It is now glaringly clear to me that fish are conscious beings and I often take for granted that so many others don’t see it the same way.
I grew up in north central Montana, in my family the activities of fishing and hunting were synonymous with enjoying the outdoors and putting food on the table. Although, as a child, I do remember talking with my dad about the negative return on investment of a hunting trip.
Once you factor in all the costs of the equipment and spend a whole day or more in pursuit it was clearly not the most sensible use of our time and money. My dad’s logic was that it was not all about the hunting, but that it was about being outdoors and connecting to nature, while putting food on the table.
It was also interesting to note that my father often mentioned that he didn’t like the actual act of killing a deer or antelope and he was really sad when I killed my first deer as it was just a yearling. But, he did not share the same sentiment when fishing… Fish were to be harvested “by the rules” – paying attention to size and quantity limits. And, he even turned many of our outings into a contest by offering one dollar for the first fish caught, one dollar for the largest fish caught, one dollar for the most fish caught and two more dollars if you were the only one to catch a fish. Five dollars to a kid was a huge incentive to go fishing.
I moved from Montana to Frederick MD in 1996 and continued to fish – and hunt – without any success, as regards to hunting. I found the woods too crowded with other hunters and people just out enjoying nature. I determined that hunting here was unsafe when another hunter stalked me, hearing me rustle through the brush and thinking that I was his target. I quit hunting and focused all of my outdoor recreation time on fly fishing.
I fly fished Maryland and Pennsylvania passionately until I became vegan in 2008. In my opinion fly fishing can be perceived as having an air of snobbery about it, most of the equipment is expensive and lots of the participants project a bit of a “moral high ground” over traditional fishing methods since they usually catch and release (as I always did). I have to admit that I enjoyed the stalking involved with fishing and it is still the hardest thing for me about being vegan. People often ask, “don’t you miss cheese or bacon?” I usually reply with, “no, the hardest thing for me is not fishing. Every time I walk by a stream I know exactly how I would approach the water (if fishing), gauging where the fish most likely are and guessing what they might be compelled to eat. Something about that hunting/stalking process is ingrained deeply within me.” I even occasionally go to some of my old streams and approach the water with the same delicacy as if I was fishing and just quietly observe.
That said, I will never fish again. When explaining why I no longer fish to people, usually after they say, “why don’t you just catch and release?”” I often ask them to imagine eating their favorite food and then think about what it would be like if it suddenly hooked into their mouth and then they were pulled all around the room by an invisible line, ending by dunking their head in the sink until they nearly suffocate. Kinda graphic, but it makes people think.
I don’t know if anything I’ve written is of value to you or not. Please feel free to use as you like or let me know if you would like something more of a “boiler plate”” quotation. Below is one of my favorite quotes from Henry David Thoreau.
“I cannot fish without falling a little in self-respect…always when I have done I feel it would have been better if I had not fished.” —Thoreau