Last week’s column on fly fishing with ultra- ultralight fly rods rallied enthusiasm among some readers while simply riling others.
A few anglers wanted more details about the 0000-weight rod that Lee Elton of Inchelium has used to catch big Lake Rufus Woods triploid rainbows, including a recent 25-pounder.
Elton made the rod from a Sage TXL series blank and fished with a 2-weight sinking line (difficult to find nowadays) cut back to match the rod action and fastened to a running line.
A notable clarification: He ties leaders down to 4-pound-test using Spider’s monofilament line, not braided line as I reported last week.
But while some anglers focused on the tools, others said, “Wait! What about the fish?”
Pursuing large fish with undersized rods and outmatched tippets can lead to a fish’s demise as surely as putting it on the barbecue, they say.
The issue isn’t with fish an angler harvests to eat, but rather with those that are released supposedly to challenge anglers another day.
“To some extent, you have left the impression that this is an approach to be emulated by others,” e-mailed Jerry McBride, an ardent angler and Inland Empire Fly Fishing Club member.
“There is definitely a down-side to using these light rods particularly in catch-and-release waters. Playing a fish down to the point where it cannot even wiggle and then releasing it is wrong.
“I’m sure many of these fish swim off and then die.”
Survival rates aren’t an issue in the case of Elton’s 25-pounder, which he reportedly landed after a 25-minute battle. He bonked the lunker to have it mounted.
On the other hand, he contends that with some practice, a person can land a large fish as quickly with an ultra-ultralight as with a rod more conventionally matched to the quarry.
Anyone who doesn’t believe that can see for himself.
Elton – whose 57 years of fly fishing include relationships with Fenwick’s legendary rod designer Jim Green and Sage Rods founder Don Green– says he’s starting an Inchelium-based guide service called “Lite Line Fishing Adventures.”
“I provide all the gear,” he said. “I’ll start anglers with a 3-weight rod and work down from there depending on how they do.”
Nevertheless, McBride’s objection is backed by science.
Numerous studies over the past 15 years have explored hooking mortality in sport fishing.
According to Steven Cooke, University of British Columbia fisheries biologist, five clear patterns emerge from the body of research on catch-and-release fishing that should be applicable to virtually any catch-and-release fishery:
1. Duration of the angling event increases the physiological disturbance.
2. Air exposure is harmful to fish and should be minimized.
3. Extreme water temperatures magnify the level of disturbance and angling should be avoided at those temperatures.
4. Barbless hooks and artificial lures or flies can greatly reduce handling time, hooking injuries and likelihood of mortality.
5. Angling immediately prior to or during the reproductive period should be avoided.
Cooke, who’s specialized in this research, says various studies have proved that catch-and-release fishing kills a certain number of fish even though they may swim away from the angler’s hands.
It’s called delayed mortality.
Fish should never be removed from the water for more than 60 seconds and ideally they should not be lifted out of the water at all, he concluded in one research review.
And Cooke solidly backs McBride’s point with this observation based on the body of research:
“Techniques for achieving short-duration angling events are generally focused on choice of equipment.
“Anglers should choose optimal equipment matched to the size of fish that are expected to be encountered.
“Efforts to intentionally prolong the angling event through the use of light line or rods should be dissuaded.”
McBride, a local student of this topic, offered these simple steps for catching and releasing trout with minimal impact:
• Use equipment and tippet size that matches the size and weight of the fish you are pursuing.
• Play the fish aggressively. Often you can get the fish up to the boat and have it netted almost before it realizes it’s hooked.
• Use a net made of soft no-knot material or rubber and leave the fish in the water.
• Reach down and turn the hook out then allow the fish to rest in the net.
Resting is particularly important with large fish. With trout, if the surface temperature of the water is warm (not a problem at Rufus Woods) it is probably best to release fish immediately so they can go down into cooler water that has more oxygen.
• Reverse the net and allow the fish to swim away.
Contact Rich Landers at 459-5508 or e-mail email@example.com