Fisheries Conservation photo

After sitting in traffic on a freeway in Los Angeles the other day, I decided that LA freeways are similar to over-stocked trout rivers. Put too many fish in a river and everything gets plugged up, and everyone starts acting weird.

Yet I am amazed by the number of anglers who think that stocking trout is the key to “good fishing.”

I get it all the time. “Hey, have you ever heard of XYZ place near Denver, the fishing is just tremendous there.” Yeah, I’ve heard of it. And no, the fishing is not tremendous. The fishing is really all about mutant triploid fish, planted in such great concentration that by simply dragging flies through a run, you are bound to eventually snag one in the face. There are a lot of places like that these days. Places where people go to pretend to be good anglers. And people will pay through the nose to do so. But those places have nothing to do with actually being a good angler.

I don’t have a problem with all that, so long as it is kept in context. I fish those places myself, and have fun doing so. I get that some people want the photo for their office walls. And success breeds interest. People get a thrill by pulling on big fish. That’s cool. But just don’t pass that off as a real, honest fishing environment. Pass it off as the Disneyland it really is. I like riding in Space Mountain too, but I’m not going to tell you I’m an astronaut.

There’s a danger in people thinking that pay-to-play, over-stocked fishing environs are the real deal. They get people thinking that money solves all the issues; that we can buy quality fishing. But the truth is that it only comes through taking care of wild places, and having the gumption to get out there and experience them.

A 10-inch wild, native cutthroat trout is 10 times the “trophy” than a planted 10-pound rainbow is. I also think that the wild factor is an advantage that saltwater fishing will always have over trout fishing, and why there are more legitimately good anglers in the salt. But that’s just my opinion. I’m pretty sure I’m in the minority on all of that. And that bums me out.