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Merwin: The Catch-And-Release Preacher

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March 13, 2009

Merwin: The Catch-And-Release Preacher

By John Merwin

This is one of my favorite stories, which if nothing else will prove what a nasty old guy I really am. My old pal Fred wanted a flyfishing lesson, so I took him down to a meadow stretch of the local trout river on a sunny spring afternoon. We sat on the bank overlooking a productive pool.

I explained that in an hour or so some Hendrickson mayflies would be hatching, showed him where to cast, and told him to sit still without moving around so as not to scare the fish. I went off to fish a couple of hundred yards downstream. The hatch started in due time, and there were some nice brown trout rising near a log jam.

I caught one on a dry and kept it, thinking Fred would probably like a fish to take home. I caught a second and kept it, too, so Fred's wife could have one to eat also. After catching a third trout, I decided enough was enough and released it, as I do more often than not. I walked back up river toting the two trout in a canvas sack. I found Fred still sitting and smiling in the sun. Yes, he had seen some fish, but his line got tangled so he just sat there to watch.

As we sat together, another angler came walking up the riverbank, dressed to the nines and looking as if he had just stepped off the cover of an Orvis catalog. He asked if we had caught any, and I said yes, that I had kept a couple. He wanted to see them, so I dumped a brace of nice browns from my sack on to the grass.

This really set the guy off. He started giving me a loud lecture about catch-and-release.

When he paused for breath, I looked him in the eye and said, without expression, "Nah. I like to twist their necks."

The guy went ballistic. Red-faced and swearing at me, he went stomping off across the meadow. Fred looked at me. "You're really bad," he said. "You knew that would happen."

"Yeah, I did," I said. "Serves him right for preaching." And I explained to Fred about catch-and-release and how I've released almost all my fish for decades while once in a while keeping one or two for dinner. Which is perfectly okay.

Fred took the two trout home. He told me later how great they were. Mrs. Fred liked them, too.

Comments (30)

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from 60256 wrote 5 years 5 weeks ago

You make the angry guy sound like the antagonist. Be happy that there is people out there that are willing to voice their opinion on catch and release. I mean you could've ran into some slob with 20 fish in his cooler.

Nate

-8 Good Comment? | | Report
from Blackfin32 wrote 5 years 5 weeks ago

I like this story a lot, John. I grew up in Montana mostly releasing fish all my life, keeping a few occasionally. Usually stocked fish, or fish from rivers or lakes with a very healthy wild population. For instance, any trout I catch in the Madison River goes back in, but a nice brook trout in the Beartooth Wilderness is supper. It wasn't until coming east for a while that I heard people condemning the killing of any trout, without much thought to where it was killed. The issue just isn't that black and white.

+4 Good Comment? | | Report
from Jim in Mo wrote 5 years 5 weeks ago

I was leaving a stream with five trout for supper. A guy asked me how I could possibly need all those fish, I told him, Easy with a wife and three kids. Do gooders often preach before thinking.

+3 Good Comment? | | Report
from buckeye wrote 5 years 5 weeks ago

Great story, I usualy release all of my trout, but I do occasionaly keep some. I can't stand it when people preach to me. Stay out of my business and I will stay out of yours. Chances are that if someone is out there trout fishing they know about catch and release.

+3 Good Comment? | | Report
from MB915 wrote 5 years 5 weeks ago

I dont see why people always feel the need to preach. It is not against the law to keep a few fish from time to time, so keep your thoughts to yourself. People in todays day and age are more worried about what others are doing, than worrying about themselves. I strictly practice C&R but would never chastize another fisherman for keeping fish.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from MLH wrote 5 years 5 weeks ago

You are really bad, John. Not for keeping the fish but for leading the guy on. But, I would have done the same. There was no reason for you to have to explain. One of these days I will actually keep and eat a couple of brook trout. I hear they are as tasty as they are beautiful.

I took a friend from Europe to a flyshop where catch and release is the absolute norm - it's built the river to what it is today. I asked about the hatches. My European friend said he wanted to catch some fish that he could "kill" - emphasis on kill. The shop owner about had a heart attack. The shop got dead quiet. But I burst out laughing so hard at his expression and the shock that I about bust a gut. I give the shop owner credit for not going into preach mode. I told him I would educate my friend.

+3 Good Comment? | | Report
from Joe_Cermele wrote 5 years 5 weeks ago

I say, if someone is in their legal rights, you got no business opening your mouth. Happens all the time with stripers. Limits are 2 fish at 28 inches. Four guys on a charter equals a bunch of dead bass on the dock and people rip apart the photos. But hey, rules is rules.

+3 Good Comment? | | Report
from rrmont wrote 5 years 5 weeks ago

That was funny. I say if you are fishing or hunting, leave the soap box at home. That guy wanted to preach over 2 fish, come on.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from kolbster wrote 5 years 5 weeks ago

i keep almost all the trout i catch over 12 inches, i love to eat them.

+3 Good Comment? | | Report
from VT Outdoorsman wrote 5 years 5 weeks ago

Sounds like something i would do.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from CPT BRAD wrote 5 years 5 weeks ago

That was the best one that I've read today, its really funny since I just had a man day weekend where we went up and played cards all night and caught trout all day. We didn't all catch limits but about 6 did. It was a great weekend and no one was preachin so no one go irate.

Keep fishin have fun and if a guy wants to preach let him, from the pulpit not the bank!

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from buckhunter wrote 5 years 5 weeks ago

Good story John. I can't remember the last time I kept a fish but I still appreciate a full stringer when I see one. I think it goes back to when I was a kid and full stringers were a sign of success. Now in my older days sunshine and friendship is a successful day.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from 60256 wrote 5 years 5 weeks ago

Thanks for all the negatives guys! :)

Nate

-1 Good Comment? | | Report
from jlfreeborn wrote 5 years 5 weeks ago

Trout are some of the best-tasting freshwater fish out there. Nothing wrong with keeping some, as long as they go in someone's belly.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from mdhager115 wrote 5 years 5 weeks ago

Thats a good story. I completely agree with keeping ta couple trout for a meal. I would understand if the guy would yell over keeping many fish, but you only had two. You had the right to say whatever you want.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from tourneyking734 wrote 5 years 5 weeks ago

i say that people should keep their own ideas to themselves on the water. I personally like to keep fish under 12" since they are so sweet. I see how on some rivers this shouldn't be done but my stream the population is so strong that if we don't manage it correctly all we get is little fish.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from prairieghost wrote 5 years 5 weeks ago

i haven't kept a trout in eight years but i do NOT begrudge someone the simple pleasure of fresh trout for the dinner table. i'm glad fred and mrs. fred enjoyed some of nature's bounty.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from deanlikes2fish wrote 5 years 5 weeks ago

i practice c and r because im lazy. i love fresh trout and sometimes keep them or stripers or flounder because its delicous, i wish everyone would remember that not all of us have as much and the difference between a super dinner and mac n chheese for the family is a hunk of swimming protein. im still a lazy butt about cleaning fish though.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from idduckhntr wrote 5 years 5 weeks ago

I hear that alot on the south fork of snake. Catch and release and all that you allways have those guys that are purists I might keep one fish a year. I guess what I am getting at is save the preaching for church if somebody wants to take a fish home than so beit, I mean what the hell is next catch and release hunting.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from Tim Platt wrote 5 years 5 weeks ago

They don't make it through the summer down here. Stock and eat!

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from osobear50 wrote 5 years 5 weeks ago

Why in the world would you go fishing if you are not planning on putting you catch on the table to eat. Sounds to me like yall inflict pain on fish just to get your jollies. I know that most people who fish love to eat fish. So, if you love fish but you release the fish you catch where do you get your fish that you eat or do you eat soy substitute for fish. I am thinking you either buy them from the store or at a restaraunt who buy them from someone who bought them from someone who caught it so that they can make a dollar. You buy a fishing licencse so that you can food on the table but instead of using it for that you use it to get your jollies.

-2 Good Comment? | | Report
from jmcctheboss23 wrote 5 years 5 weeks ago

i fish the stream that runs under the bridge near my house almost every day and i will say that i probably release over 200 fish a year the few trout that i keep are a delicious end to a day well spent. my philosophy with keeping trout is keep only what you'll eat and it is okay. but i will go an a torrent if i see someone keeping over the limit of trout. by the way osobear50 you must be one of the dumbest people to ever comment on this website congratulations

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from rjw wrote 5 years 5 weeks ago

Opinions are like, well you know everbody has got one. Alot of people just do not know how to keep their pie hole shut, only child syndrome? One of the main reasons we have so much good fishing is because of us, the fishermen, a portion of the money we spend on our sport goes back into the fisheries, along with some decent fisheries management, exceptional waters and views,add in some creel limits and it is all good.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from osobear50 wrote 5 years 4 weeks ago

jmcctheboss23 you have to be the dumbest SOB on the planet if you think my comment is the dumbest. You obviously didn't read your own before you submitted it. Everyone has their own opinion, just because it differs from yours doesn't mean it is wrong or right. I love to fish and I release the fish that aren't big enough to keep. Once I catch my limit or enough to feed my family I stop fishing. Why continue to fish. Yes the fun is going to end and I have to find somthing else to do to get my jollies.

By the way God gave me the ability to catch a fish to eat not hurt it for fun. I have nothing against those who catch and release for fun, and never will, but it is not for me and I won't teach it to my kids. There are plenty of things to do for fun, like train my hunting dogs, than to fish to kill time.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from spuddog wrote 5 years 4 weeks ago

I would have told him "yeah, and I used a treble hook and power bait, so they couldn't get away." I have a few friends and aquaintances that are into the fly fishing as a philosophy thing. I'd see these pictures of these huge fish that they caught and I'd ask how it tasted or how they cooked it. It took me a while to figure it out - they don't keep them! None of them! I understand putting them back when it's over the limit or more than you can eat, but I just don't get putting them all back. To me that is like setting a live trap for a raccoon or squirel and then letting him go just so you can bait it and catch him again. Why don't you just hand feed them and train them so you can pet them.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from WA Mtnhunter wrote 5 years 4 weeks ago

Should have been like the old poacher that had been caught by the game warden dynamiting fish. When the game warden started to question him about his activities, he handed the warden a lit stick of dynamite and said, "you gonna fish, or just stand there talking"?

Not much more intolerant than a died in the wool catch and release trout fisherman or a reformed cigarette smoker.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from FloridaHunter1226 wrote 5 years 4 weeks ago

You make up a great point. Some people just need to shut their mouth and stop preaching and mind their own business sometimes. I also think you did exactly the right thing, even though you caught more than you could eat, you only kept what you could eat. I dont understand why the guy got so mad about you keeping some to eat... that is part of the reason why I fish and hunt

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from snowninja wrote 5 years 4 weeks ago

I believe that guy was in the wrong. That's why the good people to the Dept. of Conservation set daily limits. I do all my hunting and fishing because 1) It's fun, and 2) It's a great source of food. I throw back my fair share of fish too, but my family likes to eat. As long as you weren't breaking the law, you were perfectly in the right.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Len Harris wrote 5 years 3 weeks ago

Catch & Release is a management tool.
It is NOT a religion.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from 2Poppa wrote 5 years 3 weeks ago

I can't stop laughing John!
No wonder Fred wanted you to teach him the art of fly fishing ... you taught him something far greater!

If I had been Mr.Dressed "To The Nines", I would have asked to have been invited for dinner, instead of allowing you to "twist my head" ..."You're really bad!"
It still tickles me.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report

Post a Comment

from Blackfin32 wrote 5 years 5 weeks ago

I like this story a lot, John. I grew up in Montana mostly releasing fish all my life, keeping a few occasionally. Usually stocked fish, or fish from rivers or lakes with a very healthy wild population. For instance, any trout I catch in the Madison River goes back in, but a nice brook trout in the Beartooth Wilderness is supper. It wasn't until coming east for a while that I heard people condemning the killing of any trout, without much thought to where it was killed. The issue just isn't that black and white.

+4 Good Comment? | | Report
from Jim in Mo wrote 5 years 5 weeks ago

I was leaving a stream with five trout for supper. A guy asked me how I could possibly need all those fish, I told him, Easy with a wife and three kids. Do gooders often preach before thinking.

+3 Good Comment? | | Report
from buckeye wrote 5 years 5 weeks ago

Great story, I usualy release all of my trout, but I do occasionaly keep some. I can't stand it when people preach to me. Stay out of my business and I will stay out of yours. Chances are that if someone is out there trout fishing they know about catch and release.

+3 Good Comment? | | Report
from MLH wrote 5 years 5 weeks ago

You are really bad, John. Not for keeping the fish but for leading the guy on. But, I would have done the same. There was no reason for you to have to explain. One of these days I will actually keep and eat a couple of brook trout. I hear they are as tasty as they are beautiful.

I took a friend from Europe to a flyshop where catch and release is the absolute norm - it's built the river to what it is today. I asked about the hatches. My European friend said he wanted to catch some fish that he could "kill" - emphasis on kill. The shop owner about had a heart attack. The shop got dead quiet. But I burst out laughing so hard at his expression and the shock that I about bust a gut. I give the shop owner credit for not going into preach mode. I told him I would educate my friend.

+3 Good Comment? | | Report
from Joe_Cermele wrote 5 years 5 weeks ago

I say, if someone is in their legal rights, you got no business opening your mouth. Happens all the time with stripers. Limits are 2 fish at 28 inches. Four guys on a charter equals a bunch of dead bass on the dock and people rip apart the photos. But hey, rules is rules.

+3 Good Comment? | | Report
from kolbster wrote 5 years 5 weeks ago

i keep almost all the trout i catch over 12 inches, i love to eat them.

+3 Good Comment? | | Report
from MB915 wrote 5 years 5 weeks ago

I dont see why people always feel the need to preach. It is not against the law to keep a few fish from time to time, so keep your thoughts to yourself. People in todays day and age are more worried about what others are doing, than worrying about themselves. I strictly practice C&R but would never chastize another fisherman for keeping fish.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from rrmont wrote 5 years 5 weeks ago

That was funny. I say if you are fishing or hunting, leave the soap box at home. That guy wanted to preach over 2 fish, come on.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from VT Outdoorsman wrote 5 years 5 weeks ago

Sounds like something i would do.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from CPT BRAD wrote 5 years 5 weeks ago

That was the best one that I've read today, its really funny since I just had a man day weekend where we went up and played cards all night and caught trout all day. We didn't all catch limits but about 6 did. It was a great weekend and no one was preachin so no one go irate.

Keep fishin have fun and if a guy wants to preach let him, from the pulpit not the bank!

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from buckhunter wrote 5 years 5 weeks ago

Good story John. I can't remember the last time I kept a fish but I still appreciate a full stringer when I see one. I think it goes back to when I was a kid and full stringers were a sign of success. Now in my older days sunshine and friendship is a successful day.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from jlfreeborn wrote 5 years 5 weeks ago

Trout are some of the best-tasting freshwater fish out there. Nothing wrong with keeping some, as long as they go in someone's belly.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from mdhager115 wrote 5 years 5 weeks ago

Thats a good story. I completely agree with keeping ta couple trout for a meal. I would understand if the guy would yell over keeping many fish, but you only had two. You had the right to say whatever you want.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from tourneyking734 wrote 5 years 5 weeks ago

i say that people should keep their own ideas to themselves on the water. I personally like to keep fish under 12" since they are so sweet. I see how on some rivers this shouldn't be done but my stream the population is so strong that if we don't manage it correctly all we get is little fish.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from prairieghost wrote 5 years 5 weeks ago

i haven't kept a trout in eight years but i do NOT begrudge someone the simple pleasure of fresh trout for the dinner table. i'm glad fred and mrs. fred enjoyed some of nature's bounty.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from deanlikes2fish wrote 5 years 5 weeks ago

i practice c and r because im lazy. i love fresh trout and sometimes keep them or stripers or flounder because its delicous, i wish everyone would remember that not all of us have as much and the difference between a super dinner and mac n chheese for the family is a hunk of swimming protein. im still a lazy butt about cleaning fish though.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from idduckhntr wrote 5 years 5 weeks ago

I hear that alot on the south fork of snake. Catch and release and all that you allways have those guys that are purists I might keep one fish a year. I guess what I am getting at is save the preaching for church if somebody wants to take a fish home than so beit, I mean what the hell is next catch and release hunting.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from jmcctheboss23 wrote 5 years 5 weeks ago

i fish the stream that runs under the bridge near my house almost every day and i will say that i probably release over 200 fish a year the few trout that i keep are a delicious end to a day well spent. my philosophy with keeping trout is keep only what you'll eat and it is okay. but i will go an a torrent if i see someone keeping over the limit of trout. by the way osobear50 you must be one of the dumbest people to ever comment on this website congratulations

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from FloridaHunter1226 wrote 5 years 4 weeks ago

You make up a great point. Some people just need to shut their mouth and stop preaching and mind their own business sometimes. I also think you did exactly the right thing, even though you caught more than you could eat, you only kept what you could eat. I dont understand why the guy got so mad about you keeping some to eat... that is part of the reason why I fish and hunt

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from Tim Platt wrote 5 years 5 weeks ago

They don't make it through the summer down here. Stock and eat!

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from rjw wrote 5 years 5 weeks ago

Opinions are like, well you know everbody has got one. Alot of people just do not know how to keep their pie hole shut, only child syndrome? One of the main reasons we have so much good fishing is because of us, the fishermen, a portion of the money we spend on our sport goes back into the fisheries, along with some decent fisheries management, exceptional waters and views,add in some creel limits and it is all good.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from osobear50 wrote 5 years 4 weeks ago

jmcctheboss23 you have to be the dumbest SOB on the planet if you think my comment is the dumbest. You obviously didn't read your own before you submitted it. Everyone has their own opinion, just because it differs from yours doesn't mean it is wrong or right. I love to fish and I release the fish that aren't big enough to keep. Once I catch my limit or enough to feed my family I stop fishing. Why continue to fish. Yes the fun is going to end and I have to find somthing else to do to get my jollies.

By the way God gave me the ability to catch a fish to eat not hurt it for fun. I have nothing against those who catch and release for fun, and never will, but it is not for me and I won't teach it to my kids. There are plenty of things to do for fun, like train my hunting dogs, than to fish to kill time.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from spuddog wrote 5 years 4 weeks ago

I would have told him "yeah, and I used a treble hook and power bait, so they couldn't get away." I have a few friends and aquaintances that are into the fly fishing as a philosophy thing. I'd see these pictures of these huge fish that they caught and I'd ask how it tasted or how they cooked it. It took me a while to figure it out - they don't keep them! None of them! I understand putting them back when it's over the limit or more than you can eat, but I just don't get putting them all back. To me that is like setting a live trap for a raccoon or squirel and then letting him go just so you can bait it and catch him again. Why don't you just hand feed them and train them so you can pet them.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from WA Mtnhunter wrote 5 years 4 weeks ago

Should have been like the old poacher that had been caught by the game warden dynamiting fish. When the game warden started to question him about his activities, he handed the warden a lit stick of dynamite and said, "you gonna fish, or just stand there talking"?

Not much more intolerant than a died in the wool catch and release trout fisherman or a reformed cigarette smoker.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from snowninja wrote 5 years 4 weeks ago

I believe that guy was in the wrong. That's why the good people to the Dept. of Conservation set daily limits. I do all my hunting and fishing because 1) It's fun, and 2) It's a great source of food. I throw back my fair share of fish too, but my family likes to eat. As long as you weren't breaking the law, you were perfectly in the right.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Len Harris wrote 5 years 3 weeks ago

Catch & Release is a management tool.
It is NOT a religion.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from 2Poppa wrote 5 years 3 weeks ago

I can't stop laughing John!
No wonder Fred wanted you to teach him the art of fly fishing ... you taught him something far greater!

If I had been Mr.Dressed "To The Nines", I would have asked to have been invited for dinner, instead of allowing you to "twist my head" ..."You're really bad!"
It still tickles me.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from 60256 wrote 5 years 5 weeks ago

Thanks for all the negatives guys! :)

Nate

-1 Good Comment? | | Report
from osobear50 wrote 5 years 5 weeks ago

Why in the world would you go fishing if you are not planning on putting you catch on the table to eat. Sounds to me like yall inflict pain on fish just to get your jollies. I know that most people who fish love to eat fish. So, if you love fish but you release the fish you catch where do you get your fish that you eat or do you eat soy substitute for fish. I am thinking you either buy them from the store or at a restaraunt who buy them from someone who bought them from someone who caught it so that they can make a dollar. You buy a fishing licencse so that you can food on the table but instead of using it for that you use it to get your jollies.

-2 Good Comment? | | Report
from 60256 wrote 5 years 5 weeks ago

You make the angry guy sound like the antagonist. Be happy that there is people out there that are willing to voice their opinion on catch and release. I mean you could've ran into some slob with 20 fish in his cooler.

Nate

-8 Good Comment? | | Report

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