Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Another Angler's Thoughts and a Little Push

Thanks to some new connections on Twitter (@FadingAngler if you dare!), I was fortunate to wander across some recent writing from April Vokey.  April is one of those people who have found a way to successfully make their living in the outdoors.  She a guide, writer (I guess I mentioned that already), and the kind of adventurer I wish I could be.  She's also really into Swift fly rods, like my Epic 686.  Yeah, she's cool.  Much cooler than me.

Recent Swift promo on Twitter, featuring April.

Here's what caught my eye, my mind, and my heart when I saw this in her Twitter feed (reprinted with permission):

As an animal lover, this whole hunting thing has been very emotional. Never have I felt so attached to the food I eat, or to the food I see so often go to waste. I feel a responsibility to know where my food comes from, and to limit my grocery store shopping when there's been an animal killed for my wellbeing.
It's been hard. I've lost sleep. I've had to take some very deep looks into who I am as a person. Yet, I've still decided that this is for me, that I will still eat meat, and that I will always feel a connection to nature - the day that I can't accept this, I will stick to eating fish... but I just don't foresee that in the near future.
Vic and Kath from @oceanhunter_sportsfishing have taken me under their wings to open my eyes to this new world. Kath has fed me some of the most incredible meals made with wild game, and Vic has taught me how to gut and prepare an animal. I thought it would be one of the hardest things I've ever been a part of, but while he and I were doing the stuff so many of us try to pretend doesn't happen, I kept asking myself, "would you still eat a pork burrito"? Why, yes I would. And until I make the decision not to, I choose to come to grips with the reality of where my food comes from, as well as all the pain, heartache, and hard work that goes along with it.
I think I'll always cry after a kill and I'm ok with that. I'm ready for it. You'll never see me smiling and posing with an animal (this is likely the most graphic photo I will ever post), you'll never see me sponsored by a hunting company (this time I'm keeping this sport as mine... there will be no career involved here. It's so exhilarating to be just as excited over a sport as I was when I first got into fishing), and I will always respect that not everyone understands where I'm coming from (I'm sorry mom and dad) ... but, for now, I'm still craving pork burritos. Didn't see this one coming. Xo
I'm going to assume that this was the first time that April had ever taken the life of a land animal with intent.  Regardless, her feelings rippled across a normally calm spot in my mind like a pebble tossed in a pond, and resonated.  I immediately admired April for her honesty and for her courage.  She had the courage to challenge her own beliefs and test her ethics.  This is the best kind of intelligence.  Her reaction feels raw and very genuine.  I believe that these words and feelings come from the core of who she is.  And I'm grateful she had the courage and desire to write publicly about it, because it's time I faced a lingering internal dilemma of my own, one that The Little Voices® and I have not been able to resolve on my (our?) own: the ethics and morality of catch and release fishing.

I'm hoping April would be willing to participate in a discussion with me.  I'm also hoping that I can spend some time chatting with my friend and frequent fishing guide Joe Bloomquist. I need other people's perspectives, and I need to challenge my own philosophy a bit, because I despise hypocracy and won't tolerate it in myself, even if it means I never catch-and-release again.

It might take a while to arrange these conversations, but I'll report back when I can. 

15 comments:

  1. I felt like a savage after eating that pork burrito this morning. Luckily, with my memory issues I

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    1. What were we talking about?

      Maybe we could invite April to join us on our next fly angling outing in Colorado. I'll buy the Chipotle carnitas burritos.

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    2. I stopped by to check on your response and I see I forgot to finish my sentence. I forgot what I was going to say. If you can arrange to have April join us for some fishing I'll buy April dinner. You're on your own.

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  2. I have not kept a fish I have landed, including lots of Warm Water fish, and, Trout (stocked or not stocked), in quite some time. I simply enjoy the outdoors and my time spent on the water. Have I kept and ate fish I have landed before? Yes! Many years ago when I was first married and struggling to make ends meet with my wife, I used to catch stocked trout, catfish, etc just to help us have food on the table and help in any way I could to save money and pay the bills.... That is not necessary these days. Not much of a fish eater period......... I am interested in reading others views on this subject.

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    1. Perfect, Mel. I appreciate the input. I will never seek to impose my views on others when their actions don't affect me. Catch & Release often works to the benefit of the angling community. My mental knots are my own, and I seek only resolution to my own internal ethical conflict. I hope to write much more on the subject soon.

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  3. As a hunter and fisherman both, I have never felt that fishing was anything but a bloodsport. Unlike hunting, we can experience the rewards of fishing first, and if done properly choose whether to consume or release. I have never had an ethical problem consuming either fish or game. C&R to me is a tool of stewardship and nothing more. We choose our course in the best interest of conservation on a given water. In my personal opinion, to move the decision for C&R to one of ethical principle,is hypocrisy since we cannot stop the C&R mortality rate, we can only work to diminish it. In essence like it or not the more you catch, the more you kill. Just not while you are watching, making it more sterile and easier on the individual palate. I hold many of the same sentiment for hunting. It is a very personal decision, but one that I feel brings me closer and more a part of nature than anything else. Much the same as when I keep a fish for the skillet.

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    1. That's a POWERFUL opening sentence, Ralph. We must talk more about this!

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  4. Good topic Chris! I recently harvested my first deer and like April I too was unsure how I would feel about the act. After three days of sitting in the stand and thinking on it I realized that my act of harvesting a deer is not much different than factory farms slaughtering cows and pigs for the supermarket. The biggest difference is that I was closer to the processes involved in filling my freezer. And I wasn't about to quit eating meat! Trophy hunting still doesn't sit right with me but there's something sacred about the act of harvesting a wild animal for consumption. After the experience I would hunt for all my food if it were practical/legal/economical. I used to eat tons of brook trout when I lived in Montana but since moving to MN it doesn't excite me to eat fish swimming through the same water where cows shit and pesticides run off. I will say I believe trout mortality rates are probably exaggerated. I fish a few streams really close to home that are heavily pressured and I've caught a few fish (same fish) multiple times since moving here. Trout absolutely die when people don't practice proper C&R though. I totally agree with Ralph that C&R is a "tool of stewardship".

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    1. Congrats on that deer!

      As I'll discuss later, it's not the mortality that worries me. I believe (as in, "I have no proof or data to back up my assertion) C&R is a great conservation tool. My issue is what Ralph called "bloodsport"... Am I engaging in recreation at the expense of cruelty to another living thing?

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  5. Much like the others, I too have kept trout and bass in the past. Once I started fly fishing I suddenly became a catch and release guy. I think in 20 years I've only kept perhaps one fish that was injured. However I do not have a problem with anyone that catches a legal limit as long as they don't go to waste.

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    1. I learned to gut a fish when I was old enough to carry my first pocket knife (around 6, until I pulled a stunt that would have gotten me expelled and probably a criminal record today. After that, I didn't get that knife back until I was 8.) There was no catch-and-release in pursuit of trout when I was a kid.

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  6. As a kid I kept all of the fish I caught. Then I went to catch and release and several times I wondered if it was more humane or not. I agonized and philosophized over catch and release for years. I don't like the idea of torturing anything for pleasure. I came to the fact that the enjoyment I get from catching fish out weighs the sympathy I have for them. It was a hard thing to come to grips with but it's honest. I feel a higher being does the judging in the end. Meanwhile we try to make the best decisions we can.

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    1. Sounds like we have much in common, except for the fact that I'm slower arriving to the party. You've previewed my direction and discussion very well, sir! I'm still in the inner-struggle phase.

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  7. BTW, I've actually talked to April on the phone before. She's just as cool as her reputation.

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    1. Nice to hear. She's been gracious so far!

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