colors/spots/size. As, I tried to point out how flawless and beautiful the fish was all the kid could say was “can we keep it, can we kill it? I bet “that thing” would be delicious”. I guess if you can’t see it you never will.

    • Jmac,

      Been there a time or two, even in AK when I guided there. It really is hard to educate and change the way people look at life when they grew up and were taught to harvest. Doesn’t mean we shouldn’t continue trying though.


  6. To be honest at first I thought, “What a strange title” and then I read it and found the message interesting and it got me to thinking.

    Many of us have the primordial instinct to hunt. It’s been in our genes for tens’ of thousands’ of years. Fishing allows us to exercise this instinct, but flyfishing in particular, allows us to do this in a very modern and evolved way. We call it “Catch & Release”.

    As anglers we still hunt, but we do not have the need to kill everything we catch. We cannot deny our ancestral origins, but we can develop our primordial instincts to be more sophisticated and considerate, after all you never know the day may come when we will need to hunt again in earnest.

    Releasing a fish back into the wild is a rewarding and satisfying experience and I don’t know of any form of “hunting” that can do this (There probably is, but I haven’t given it much thought). It’s a sort of “thank you for allowing me to catch you, I want to give you back to the place you came from” type of experience.

  7. The bliss of release. I like that 🙂 I have a short video on my work desktop that I turn to whenever I need to be rejuvenated. The guide I was with was experimenting with an underwater camera, he caught me releasing a chrome rocket. It makes me smile just thinking about it.

    Special request – if you have your logo in a black and white . jpg send it to me.

  8. Pingback: Can Anglers and Trout Have Mutual Admiration for Each Other? | Fly Fishing | Gink and Gasoline | How to Fly Fish | Trout Fishing | Fly Tying - The Fly Fishing Daily

  9. Reading this post and everyone’s thoughts on the matter I find that, along with myself, we all share the same emotions and admiration towards our quarry that chase far and wide. I’ve caught trout that I’ve just been completely enamoured with because of their amazing colors and characteristics, no matter their size. I did however catch a huge brown this past spring. It was an amazing string of events that ended up in my favor with the big male in my net. That fish was simply amazing, and that one fish that I’d been wanting for a long long time. As I revived it, I actually sat in the current with it in order to examine and admire it as long as I could. I wanted to be as close to that fish and his environment as I could get, while still doing the right thing by getting him back in the water quickly, and unharmed. Watching him glide off I just took in a nice deep breath, took a look above, and sat there for another few minutes before getting back to fishing. It was an amazing feeling, and it was shared with some great friends. This is why I do what I do.

    • Justin,

      It was really nice reading everyone’s comments on this post. It really allows us to reflect back on those special moments on the water. I wish I would have been there when you got that big brown. Hopefully, I’ll be around for the next trophy you catch. Thanks for the comment.


  10. I’m a Photography teacher out of Crystal Lake, Illinois… I discovered your blog because I’m a Fly Fishing addict… what you guys do is absolutely amazing I’m always a little jealous.. I think there is a certain disconnect in life where we are not able to make the connections with other people that we used to.. when you fish you are connected and there is respect this wonderful respect for the chase and for the fish and I think that when the net opens and the fish swims off there’s a mutual respect for sure! I’m so glad I read this!!

    Thanks for all that you guys do!

  11. Catch and release is kind of hard to explain to some folks. Actually most people do not understand with the exception of the tribe of respectful fishermen including those who have written here. Catching and releasing is sort of like the serious game western plains Indians engaged in called “counting coup.” The most prestigious method was to touch an enemy warrior with a hand, bow, or coup stick and escape unharmed. Obviously the enemy was unhurt in the process. That way prowess and prestige were measured by recounting the exploits and counting coup without injuring the opponent. Isn’t this essentially what we do with catch and release? I consider trout a most worthy adversary, and it is a privilege to be able to engage them in sometimes epic sometimes serene battles where hopefully we both escape unharmed.

  12. I have great respect for the trout , my favorite fish and am all in on your description of their beauty and wonder , but the part of the trout respecting us is utter BS .Fishing is a blood sport Where the trout is the victim . When the trout is hooked it is utter terror for them. They are injured both physically and mentally and sometimes don’t survive the ordeal. Although I truly love fly fishing I don’t try to change the fact of what is going on . Some people will criticize me for my point of view but so be it. As catch & release anglers we do our best for the trout and our sport . Sorry if I offend some of you with my opinion .

  13. One of my favorite David Duncan pieces is his story of being confronted by a PETA rep at a (TU?) banquet about the cruelty of catch and release fly fishing. He weaves this wonderful, poetic response describing he experience from the perspective of a trout – that they are happily munching on mayflies until they eat the mayfly from hell that drags them across the river and they cannot get away from, until a kindly fly fishermen sets them free from this demon bug – causing the trout to see the fisherman as this kindly god! I believe it is in a collection of this stories called “Riverteeth”.

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