The recent column by Rob Brown offering advice on how to catch Chinook on the fly is a perfect example of how ideology often trumps common sense when it comes to salmon.
Using size 8 hooks and 10 pound tippet to fish for salmon that can weigh upwards of 50 pounds will inevitably result in a long and protracted battle to bring a Chinook to the beach.
The result will be a Chinook with enormous amounts of toxic lactic acid in its bloodstream, as well as other severe and life threatening impacts from a protracted effort to escape.
In 25 years of fishing for Chinook, the times when I had to deal with Chinook near death was when someone I was guiding played it too long. I regret to this day my patience with them.
And serving on the federal selective fishing panel, and working with some of Canada’s top fish epidemiologists, informs my opinion on this subject, not reading some quasi religious article by a yuppie fly fisherman in some fish porn magazine.
Rob Brown likely can play and release a Chinook successfully using that tackle, but very few anglers have his experience or expertise.
The ultimate example of this “light tackle” egoism was when the late Lee Wulff came to Terrace and bragged about catching a 20 pound steelhead on a size 20 fly. Yes, it can be done, but it doesn’t answer the question of whether, or why, it should be done. These are not trout in clear waters where light tippets are necessary, and where a trout can be landed in seconds with very low mortality.
Use larger hooks that will hold better, and most of all use 20 pound tippet, and play the fish hard. Fish chinook with others so someone can tail the fish in the water, and don’t take it out of the water, or slide it onto the shore.
Make sure it is still vigorous, and can hold itself upright. Hold it in the current and give it a chance to recover. This species is problematic for catch and release at best.
The idea that small hooks and light tippets are somehow more “sporting” is simply the ideology of a by gone era when there were far fewer fisherman, and we knew far less about the physiology of salmon under stress of capture, whether from a net or a hook. Today, Chinook are under severe pressure coastwise, and it’s everyone’s responsibility to fish responsibly. Using tiny hooks and light tippets to play these magnificent creatures is neither ethical nor moral. Best of all – harvest the fish, call it a very good day, and move on to other species that handle catch and release better.
Rob usually has good advice on fishing responsibly, and has made enormous contributions to salmon conservation, but in this case he was dead wrong.
Bruce Hill, Terrace, BC