Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Flies and Lies

   No, Not the shop. The great Jeremy Hyatt, whitewater kayak guru and trout guide par excellence works at the shop in scenic and historic Deckers, Colorado. Nice place to grab emergency bugs or tippet and shoot the breeze, but not the topic of this post.

   Todays topic has more to do with a dirty little secret. I hate to be the one to tell you this, but, well, there is just no nice way to say it... fisherman lie about their catches. I know, I know, shocking. But take it from me, it does happen.

   There are several ways to process this information. One is that the offending persons are simply not able to accurately estimate lengths and girths. This notion is not completely divorced from the reality that the great majority of anglers (of all types, not just fly fisherman) are male, and males are so often known to extend the length and girth of... objects by as much as 25 to 50%. Thus an object having a length of five inches and a girth of one and one half inches becomes seven to ten inches in length and two to three inches in diameter. The determined overestimation of the size of objects by male persons is at this point a well documented phenomenon. It would seem that this trend "extends" to other areas of interest. Shame is not a limiting factor in the equation. It does in fact appear to exacerbate the problem.

  Another more benign, if slightly fantastic possibility is that spatial relationships and physical reality are  being influenced by the mind of the observer, are in fact altered by the act of observation, and are perhaps even non-linear in scope! Therefore, not only do we all live in a separate, discreet reality, our very process of cognition alters this subjective reality in a way that is both personal AND fluid! Compounding length and weight estimates would thus be forgiven, as there could be no established criterion upon which to make a valid and useful measurement. Several powerful intellects at Cambridge, CalState and MIT are working on this quandary even as I type.

   No matter what the reason for the in-accuracy, there is a simple, reliable way to put the matter to rest. CARRY A SCALE AND TAPE MEASURE!!! Don't estimate; measure. The fact that the measurement equipment has no ego to bolster or in fact any opinion whatsoever concerning anything is immensely useful in obtaining accurate results!

   I do not want to ever have to be subjected to the indignity of a story concerning a ten pound Colorado largemouth again as long as I shall live because some jackass cant be bothered to carry a scale. I have never caught a double digit bass in this state, despite catching dozens of bass in the high single weight class, topping out at eight pounds. Yes, there have been two largemouth weighed in the state's history that bested the magic ten pound mark, but it's like this... you did not catch them, buddy. Your fish weighs (or should I say weighed, 'cause fish loose a lot of weight as soon as you freeze them) at best six pounds, and probably a lot less. If you saw a ten pound bass, you would faint dead away, I promise.

   This rant was precipitated by a post on a local fishing forum that need not be named. A fellow posted a picture of a large brown trout and indicated it was thirty inches in length. Let me be the first to say it is hard to get a feel for the true size of a fish by looking at a picture, but I was not "feeling" 30" for this one. At any rate, my feelings are not relevant, as the gentleman then confessed he did not measure the fish! Why then list  figure for it's length? Is it not enough to state simply "I done got me a big 'un!" and leave it at that?

   As I have stated prior, I am always thinking of the health an safety of our quarry. There are those that observe, rightly, that the act of weighing a fish stresses it. Well, to those who make that argument, let me humbly submit this fact: so does hooking and fighting it. If we are honest with ourselves, we will admit that our game involves giving hell to an innocent critter that is by and large overmatched by us. It is what it is. But there are ways to prevent or at least lessen the harm inflicted.

   I have a high quality spring scale made by Chatillion that has a micro-adjustment enabling the user to calibrate the scale to exclude the weight of the net. I simply "zero" the scale with the net attached, and any object placed in it after the fact is weighed accurately and quickly. As for length and girth, I carry a seamstress' tape, a small tape used by tailors and nurses and easily stowed in any small pocket or vest compartment. I almost never use it, preferring to weigh fish than tape them, but I carry it so that if I catch something truly huge and am interested in a fiberglass reproduction mount, something I have yet to indulge myself, I can get accurate measurements of length and girth to provide the taxidermist. Along with clear color photos, length and girth are all that is needed for a stunning Catch and release trophy.

ten pounds?

ten pounds.



  1. The truth has been let out of the bag. Almost all fisherman have no idea how to estimate the length of a fish. It starts out at 18" than grows to 21"

  2. that's just it... they should not "estimate", they should measure. can you imagine if these guys were carpenters?

  3. Or better yet. I cought the same fish this fall as an unnamed individual who was bragging about a 9.5lber when my scale said it was 7. Ooopps must have been an honest mistake, right?

  4. Simplicity in all things! There comes a time when length or girth aren't an issue. Scales can be left behind and all that really matters is the effort it took to match the instincts of a particular trout. Scales and tapes are just another mile marker on the journey.....

  5. Well, I never claimed to be an especially mature individual.

    One day I will no doubt arrive at the banks of the River Test with my ghillie at my side to tell me which trout I may cast my Adams to, but until that day, I will carry a scale to keep me honest.