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> > Caught or naught?

FalsiflyDecember 15th, 2010, 9:34 pm
Hayward, WI.

Posts: 660
The fishing was good, albeit slow. An early spring hatch of the ubiquitous midge was lifting off the water like a fog, but I had yet to discover the intricacies of successfully fishing the little buggers, in fact, it was before I even considered the possibility. Instead, I continued dredging the depths in the tried and true manner of my early days, commensurate with the early spring success up to this point in my learning curve. Ah, what could be more fulfilling than having mastered the art of nymphing? Anyway, that was my mind set years ago because I had discovered a technique that launched my fishing acumen to a staggering new plateau. Confidence was my aura and I reveled in the pleasure of my newly found sixth sense. All was coming together, replete with tying skills and patterns that, at times, seemed to instigate feeding frenzies just by being presented. I remember the year and I remember the trip, it was as if I had past through a magic door and entered into a new world. It was also the year that I entered into a philosophical dilemma. The question: When is a fish caught not a fish caught?

I was standing knee deep casting into a large pool tailing a fast riffle, which appeared deep enough to swallow me whole. I was sporting a recently acquired Scott four-weight nine-foot four-piece, on which was up locked a Bauer LM1 wound with WF4-F, and the appropriate amount of backing. On the other end was 7 Ĺ feet of leader tapered to 5X and 18 inches of 5X tippet blood knotted in; terminated with a #18 bead-headed olive-colored creation of my own.

The almost imperceptible hesitation in drift precipitated an inherent reflex which resulted in the gentle but firm lifting of the rod tip. My immediate reaction was that slow sinking feeling we all experience when the thought of a snag destroys what might have been. However, this particular snag shortly took on a life of its own with a slow but steady upstream drift. My increased pressure did nothing to stop the slow upstream progress, even as I began to test the tensile limit of my ligature and 5X. And then all hell broke loose, it turned and bolted in the opposite direction, and with it my reel spewed forth its contents. My palm was quickly dispensed to the screaming disk in an effort to halt any further unwinding of the situation. Approaching my breaking point I backed off my effort and gave the fish a little slack. This tactic has proven successful, many times in the past, in preventing a fish from bolting to places unknown, and once again prevailed as the fish held at the pools end. I slowly walked my way to the fish, gaining back what had been lost in distance, not quite into the backing, but the spool diameter was getting down to the white line. The fish was firmly holding his ground, so I decided to add a little persuasion to come and join me. All was going well, and I thought I was gaining the upper hand, until we finally saw each other. I almost soiled my waders at the sight of the huge brown, and he in turn high tailed it leaving the pool for the fast water; heading downstream. I stood there like an idiot watching my chartreuse fly line turn into white backing before it dawned on me to follow in hot pursuit. I have entered into the feat of Olympian gymnastics a few times over the years, most of which I have come in second, but luckily this time, for reasons I can only guess, Mr. Brown decided to take a breather at the next pool down. Once again my Herculean attempt on the obstacle course found me sharing the same pool with the fish; he was holding tight to the bottom and I was holding most of my line. I was now determined that I was going to win this battle come hell or high water.

Convinced that I would take another second place if Mr. Brown made another mad dash down, I judiciously applied my pressure in a more give and take manner. So we played the game, back and forth, for quite some time. At last the fish began to relent to my insistence and was finally brought into full view, and that, is when my heart sank. There firmly attached to the left pectoral fin was my #18 bead head.

My disappointment was brought to hand, the fish was measured on the strong side of 26 inches, the hook was removed, and Mr. Brown departed, slowly sinking and taking with him my spirits. I have always been one who holds firm, to the belief, that a fish snagged is not a fish caught. But this fish, because of its size, got me to wondering. Could it not be possible that the fish took the fly, and during the course of events became snagged in the fin? If that is the case I would consider the fish caught. But then on the other hand, can an unverified assumption lead us to conclude a successful outcome? Had this fish been anything short of my biggest brown, to date, I would have nonchalantly dismissed any second thoughts. However, in this case I feel I have become a victim of circumstance, and I have ever since been plagued with this nagging uncertainty. I realize that I have a few good years left to redeem myself of this nagging snagging dilemma, but as the years fly by I see the chance at a bigger brown becoming a smaller possibility. I donít as yet know what goes through a manís mind when his time is drawing near, but if I find myself on my deathbed, gasping for my last breath, how do I put this to rest so that I my forever rest in peace?




Falsifly
When asked what I just caught that monster on I showed him. He put on his magnifiers and said, "I can't believe they can see that."
TaxonDecember 16th, 2010, 1:32 am
Site Editor
Plano, TX

Posts: 1337
Hi Allan,

Great story, but no cigar.
Best regards,
Roger Rohrbeck
www.FlyfishingEntomology.com
PaulRobertsDecember 16th, 2010, 9:12 am
Colorado

Posts: 1776
I donít as yet know what goes through a manís mind when his time is drawing near, but if I find myself on my deathbed, gasping for my last breath, how do I put this to rest so that I my forever rest in peace?


No way you'll ever really know, but it's my guess that that fish was most likely simply fouled. Those big angel-wings on mature browns are relatively easy marks for fouling, esp with a weighted fly. It is possible, that if the fish rolled (less likely with such a big fish and light pressure of a light tippet) that it could become tangled and then fouled. But that would be a rarer case than direct fouling a pec.

Agree with Roger. Nice story -"no cigar". So sorry. That was a heck of a fish. But in my mind I think you can rest in peace with your integrity intact by letting that one go from the "caught" column. At least you got to see such a fish from a strem you fished, and know such a fish is possible there. That's something real.

My answer would be: When a fish takes the fly in its mouth on purpose, and you brought it to hand offering you the option of killing it or not. So-called long, or short, distance releases don't count either, although I may tally them anyway (separately) for getting a bead on just how effective a given presentation is at "turning heads".

Again, those big angel-wings on mature browns are relatively easy marks for fouling, esp with a weighted fly. The more questionable ones (not in terms of "caught" but in weighing trout interest in a presentation), are those hooked just outside the mouth. I tend to discount a lot of those bc trout (and other fish) may "touch test" something food-like with a closed mouth swipe of the jaw. I've seen this many times onstream but then got to see it in my stream tank too. Fish don't have hands. So a jaw fouled fish could be a test, a last second aborted take, or a commitment and miss. Sometimes they do miss and get only the tippet and then get hooked outside the mouth.
FredHDecember 16th, 2010, 10:19 am
Lake Charles , Louisiana

Posts: 108
Wonderful story . Made me feel as if I were there.Your answer is in your question, or to be more percise , your questioning.If you believed in your heart that the fish was caught I don't believe you would have raised the question.I did enjoy the story and wish you luck when you land an even bigger brown.
Fred
http://www.realisticflytying.net
Shawnny3December 16th, 2010, 10:50 am
Moderator
Pleasant Gap, PA

Posts: 1197
Excellent story, Falsifly - one of your best, for sure. Also, very nice responses from Paul and Fred. Sometimes the near misses are more effective than our unbridled successes at keeping us coming back for more.

I hope you get another brown like that someday.

-Shawn
Jewelry-Quality Artistic Salmon Flies, by Shawn Davis
www.davisflydesigns.com
CaseyPDecember 16th, 2010, 11:03 am
Arlington, VA/ Mercersburg, PA

Posts: 653
welcome to a hardly exclusive club: "you caught it, you held it, and no, we can't count it."

it takes a lot of skill to land a big foul hooked fish...darn it!! had he broken you off, you would never have had known or had any regrets, now would you?

which brings me to my question for the group: a fish with a hook in its jaw can break you off by shaking its head or rubbing it off on a snag. is a fish foul-hooked in a fin less able to do this?
"You can observe a lot by watching." Yogi Berra
OldredbarnDecember 16th, 2010, 2:03 pm
Novi, MI

Posts: 2601
"turning heads".


Us dry-fly guys stress over this issue maybe a bit more than others because we actually "moved" that fish to the surface and as Paul said there are times when there is a "splashy refusal" and the trout impales itself as it turns to run...I'm afraid though that its like that play in football where you need to maintain control throughout the "process" inorder for the pass to be considered complete and the touchdown to count...

As Shawn said these seem to be the fish that live on in the memory. The ones that somehow got away. You may remember it every time you approach that pool and pause there a little longer to see if by chance Mr. Big is feeding.

I have had fish that "short-strike" the marabou tail on my Wooly Buggers and roll and churn up the pool and my blood pressure, only to let go and sink away...Can I count these? Probably not. I even caught a small brookie once only to have a large brown chomp down on it as I was stripping it in and rattled my cage only to let go again...I don't think I could count him either...Hell! I never actually got a chance to see him before he fled and the bend in my rod disappeared.

There are salmon anglers here in Michigan who toss what some call a "slinky". You attach a swivel on your leader and attach some weight that has been wrapped in parachute chord and the ends sealed up. Below this they run some tippet and their fly, usually a stonefly nymph, or caddis pattern...This bounces downstream off the bottom with the terminal end riding out there beyond the weight and some are skilled at directing this in to the fishes opening & closing mouth...

I think that those who are honest from time-to-time would admit that this practise pushes the envelop a bit concerning "fair" vs "foul" hooked fish. I think that they count them if the fly hasn't been found to actually be imbedded on the outer side of the fish and they rejoice when it somehow misses the outer side of the fish and somehow "snags" the inside of the jaw properly...

Oh well...Allan...Sorry there fella but to re-quote Roger..."but no cigar"...Thank the fish for the ride and challenge him to a fairer battle some other day.

I won't go in to it here in detail. I've probably mentioned it elsewhere, but there use to be a run that was nicknamed "Spencer's Hole of Shame"...For many, many years I had to hear this from the wise-asses that fish with me every time we passed it...One evening I took a slew of nice fish here during a sulpher spinner fall, in front of a small crowd, actually in between other anglers on a busy. busy night and it eased my shame a bit...But I'll never forget the lesson I learned there one May in 1991.

To me its all about the challenge and as others have said here it's about the journey and not neccesarily the end result.

Allan. If you are looking for any sort of consolation...You got closer to the Hog than the rest of us...:)

Spence
"Even when my best efforts fail it's a satisfying challenge, and that, after all, is the essence of fly fishing." -Chauncy Lively

"Envy not the man who lives beside the river, but the man the river flows through." Joseph T Heywood
PaulRobertsDecember 16th, 2010, 3:02 pm
Colorado

Posts: 1776
DISCLAIMER: This post in no way is pointed at you Allan. You asked a legit question under legit circumstances. My response here comes from experiences on lake tribs where visible giant trout and hordes of anglers, many wannabes, can cross paths. The result often showed the worst of human nature through pure greed.

Good post Spence. Lots I could rattle on about, but I'll choose one:
I think that those who are honest from time-to-time would admit that this practise pushes the envelop a bit concerning "fair" vs "foul" hooked fish.


I don't think that pushes the envelope at all; it breaks it. If the fish had no say in the matter, it's FOUL!! -a low dirty rotten shameful deed of the lowly excuse-for-an-angler akin to a pitchfork wielding Creten. There, I said it! And it felt good. Ha! Lots of years of pent up rage with not enough satisfaction behind that. And believe me I tried: harassed, point blank photographed, sweet talked, helped land fouled fish and helped release them (saying "Oh man, that's too bad, FOULED! I wouldn't be satisfied with that. And I know you wouldn't either!"), called the cops, helped buy a cell phone for the local (make that regional) C.O., organized a stream watch of local (real) anglers, etc .... To little real effect. Losers come to the stream losers. The only real long term success I had was to mind my own business and catch fish on fly tackle in front of people. A few would wander over with that look that said, "Me too?"

practise? Bloody practise?? Are there more such spellings in your immediate ancestry?
OldredbarnDecember 17th, 2010, 12:12 pm
Novi, MI

Posts: 2601
Your right Paul...For some reason I was hedging and softening my response...Using phrases like "time-to-time" and "a-bit" is akin to "maybe", "might" and "perhaps"...My old writing professors would say "it either is or it isn't",or "you either know something or you don't"...

I was "tiptoeing through the tulips" because I didn't want to open the old "elitist" argument all over again. I do believe in a wrong or right, I think us humans inherently know what that is (shy of being a psycopath), and we are way too shy sometimes when it comes to drawing a line in the sand and letting others know why we believe something is so...

Thanks for manning the baracade for me mister...:) -Spence

"I started out on burgundy
But soon hit the harder stuff
Everybody said theyíd stand behind me
When the game got rough
But the joke was on me
There was nobody even there to bluff
Iím going back to New York City
I do believe Iíve had enough"

Bob Dylan



"Even when my best efforts fail it's a satisfying challenge, and that, after all, is the essence of fly fishing." -Chauncy Lively

"Envy not the man who lives beside the river, but the man the river flows through." Joseph T Heywood
PaulRobertsDecember 17th, 2010, 1:25 pm
Colorado

Posts: 1776
Sorry, I was referring to the practise vs practice. Are you likely to say bloody, chap, cheerio, and brill??
Al514December 18th, 2010, 6:37 am
Central New York

Posts: 142
I like this topic - this is stuff my friends and I always talk about.

I was fishing a Trib with tandem streamers for Landlcoked Salmon a couple years ago. I had a Salmon take my lead fly on the swing.

The fish was doing its best to get away, as it came closer to my feet, the hook popped. The fish was on its side when this happened, and my trailer streamer ended up hooking this fish right in the belly.

I watched the entire thing happen right in front of my eyes....fair to foul in a second!
Aaron7_8December 18th, 2010, 8:12 pm
Helena Montana

Posts: 115
What is your feeling on "theater" or "theatre"????
KeystonerFebruary 1st, 2011, 5:58 am
Eugene, OR - formerly Eastern PA

Posts: 145
My first fish landed on a fly rod was a "foul hooked" rainbow of decent size. I was so ecstatic to have played and landed a fish on a fly rod that, at the time, I didn't really mind. That is, until my buddy, who had been watching from downstream said, "You know that dosen't count, right?"

I've also had trout rise and take dries, and after the ensueing struggle found my fly embedded in their side. Explanation: fish rose, took fly, then bailed and ended up with a hook in it's side on the roll away.

Bottom line: If it's not hooked in the mouth, it dosen't count. At least that's my perspective.
"Out into the cool of the evening, strolls the Pretender. He knows that all his hopes and dreams, begin and end there." -JB
OldredbarnFebruary 1st, 2011, 8:21 am
Novi, MI

Posts: 2601
Bottom line: If it's not hooked in the mouth, it dosen't count.


Matt...I concur with you mister!

The fish was doing its best to get away, as it came closer to my feet, the hook popped. The fish was on its side when this happened, and my trailer streamer ended up hooking this fish right in the belly.

I watched the entire thing happen right in front of my eyes....fair to foul in a second!


Artie,

Maybe this could have been avoided, if your intention wasn't to harvest the fish, by sticking to one fly. I have read somewhere where Syl Nemes, I think it was, said that running a beadhead below the bend of a large dry fly was pretty much equivalent to a snagging rig. Maybe if we are not trying to stock the freezer and when we are fishing just for the sport of it, we should give the fish a "sporting" chance and fish just one fly...As others have said here, that doesn't guarantee we won't somehow foul-hook a fish, but "fair-play" is fair after all...If you and I were going to square off and fight each other I think most folks would agree that it wouldn't be fair if I also had to take on your friend as well.

A nickel shells worth of opinion here...

Take Care!

Spence
"Even when my best efforts fail it's a satisfying challenge, and that, after all, is the essence of fly fishing." -Chauncy Lively

"Envy not the man who lives beside the river, but the man the river flows through." Joseph T Heywood
Jmd123February 1st, 2011, 9:45 am
Oscoda, MI

Posts: 2545
Perhaps we're just teasing apart fine hairs here, folks, but I think there are some differences. I know that I have "foul-hooked" fish that struck intentionally at my fly and just missed it, only to have it snag on the fin or the belly. These fish are not intentionally foul-hooked, they TRIED to eat the fly and it simply landed elsewhere on their bodies. How is that the fisherman's fault? I would count it as "caught", despite the fact that some of you would probably now like to show up outside of my (new) place in Oscoda with torches and pitchforks (and maybe some hangin' rope - notice I haven't posted my new address here). Since I release practically all of the fish that I catch, there's no problem with ethics in my view. Some may beg to differ...

Now, on the other hand, if you see a fish in the vicinity of your fly that doesn't appear to have any intention of eating it and you JERK HARD on your line anyway, a fish hooked in this manner would most definitely be foul-hooked, or snagged if you like. I once "caught" a bass in this way which I thought was going for my fly, then found it stuck in the fish's belly. OOOOPS, that one was indeed snagged! Were I a bass eater (which I am not), that fish would absolutely not have been legal to keep.

Don't be so hard on yourselves if the fish didn't hook itself in the way you wanted it to, but don't be jerking it when the fish is just swimming by, either. Just my humble opinion...

Jonathon
No matter how big the one you just caught is, there's always a bigger one out there somewhere...
DryflyFebruary 1st, 2011, 1:47 pm
rochester mn

Posts: 133
Last summer I had a nice brown try to eat my hopper but I struck too soon and hooked him with the dropper. He was a very big fish for where i was and i still wanted to land him. But he would have had an asterisk next to him.
Jmd123February 1st, 2011, 1:59 pm
Oscoda, MI

Posts: 2545
Maybe that's the best approach - an asterisk*...

*Sorta like Barry Bonds?

Jonathon
No matter how big the one you just caught is, there's always a bigger one out there somewhere...
KeystonerFebruary 2nd, 2011, 3:53 am
Eugene, OR - formerly Eastern PA

Posts: 145
Hmmmpf! That's all we need, a steroids scandal in the fly fishing arena! Just imagine.

Now, foul hooked trout is one thing, but how about foul hooked suckers? I've had this occur a few times whilst nymphing. If they don't just break off outright, it can be quite a ride. No matter what fish fouled though I always feel bad, especially if they break off. I don't like the idea of leaving some poor fish with a hook in it's fin, side, etc. To that end, I always give the fish I catch a once over to check for any flies that may be lingering. In the past, I've actually found a few, and removed them. One of the few times when being caught may have actually been truly beneficial. Hmmmm...

Aaron- To answer your question. If your going to the movies, it's theater. If you're watching a play, it's theatre.
"Out into the cool of the evening, strolls the Pretender. He knows that all his hopes and dreams, begin and end there." -JB
Jmd123February 2nd, 2011, 6:08 am
Oscoda, MI

Posts: 2545
I did in fact foul hook four suckers one spring while steelhead fishing (which I still have never been successful at, though I have caught other trout while doing so). Two in the nose, two in the pectoral fin...all released unharmed. However, last summer while looking for some rumored large holdover browns in a small creek downstate I caught a golden redhorse sucker on a grizzly marabou Woolly Bugger, and it was hooked in the mouth...

Jonathon
No matter how big the one you just caught is, there's always a bigger one out there somewhere...
JesseFebruary 2nd, 2011, 6:14 am
Posts: 378
Allan listen up; You caught the fish fair and sqaure! What happened was during your flies drift he sucked in the perfectly tied and casted fly, and somewhere in the heart of the battle the fly slipped out and luckily enough caught his fin. It happens all the time; during the fight the tippet section gets wrapped up around the fish and when and if the fly comes out, the fly seizes some other part of the fishes body. But your fish particularly was fairly caught i just know it. But regardless i still hope your able to get out there and get another one that derives the same feelings for you. Great story Allan and i look forward to hearing another one soon enough.
Most of us fish our whole lives..not knowing its not the fish that we are after.
http://www.filingoflyfishing.com
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