Here at Kirks Flyshop, we are proud to fish responsibly, and we’re here to help you do the same. As fly fishing fanatics ourselves, we recognize the massive role we play in ensuring our fish population, especially trout, stays healthy and abundant in Estes Park. Few things compare to the thrill and enjoyment of fly fishing when done safely and sustainably. 

In today’s post, we’ll give you four easy ways to practice fishing responsibly. We promote these tactics during all of our guided fly fishing trips, and after you do them once, it will become second nature. Keep reading to learn more, and schedule your next guided fly fishing trip in Estes Park today!

Play Quick

To begin fishing responsibly, it’s important to understand just why fly fishing works. When a fish sees your fly sitting on the water or floating through it, the fish perceives the fly as food and a source of energy. Fish make a tactical decision to either swim up and eat the “food” or conserve their energy and wait for something closer. 

Because of this, it’s important that anglers do their part in helping fish conserve as much energy as well. One way to do this is by bringing the fish into your net and releasing it as quickly as possible. Once the fish is hooked, it will likely spend a tremendous amount of energy trying to escape the hook, and if the fish becomes too exhausted, it can be deadly. Play the fish as quickly as you can by having a friend or guide net your fish, then remove the fly promptly before releasing your catch.

Keep ‘em Wet

One of the most common mistakes rookie anglers make is exposing the fish to the air for too long. We’ve all seen those photos of people holding their catch with water nowhere in sight. While they certainly aren’t trying to hurt the fish, they are doing just that by keeping them out of the water for too long. 

If you want photos of or with your fish, do so responsibly by removing the fly and keeping the fish in your net with the bottom of the net submerged in the water. Removing the fish from the water for more than 30 seconds can cause stress, suffocation, and potentially irreversible damage. So, when taking a picture with your fish, do so quickly or leave its gills underwater.

Handle With Care

Speaking of handling, it’s important to understand the correct way to handle your fish. In general, you want to minimize contact with the fish as much as possible to help keep it safe throughout the catch and release process. When you do hold your fish to remove the fly or snap a photo, make sure your hands are wet. 

This is a crucial step to follow in keeping the fish healthy. Fish have a protective coating on the outside of their body, and when anglers touch that coating with dry hands, it not only hurts the fish, but it also removes part of that layer and exposes them to more danger when they are released. Also, do your best to remove the fly quickly and calmly so as to not cause any additional stress.

Pack it in, Pack it out

Fishing responsibly doesn’t only refer to keeping our fishing population safe and abundant — it also helps us keep our environment clean! It can seem easy to leave some litter behind when fishing, but it’s crucial that what you bring to the river, you also take away from the river. This includes everything from common litter like water bottles and bags to some fishing equipment you might not think of, such as fishing tippet you cut off, worn flies, and more. Pack it in and pack it out to keep our environment and its many animals safe.

These are just some of the many ways to practice responsible fly fishing. When you fish with Kirks, we always follow these guidelines and encourage new and experienced anglers alike to do the same. When you want to experience the best fly fishing in Colorado, schedule your guided fly fishing trip with Kirks Flyshop!