Happy Birthaversary: Norman Maclean

Fly-fishing today would be like a line zipping through the air, on its way to a huge surface feeding fish – with NO FLY – without the words of Norman Maclean! So, with a great deal of respect and honor, I bid this fine gent – whom I seriously wish I could have had the pleasure to meet – and oh yeah!, share a spot in the ‘haunted waters’ with.


For all my Friends within the Fly-fishing fold, who happen to have today – 23 December – as their birthday, knowing it or not, you share this day with one of modern fly-fishing’s greatest contributors and names: Norman Maclean; noted author of, A River Runs Through It.

Normal Maclean - Happy Birthaversary 23 DEC - May we all be haunted by waters.
Birthaversary Card/Poster to Mr. Norman Maclean and all who hold 23 December as a birthdate. May we all remain -FOREVER- haunted by waters.

Thus, in honor of Mr. Maclean’s birthaversary, and YOURS, I offer this remembrance and – if one thinks on it – a most fine Birthaversary acclaim.

“In our family, there was no clear line between religion and fly fishing. We lived at a junction of great trout rivers in western Montana, and our father was a Presbyterian minister and a fly fisherman who tied his own flies and taught others. He told us Christ’s disciples being fisherman, and we were left to assume, as my brother and I did, that all first-class fishermen of the Sea of Galilee were fly fishermen and that John, the favorite, was a dry-fly fisherman.”

“Eventually, all things merge into one, and a river runs through it. The river was cut by the world’s great flood and runs over rocks from the basement of time. On some of the rocks are timeless raindrops. Under the rocks are the words, and some the words are theirs.

I am haunted by waters.”

[ Opening/Closing paragraphs from, ‘A River Runs Through It’, by Norman Maclean, ©1976. ]

Today Mr. Maclean would have celebrated his 114th year. To him and all of you ( listed above ), please accept the following Birthaversary Wish – from me:

May your Waters during this Cycle of Life, flow throughout the Channels of Good Health, glide around the Rocks of Joy, carry your Life in Safety and enter every bend, rapid, obstruction and run with rousing Splashes of Success. May this flow, be but one more high, productive, flow of many yet to come. To all a great year. And may you continue, Embraced by the Rapture of Water.

Happy Birthaversary, Mr. Norman Maclean!

You’re still electric on your 114th Birthaversary!

May we ALL remain ‘FOREVER’ haunted by waters.


Holding Fish, does it matter how ?

Yesterday on my O’fieldstream Facebook account, I received a Share from FBfriend Matt Nelson. He was sharing a post made on a New Zealand site alerting readers to the potentially fatal dangers, from improper holding, when attempting to grab-a-photo of a trout.

The article, Trout Dying to Get a Good Photo, was published in the online fly-fishing blog, Bish & Fish: From New Zealand | Fly Fishing Stuff

I’d read this article when it surfaced a few months earlier. A very good article. Much like my own Lip-Grip is OUT, but this article dealt more specifically with trout/salmonids, where my article points, primarily, to improper ‘lip holds’ on Bass.

The reality of fish holding is this: there isn’t a fish swimming that is NOT subject to being damaged by improper handling.

The article came at a time when I was -again- seeing a lot of very long ‘out-of-the-water’ fish grip-n-grin photos: where the fisherperson, ‘grips the fish’ and ‘grins for the camera; often, many times with the same fish, over many minutes of exposed-to-air -NOT- a water-breathing environment.

So I made a comment on Matt’s post/share and then re-Shared it back to my FBfriend list – along with an introductory comment.

The following is the series of comments I made and attributed comments from others. This is – as I say – a matter worthy of, ‘serious attention’.

Article LINK+IMAGE Shared

Anatomical drawing of trout

This image was used by Bish & Fish to illustrate the location of easily damaged internal organs of the salmonid. The illustration shows, due to their location of the typical ‘grip area’, (at and just behind the pectoral fin), the fish are ‘at risk’ of being injured when mishandled for photographs or out-of-water release.

COMMENTS on this post:

LES BOOTH/O’fieldstream: Yes. I’ve been ‘preachin’ this for several years now. And folks don’t like being preached to or at. Well, that’s tough. I’ve done the research and know the results. Improper handling and exposing too many fish to improper handling, through C&R mass-catching … IS damaging the resource.I like fish. Love to fish. And cannot stand people who say they do, but continue to engage in damaging-to-the-resource practices. It’s pure hypocrisy to be that way. And it matters. It matters to the future of fishing and the future of the resource.

It doesn’t matter what species of fish. There are commonly-used-holds that are either debilitating, damaging and yes, lethal – to the fish being handled.

We need to wake-up to the reality. If you ‘touch’ a lot of fish in a C&R fishery, then you are exposing a lot of fish to the results of your handling. Even if you handle with extreme care – it’s very likely someone before or after you – will NOT be so knowledgeable and gentle. It also turns out that WE, OURSELVES!, are not so all-knowing or capable of handling a fish – every time – without adding to the melee.

There are two ways to avoid this issue:

    1. Reduce the number of fish you catch: Period;
    2. Don’t handle your fish. Pass, on the ‘grip-n-grin’ moments;

It’s really simple. If you love fishing, then back-off a bit and let the resource breath. If you love fish, then … back-off a bit and let the resource breath. Yeah.. same good-sense action will help – no matter where your interests lie.

Just don’t continue to lie-to-yourselves, thinking, “There’s no way I could be a problem. I’m a good, responsible, conservation-minded fisherman/woman.” Well, NEWSFLASH .. if you grip-n-grin or C&R 30+ fish a day … then YOU ARE PART OF THE PROBLEM.

Preachin’s over … for now.

Matt Nelson: Les, I honestly believe that the majority of today’s anglers don’t know the proper way to handle fish. Catch and Release used to get a lot of attention back in the day…now it is just something that is considered a “given”. Unfortunately that means that most people don’t address it anymore. The magazines don’t run articles on it (it’s the hero shots that sell copies) and Cortland’s Trout Boss lines actually had a horrible image right on the box…so I see them as a major part of the problem. As a guide and fly shop manager I try to educate people on proper fish handling (the best being leave ’em in the net!) whenever I can, I’ve even started to include it as part of our Fly Fishing 101 classes. To me it is part of a bigger problem which is the ethics of fly fishing. There used to be a “code” of behavior among fly fishermen on the stream, rules and basic manners that were passed down from angler to angler, but you don’t see that as much anymore. IMHO I think a lot of that comes from people learning from the internet instead of “mentors” or other experienced anglers…people get too caught up in what they’re catching and forget about how they should go about catching it.

Les Booth: Amen Matt. In the face of the oblivious .. keep up your efforts. You’re spot on. Some may say ‘resistance is futile’… in this case – and every case where action truly means something … ‘resistance if FERTILE!. Keep planting!

IF interested … read SA-LIFE manifesto on this topic: http://ofieldstream.com/ofs-differs/sa-life-manifesto/

Thanks for the efforts you put forward. Keep up the good influence. SA-LIFE Manifesto | O’fieldstream Outdoor Journal on ofieldstream.com, where I have written, talked about -extensively- and practice a very simple process that entails a straight-forward approach to a set of principles that guide me in my fishing activity.


My introductory comments when I Shared:

LES BOOTH/O’fieldstream Pay serious attention to this. If you don’t – or Thumb IT – then you’re placing yourself squarely in the slot of being, THE PROBLEM.

And I’ll add my own to this .. for all you Bass fishermen/women out there – trout are NOT the only fish species that suffers from poor handling! EVERY fish species is susceptible to the damage of poor handling.

“Lip-Grip is OUT” http://ofieldstream.com/2009/06/19/lip-grip-is-out/

Joe McDonald – I see so many of the “BassPro’s” that don’t have a clue about the proper handling of fish.

Les Booth – You’re absolutely right Joe, except for one thing: The Bass Pros … DO KNOW the right way to hold the fish. But they CHOOSE NOT to do so. As I’ve said many times before – and don’t intend to stop:

“Ignorant is not knowing. Stupid is not caring. Ignorant is mere suicide. Stupid – *IS* – a WMD.”

As the old joke says, “If the shoe fits….” Sayin’…

Evidently this SHARED article went over quite well .. as the stats below show – as of (7.15.14 – noon EST)

Nick Pionessa, Vaaliley Wu, Jeff Greco, 8 others like this and there are 52 shares.

The BOTTOM-LINE here folks is simple. If you ‘grip-n-grin’ (G-n-G) your fish, you are contributing to a growing lethality among released fish. If you G’n’G your fish for each fish .. or even a high percentage of your fish, you ARE damaging the population of fish. You might as well priest ’em and cook’em.

If you want a photo .. take it IN THE WATER.

  • Use barbless hooks;
  • Release with hemostats (grab fly with hemostat and remove;
  • Keep hands and fingers off the fish;
  • DO NOT touch the fish.

And I will add … be responsible and limit the number of fish you catch in an area. Catch-and-Release was not created to give carte blanche to catching as many fish as you could in a given stream or lake section. It was – and still is – a viable way to limit IMPACT on critical populations of aquatic resources: fish, food, shelter, environment. The MORE we CONTACT any of those elements, the more chance there is for a negative reaction.

If you would like some ideas for guidelines, then read the SA-LIFE Manifesto.

Keep ’em alive. Or there won’t be a tomorrow to go to.


It’s About the Fly

The world of fly-fishing is a complex, guarded – yet free-wheeling world of traditional feeding lanes that regularly conflict with edgy currents. Today’s world of fly-fishing is that world: more so now, than ever before.

Yet, no matter how fluid the world of fly-fishing becomes, it’s still – about The Fly.

A friend posted an interesting photograph the other day, that consisted of a number of old, broken, worn-out fishing flies, attached to a pole. He labeled it the ‘Fly Cemetery’. I looked at the photo and was struck by the visual. I posted the following as a comment on that photo:

Cool idea! Never thought of it like this. But instead of cemetery .. I’d say it’s more a Tribute Poll … to old friends who served you well. Flies are not just things. They are the connection between… between, the fisherman and the fish. The fly is the first thing that both fisherman and fish connect to and the parting point we both enjoy. Flies are special.

After writing this I got to seriously thinking about what I’d said .. and realized, this was an important point for fly-fishing. The part which caught my senses the most was the following:

Flies are not just things. They are the connection between… between, the fisherman and the fish. The fly is the first thing that both fisherman and fish connect to and the parting point we both enjoy.

Think about it. The one thing that is common to every fly-fisherman and every fish caught on a fly is – The Fly.

No wonder the person who ties their own flies, feels such a connection to their activity on the water. No wonder such a feeling of accomplishment, connection, deep-emotion is felt when a fish takes the presented creation.

This IS big; very big. It’s just downright special.

So that pole-of-used-flies, truly is a Tribute Poll. Some may say a totem to their service as inanimate partners. If those flies could claim origin at your own hands, they are your children-in-collaboration. The combined effort of seduction and deceit – you and the fly – in a game as old as life itself.


Fly Tyers Supplicate

I think that I shall never tie,
The likeness of the Perfect Fly.
For flies are tied to lie you see,
Truth made plain, not readily.
To whom you seek reply,
Yet answer remains to be?
The fish, the fool and the fly, go Thee.


May we who choose to fly, do so with reverence for the bit of feather and fur which make it all possible to live such a wondrous life we lead.

For … The Fly is Special. Special indeed.