"So its come to this... I thought we were friends." I grumbled out loud to some indifferent lilly pads, as I struggled to tie another 6 feet of 6X tippet to an already twelve foot leader.
My fly of choice (or rather my fly of circumstance) was #20 emerger. I don't even know why this fly was in this particular box that was already bristling with chuggers and bunny leeches. It just happened to fall in I guess.
Rearing back to try the dry fly hat trick - long leader, extra long cast, and only a little backcast room- I did my best to put some distance on that tiny fly. false casts turned into double hauls. wind and line resistance dictated the rhythm of my body into the only dance steps I have ever been able to master. and then when an impossible amount of line whistled out before me, I let go. 6 weight line and silky thin leader straighten out with a tiny deception on the end. it hovered over the water for second as I watched for various kinks (painstakingly ironed out) to reappear, as my bright green parabola became a parabole. It looked perfect, it was perfect. It was one of those casts that you knew would settle on the water with barely a ripple. And it did, after it spooked the hell out of the school of fish I was after.
late in the season as water clears for winter, its a well known fact that fish get spooky. Especially if they have been dwelling in a catch and release environment where every lure or fly known to man has dragged them from the water... But a nearly 20 foot leader with 6X tippet spooking a bunch of bluegill, just by casting over them and not actually touching the water was something I just couldn't quite wrap my mind around. And these weren't even ultra wary trophy bluegill, these were quarter pounders! The bass lurking among the reeds weren't much bigger either.
I grew up fishing this pond and the ancestors of these fish. This is where catch and release became cemented in my brain. Not because it was trendy or I was trying to reach loftier plateaus of fly fishing, but because I did the math and realized that: #1 if you keep taking fish there will be less fish to catch #2 I enjoy cleaning and cooking fish less than I enjoy eating them, and I really don't care for the flavor of most of the fish I pursue. Over the course of decades where I caught and released the ancestors of these fish, I watched them become progressively more wary, until under the right circumstances they have a hair trigger that could rival that of a permit or bonefish. Their prying eyes left me skulking in the bushes, one wrong move could make every fish boil the water in flight.
I have also watched the progression of these waters that nature was left to cull. I fished it when the bass first showed up. I fished it when they grew to mammoth size (for western washington ponds) some reaching eight pounds, which is a good bass size anywhere. I have seen three pound bluegill and 2 pound perch pulled from its meager depths. and I have also seen what happens when overpopulation occurs and almost everything dies, leaving you to wonder what the hell happened.
The perch and crappie are all gone now, haven't seen one in years. all that remains are a bunch of smallish bluegill and half pound bass, in great quantity. I planned on doing my best to clean the pond out this summer, but I got sidetracked with other species and other locals.
And now its October just before the monsoons. The bass and bluegill are hungry and wary, cruising in schools before the cool weather puts them down, and Im fishing for them with a 18 foot leader and #20 emerger of all things, after they spent the summer being caught and released by well meaning anglers. Procrastination is a hell of a thing.
Moral of the story: when Catch and Release is a choice, stop and ponder if your really doing the fish a favor, once in a blue moon your not.