Fly Fishing, Hunting, and Respect

September 4, 2008 By: Marshall Cutchin

Howard N. Ellman just published an essay with great insight on the ethics of fly fishing on — of all places — the Web site. (MadDuck’s goal is to restore “biological, ethical and managerial integrity to the collective enterprise known as ‘waterfowl management.'”) The piece itself uses the sport of fly fishing as a foil to highlight hypocrisy among hunters, but it manages at the same time to be an eloquent reminder of what is at the core of fly fishing ethics: that success comes only when we finally begin to absorb the complex relationship between prey, water, and fish. It reminded me of Edward O. Wilson’s wonderful 1986 book Biophilia.
Excerpt: “I watched as Ron tied on a tiny black-bodied spinner, size 20 with a 6x tippet, 14 feet of leader. ‘Look closely, man. You can see those little clouds of spinners hovering over the tops of the weed patches. I think that’s what that fish is taking.’ I hadn’t noticed. I wasn’t even convinced that a fish was there, let alone one worthy of the effort the cast would demand. Those dimples did not announce the presence of anything large. Indeed, a minnow could have made them. “