The Gunnison Country offers up some of the best fly fishing in the entire centennial state. Keeping our fisheries healthy and thriving, however, is a team effort that begins with anglers on the stream. Science has proven the effectiveness of catch and release fishing through high survival rates – if performed properly. Here are several tips to ensure healthy catch and release fly fishing for your many piscatorial pursuits.
- Beef up your tackle. Use tackle that is heavy enough to play a fish quickly without exhausting the fish. Extremely light tackle may seem sportier, but it usually isn’t necessary and ends up causing excessively long fights. Always try to bring the fish to net as quickly as you can.
- Go Barbless. Whether you buy flies or tie your own, pinching down the barb of the hooks before they make it into your fly box is a great habit. A barbless hook comes out of a fish in the net (or your shirt) with ease, eliminating time consuming fly retrieval. This allows you to remove hooks quickly with hemostats without even handling the fish.
- Keep ‘em wet. Imagine running a mile and then holding your breath immediately after crossing the finish line. This is what a trout goes through if you remove it from the water after netting the fish. Trout need to remain in the water to revive from the trauma of the fight.
- Photos: make them quick! Keep the fish submerged in the net until the camera and photographer are in place and ready to snap the photo. Wet your hands gently cradling the fish up from below the belly and the “wrist” of the tail. Do not squeeze the fish and don’t touch the delicate gills, mouth, or eyes of the fish. Simply hold the fish up quickly for a photo and return it to the water. The fish should not be out of the water for more than 5 seconds.
- Revive the fish slowly. Gently hold the fish facing upstream in mellow current. Wait for the fish to swim away under its own power out of your hands. Don’t move the fish vigorously forward and back as this does not allow the gills to function properly.
With more and more people fly fishing the Gunnison Country, it is more imperative than ever to practice these techniques. Hopefully with these easy tips you will feel more confident in releasing healthy fish back into the river to be caught another day!
Patrick Blackdale is the Assistant Outfitting Manager, and a fly fishing guide at Three Rivers Resort in Almont, Colorado. He guides on all of the local rivers including the Gunnison, Taylor, and East Rivers. Three Rivers Resort is the perfect base camp for a variety of fishing adventures. The resort offers cabins, lodge rooms, and vacation homes plus a full fly shop and Orvis Endorsed guide service with premium leases for private fishing on local ranch lands. Contact at 970-641-1303 or www.3riversresort.com.