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Catch and Release Wild Trout

Practicing the catch and release of native trout is something every fly fisher should do.

It is an important part of fly fishing etiquette and has a direct impact on the waters we fish.

Here are a few tips that will give the trout the best chance of survival.

  • Pinch down the barbs of your hooks; this makes it easier to remove the hook. Keep your hooks as single (not treble) and small. Large hooks can damage a trout’s eye or brain.
  • Land the trout as soon as you can. If you play the fish a long time it may not survive. Use a strong tippet, and learn techniques that will bring the trout to the bank sooner. This is truly a catch-22. The heavier the tippet, the more likely the trout will see the line.
  • Use landing nets that do not remove the protective scales and mucous layers from the trout. The best nets have a soft plastic knotless mesh. Get the web wet before landing the trout. Nylon nets are not good for catch and release because they remove this protective slime.
  • When landing trout, use wet hands, handle them gently and limit their time out of the water. Take your photos quickly. I once heard someone suggest that we should hold OUR breath when the fish is out of water. THAT is what we are asking them to do. Do not touch the trout’s gills.
  • Use fishhook removers if you cannot easily remove the hook with your hand. If you cannot remove the hook, cut the line and tie on a new fly.
  • Because hatchery fish often mix with native species, you are encouraged to take them home. Hatchery steelhead trout have their adipose fin clipped.
  • Release the trout promptly and help the fish revive quickly by moving it back and forth in the water till it swims away on its own.

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