Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Fly Fishing Lessons in New Hampshire: Angling Code of Ethics

I am currently 45 years old.  I began fishing at the age of five.  While growing-up in New England, I fished small trout streams in my home state of New Hampshire.  I also spent many summers fishing the coastal waters of Cape Cod, and nearby Newburyport, Massachusetts. I have caught and killed more fish than I can remember; from freshwater Sunfish to saltwater Tuna.  I spent countless moments treating fish with such disrespect that when I think about it, I am deeply ashamed of my behavior. Equally, I am disappointed that no one took the time to educate me on what 'proper' angling behavior is. I don't point the finger at any individual for not teaching me, but I do wonder why our fishing communities/culture are heavily focused on everything but teaching the angler's code of ethics.  To be brutally direct, there is a significant difference between those who "rip-lips" and those who do everything in their power to catch-n-release a fish in the most ethical manner.  In my opinion, the obvious difference between the two (i.e. people/culture) is education. With that in mind, I would like to challenge you and others to think about the following:

  • How do you treat your environment... do you believe water is sacred and should be clean and drinkable?
  • How do you fish... are you an ethical sportsman or a killing machine?
  • How do you catch-n-release fish... do you know how to take photos of fish without causing harm?
  • How do you treat your fellow angler?
  • Are you educating and creating positive change?
  • Do you really need the latest 'tech' gadget to catch fish? 
  • What do you do to make your fishing community the best it can be?

NH Brook Trout.  This photo was take without the fish ever leaving the water and with minimal hand contact.  How?  I do not grab the fish because you are squeezing the lateral line (i.e. tickle bone).  When you grab a fish (squeezing the lateral line) it will always violently wiggle.  As the fish wiggle's more, you grab the fish with more force, which squeezes its vital organs (not good). I simply place my hands under the belly section, allow the fish to relax, and then raise the fish for the photo.  I use a waterproof camera and portable tripod made by  I find this to be one of the most ethical ways to catch-photo-release fish. 

Here at First Cast Fly Fishing, we do more than guide sport's/anglers.  Like any other guide service, we want you to catch fish and have a good time. But, we would like for you to do it in a manner that is healthy/sustainable for you; your fellow angler, and your fishing community.  This is why we offer a series of fly fishing courses based entirely on the anglers current fishing intelligence (E.I. Fly Fishing System).  Our E.I. Fly Fishing System (classes), ranging from beginner to advance, are specifically designed to create an environment that enables steady progressive learning.  Also, our classes and guide service are 100% rooted in the angler's code of ethics.  In other words, we do every thing possible to help you catch fish (the 'big' one), but we also do everything possible to teach you to be a good ethical angler.  Why?  Any guide can help you catch fish, and any instructor can help you be a better caster. But, truth be told, what about being an ethical angler... for you and your community?

Code of Angling Ethics

Angling ethics begin with understanding and obeying laws and regulations associated with the fishery. Fly anglers understand that their conduct relative to laws and regulations reflects on all anglers. Angling ethics begin with and transcend laws and regulations governing angling and the resources that sustain the sport.

The opportunity to participate in the sport of fly fishing is a privilege and a responsibility. Fly anglers respect private property and always ask permission before entering or fishing private property. They seek to understand and follow the local customs and practices associated with the fishery. They share the waters equally with others whether they are fishing or engaging in other outdoor activities.

Fly fishers minimize their impact on the environment and fishery by adopting practices that do not degrade the quality of the banks, waters, and the overall watersheds upon which fisheries depend. These practices include avoiding the introduction of species not native to an ecosystem, and cleaning and drying fishing gear to prevent the inadvertent transport of invasive exotics that may threaten the integrity of an aquatic ecosystem. In simplest terms, fly anglers always leave the fishery better than when they found it.

Fly anglers endeavor to conserve fisheries by understanding the importance of limiting their catch. "Catch and release" is an important component of sustaining premium fisheries that are being over-harvested. Fly anglers release fish properly and with minimal harm. They promote the use of barb-less hooks and angling practices that are more challenging but which help to sustain healthy fish populations.

Fly anglers do not judge the methods of fellow anglers. Fly fishers share their knowledge of skills and techniques. They help others to understand that fly-fishing contributes to sound fisheries conservation practices.

Fly anglers treat fellow anglers as they would expect to be treated. They do not impose themselves on or otherwise interfere with other anglers. They wait a polite time, and then, if necessary, request permission to fish through. They may invite other anglers to fish through their positions. Fly fishers when entering an occupied run or area always move in behind other anglers, not in front of them whether in a boat or wading.

Fly anglers when sharing the water allow fellow anglers ample room so as not to disturb anyone's fishing experience. They always fish in a manner that causes as little disturbance as practical to the water and fish. They take precautions to keep their shadow from falling across the water (walking a high bank).

When fishing from watercraft fly anglers do not crowd other anglers or craft. They do not block entrances to bays or otherwise impede others. Fly anglers do not unnecessarily disturb the water by improperly lowering anchors or slapping the water with paddles or oars.

Fly anglers always compliment other anglers and promote this Code of Angling Ethics to them whether they fish with a fly or not. 

The following is a shortened version suitable to be carried by the angler:

  • Fly anglers understand and obey laws and regulations associated with the fishery.
  • Fly anglers believe fly fishing is a privilege and a responsibility.Fly anglers conserve fisheries by limiting their catch.
  • Fly anglers do not judge fellow anglers and treat them as they would expect to be treated.
  • Fly anglers respect the waters occupied by other anglers so that fish are not disturbed
  • When fishing from a watercraft, fly anglers do not crowd other anglers or craft or unnecessarily disturb the water.
  • Fly anglers respect other angling methods and promote this Code of Angling Ethics to all anglers.