The True Cast Trout Talk

The True Cast - Is Eight Enough?

2 down and 6 to go. Choose wisely.

Capping the number of caught-and-released fish could solve a lot of problems… and bum a lot of people out.

I’m just back from a couple of weeks in England, where I got to fish some fabled chalk streams, like the River Itchen and River Test. It was an interesting trip that got my mind spinning with some internal debate.

The water itself is some of the most beautiful, clearest in the world, and I could just sit and watch the currents, appreciating their sheer beauty all day. The fact that all the water is owned and privately managed and you must pay handsomely to even look at it grates on my American ideology, though.

Kirk Deeter fishing in the UK

The thing is, when you own it, you make the rules. And when you make the rules, you can ensure that the fish eat great big mayflies all day, even on bright sunny days. So, there’s something to be said for that.

I found rules posted on a certain beat that said you can keep two fish, and then if you want to keep playing around, you can, but you have to stop catching (even if you’re releasing) after eight fish.

Fishery rules

I thought about that for a while, and wondered what it would be like if we Americans adopted that philosophy on some of our rivers. I actually think it would solve a lot of debate.

We just ran a story on Euro nymphing in the last issue of TROUT, which raised some hackles (as intended), even though it was (somewhat ironically) written by a dedicated Euro nymphing expert and advocate. At the end of the day, the methods you use are completely up to you, so long as they’re legal, and that’s fine. However, here’s the honest truth:

Bringing just 8 fish to hand during each day of fishing might make us appreciate them that much more.

Nobody cares about the Euro-nymphing methods you use… but some people care that you’re using a competitive technique to try to catch as many fish as possible, and catching and releasing many fish is a strain on the sustainability of any given fishery. It isn’t about the how, it’s about the how many. And the how many issue matters whether it’s fishing with dry flies, streamers, bobber rigs or anything else.

So how about a catch limit? You want to nymph away, great, knock yourself out. You’re done after eight. Caught that epic dry fly hatch and want to catch ‘em by the bushel? Well, you can catch eight. Streamer session? That’s cool. Eight. As such, we’re all making the same impact (or close).

Maybe more people would want to mix up their approaches more often. Two on nymphs, two on dries, two on streamers, and two wildcards… that’s a fun challenge. Maybe people would be more well-rounded anglers that way.

Guide days are often 8 hours long. That’s a fish an hour. A catch cap takes the monkey off the guide’s back to produce 30-50 fish for the guy who can’t really fish with much skill, but still measures success by the number of fish caught (think about how absurd that is at face value… benchmarking “success” for people who can’t really fish by the number of fish caught).

It’s HARD to catch eight fish in a day in many places. That’s a goal. That’s a legitimate accomplishment. And that’s just talking trout. Where would you put bumpers on the lanes in saltwater, and do you even need any?

One of 8 safely released.

Nobody blinks at hunting bag limits, or catch-and-kill fishing limits, but catch-and release fishing limits? BLASPHEMY! The problem is, you’re still killing some fish, even if you let them all go. But nobody really wants to talk about that do they?

I have my doubts that any of this will ever gain serious consideration or traction in America where personal freedoms—and consumption—rule.

But it might be worth thinking about, at least in some places.