I am starting this post without a title yet, when I do give it one it may turn out to be an expletive.
I’m a pretty laid back sort of bloke, a sort of live and let live sort of person, you do your thing and I’ll do mine and provided we don’t interfere with each other’s pleasure we can co-exist very nicely, thank you.
Currently there is a debate going on somewhere else that has polarised attitudes to fishing for wild or stocked trout. That ‘somewhere else’ is someone else’s camp fire and I am not going to piss on it. This is my campfire and I can say what I damn well like.
On the one hand there are (the majority, I think) who are more than happy to have somewhere to fish for trout that have been stocked. Pretty well all reservoirs that cater for fly fishing fall into this category. These can be huge waters and the majority of fish in them are over wintered and have become naturalised to the point of being ‘wild’ to all intents and purposes. Their food is not supplemented, they feed naturally. I don’t have a clue what the stocking density is on reservoirs but lets take a look at what it might be like at somewhere like Bewl Water. Bewl is 770 acres, say we stock at 100 fish per acre, that’s 77,000 fish. Say 25% are lost from predation, illness and poaching (19,250) and 35,000 are caught and taken, that leaves 22,750 to overwinter and grow on, and who knows how many of these last several seasons before they get caught? Can these fish now be deemed ‘wild’?, I think so. Sure, there are those who will fish areas that stock fish have recently been introduced and fill their boots with easy pickings, not my scene, but it takes all sorts. In fact I don’t fish these places very often because they are catch and kill and I have had my share of catching and killing, I much prefer to catch and release, with the option to take the odd fish to eat if I want to. This does leave us C&R types open to the argument that we now treat fish as a play thing rather than food but Course (bait) anglers have always done it so I don’t see a problem really.
There are situations where stocking is, at best, questionable. Famous chalk streams like the Test or Itchen are stocked quite heavily so that some rich bugger, out on a corporate day, gets to land a 3lb brownie. OK, they pay a fortune for the privilege (?) but it has ruined the reputation of both rivers, on some stretches. I have fished the Upper Itchen for trout, they weren’t very big, they were quite spooky and, in a lot of places, the challenge was to get the fly on the water in the first place. I have fished the Test as well but only in the winter, for Grayling.
Now we come to the bit that has made my blood boil.
There are those that look down their noses at us poor sods who have the audacity to claim that the majority of us that have to fish for stocked fish are really not fly fisher’s at all. No, we are ‘Stockie Bashers’, ‘Fish Mongers’, scum of the earth, basically not fit to lick the boots of a genuine wild fish fly fisher. Well, some of us just aren’t located in a geographically wild trouty sort of place. I would be very surprised if there was a genuine wild trout within 200 miles of me at this moment; so what would be the environmental cost of me jumping into my car and driving those 200 miles to search this poor little fish out?, and, when I caught all 6” of it, driving 200 miles home?. OK, I could now class myself as a genuine fly fisher, but at what cost?. What if I went the whole hog and jumped on a plane and crossed the World to catch a wild fish. Well, for one thing, in the majority of places, that trout wouldn’t be there in the first place if someone hadn’t put it’s great, great, great, great grand mother there first. Wild?, natural?, yeah, right.
If I was fortunate enough to live in an area where there was an opportunity to catch wild trout I would jump at it but I would hope that it didn’t make me feel superior to other fly fishers, just luckier.
To look down your bloody nose at us poor saps who fish stocked waters is to denigrate the likes of Richard Walker, Bob Church, Tom Ivens, Brian Harris, Steve Parton, etc, etc who have contributed so much to fly fishing over the last thirty years or so.
I think I have done bloody well to get though this rant without one obscene expletive, I can assure you it wasn’t easy. Now, what to call it?.