Friday, November 4, 2011

Phriday Philosophy

This week has been a philosophical one on the blogosphere. The topics of ethics and the "why?" of our sport are nettlesome ones. At 50,000 feet they're so general that it's hard to get to the essence of the issue without some pretty deep and ripe thinking. You've really got to turn this stuff around and stare at it for a while. And even when you finally put pen to paper it's more often than not just your current thinking versus some final, universal insight on the subject.

And when you get to ground level on the issues, often there's so much emotion wrapped up in practices and traditions that it all devolves into a shouting match and you go and get banned from a discussion forum just for talking about it.

Tom edged up to the philosophy topic when he took on the "Why do we fish?" question in an excellent blog post on Tuesday. I gave my most recent answer in a comment to his article (which I've pasted below) but Tom summed it up best and simplest; go give it a read.
Why Steve Fly Fishes
It’s one of those “what is the sound of one hand clapping” sort of things. When we discover it we know it’s there but you can’t describe it; it’s only through experience that you discover the soundless sound of the stream and the fish and everything around it.
Crap, I think I just went metaphysical and zennish. I need a cocktail.
Erin started off the week coming at the topic directly. In her On Ethics post on Mysteries Internal she came at the issue from the point of view of fishing over spawning fish. She covered not only her research on the topic, but, as always, her thoughts and emotions and internal machinations as she turned over the issue. Erin, as always, gives us plenty to chew on and I've got some things to think about with regards to my fall fishing practices.

She also linked to an excellent post by Jay Zimmerman who discusses a "ground level" issue of bead pegging. If you read Jay's work and the comments you'll see how going from the 5,000 foot level to ground level triggers the emotional, slightly irrational, side of things. My take on Jay's post is below; I like facts, not emotion. Of course, the facts support my world view so that's why I like them so much.
Steve on Pegging
A fly, by legal definition in the Great State of Connecticut, is a "single or double hook dressed with hair, feathers....". A bare hook is not a fly. So let's not kid ourselves about a bare hook being a fly. That's just BS. And if you're not using a fly, you're certainly not fly fishing.
I don't care what kind of fly you use, natural or synthetic, bug or egg, I'm not going to tell you how to fly fish.
I also don't care if you're dunking worms, shiners or triple-jointed, treble-hooked Rapalas, that's still angling. I do it from time to time. It's good fun.
But if you're trying to trick a fish into getting close to a bare hook so you can foul hook it, well, that's not angling. In Connecticut we have a legal definition for intentionally foul hooking fish, it's called snagging.
Put the bead on the hook and we'll have no problems.

And finally, T.J. Brayshaw, in classic fashion, came at the issue head on in his post Verboten! Thoughts on ethics and fishing.... Fair warning, it's a tome. But it's worth reading and rereading to make sure you get it. And by getting it, I mean that you understand it enough so that you can go off and mull it for some time. Heavy stuff, with some quality references to work both practical, scientific and philosophical on the subject of the ethics of fishing, not fishing, and vegetarianism.

I'm very practical on the subject. Ours is a blood sport. If you're not comfortable with that statement, you're delusional. Some of us, myself included, mostly catch and release and by doing so look to do the least harm possible to our quarry. But I've accidently snagged fish, eye-hooked two that I can recall (those ones haunt me a bit), and likely killed a few fish that I didn't intend to in the process.

I'm not proud of those events nor am I shamed by them. They are what they are. I accept them as a reality of my pursuit which is a thing I pursue for reasons I can't put words to but need to do very much. It's part of what makes me, me. It's part of what makes me human. And it's part of what makes me like so many of you, so much. We approach our sport with thoughtfulness and passion, with a sense for how it fits into the greater scheme of our lives, and we try to express it in words that are a delight to read and which stimulate our love for all that our sport entails.

At the end of the day, perhaps Tom summed it all up best, we fish:
"Because we like it and we don’t break any laws doing it."


  1. I like you, for you approach "our sport with thoughtfulness and passion, with a sense for how it fits into the greater scheme of our lives."
    Thanks Steve, for doing so.

  2. Slowing down to read something hand crafted, something with quality and depth, has been as refreshing to me as the content (kudos to EMB here too). Encore, I say. It beats the ass out of the usual one line regurgitate n recycle angling "news".

    And: Let's go catch some steel with beads!

  3. E: Thx for your kind words.

    E.J.: The challenge is to slow down and be able to hand craft something. But thx. Yes, I have my beads pegged!

  4. Pretty simple when you break it down to, "Because we like it and we don’t break any laws doing it."

    I agree.

    It is a bloodsport, like it or not. I guess the only real ethical question should be answered by each individual that fishes, in what ever capacity they choose to do so. it Saturday yet?

    Enjoyed the post...thanks for making me think the last hour of my work week.