Boise Valley Fly Fishers
Since 1971


Handle with Care While Capturing Memories for Life

30 Aug 2022 7:56 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

By Dave Shuldes

As I write this I have just put the finishing touches on flies for my annual trip above 8,000 feet in Central Idaho. I love the staging of gear nearly as much as the trip itself. There’s only one shot at getting the kit right for a week in the wilderness, so every detail is double-checked. My fishing won’t be measured by numbers. A few photos of some exceptional fish along with the adventure and the camaraderie of a safe backpacking trip with friends will be all I need.

In addition to taking care of my gear and my friends, one of my goals will be to appreciate and take care of the fish found in these alpine lakes. Just like my camping list, this involves details. When a beautiful alpine lakes’ brookie, cutthroat, golden, grayling or rainbow comes to hand, I’ll show my appreciation for the fish by using these guidelines:

  • I’ll use barbless hooks.
  • I’ll keep my hands wet while handling the fish and will cradle it rather than squeezing it.
  • I won’t touch the fish and will keep it from touching dry surfaces like rocks and grass.
  • I’ll keep the fish in the water as long as possible, minimizing air exposure and handling time.

“Take only photos, leave only footprints” as backpackers say. Photos are a key part of my passion for fly fishing and the wilderness. But I won’t appear in any of those fish pictures… I’ll save that for a group shot at the camp. The fish itself is the main event. I don’t stress every fish with the photo process - I will limit that to the memorable ones. Some fish are extraordinary, not only by size but also by vibrancy and markings. I’m looking for colors, spots and details to appear in the frame. Flared fins and a submerged head are a bonus. Ideally the fish will be swimming in the water on the end of the line (to me it’s worth the risk of losing the fish before the photo is taken). I’ll have everything set up on my camera long before the fish is hooked. Holding the fish by the line with the hook still in its mouth in shallow water, I’ll shoot a rapid succession of random shots. I can crop, discard and edit later on. I’ll minimize the photo session time with any one fish and release it quickly after one series of shots.

For river fishing, I’ll add use of a net to my fish handling and take special care to release quickly when water temps are warm. Using the net as a “live well” to hold the fish while it’s reviving is a great opportunity to frame a vibrant swimming photo.

A fish mortality study by R.A. Ferguson and B.L. Tufts considered time a trout was held out of the water. Their findings showed that fish released and kept in the water had a mortality rate of 12%. Fish lifted from the water for 30 seconds had a 38% mortality rate. 72% of the fish held out of water for a full minute died. All research has its flaws, but holding fish out of the water can be harmful if not lethal. I would like to think that most fish handled in the manner above can potentially spawn and be available to another angler in the future. Taking care of the fish in this way is a great fit with our BVFF Angling Code.

I absolutely love what wilderness fly fishing adds to my enjoyment of life. I am so grateful for the wildlife resources we have to enjoy in Idaho. In return I want to appreciate the life involved and treat it well. Tight lines everyone!

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