Examining the way certain species of fish are viewed by people and how that view changes from group to group is a very interesting study in group dynamics. At our core, we are all fisherpeople, looking to somehow influence the behavior of a fish. I was originally going to say that we were all looking to entice a fish to bite our hook and be drug onto shore, but I thought I might get the bowfishers and the pallid sturgeon snaggers offended. They totally circumvent the whole “me fool fish” part of fishing and go straight to the fishhunting. I was then going to say that we are all looking for a way to drag a fish out of water and into our hands, but I remembered the newly popular sport of hookless flyfishing. These folks take the fooling of the fish as the ultimate goal and the enjoyment, for them, stops there. For the rest of us fishing is something akin to being drug dealers. We are trying to get the fish to put something into their bodies that they will ultimately regret. Possibly we are more like tobacco companies. At any rate, lets not get overly romantic about our place in this game. We are not the fish’s friends anymore than a cat is a friend to the mouse that it plays with. Ultimately, we want to catch the biggest of whatever fish we are after that we can, regardless of the fishes feelings on the subject.
The question is, what fish do we choose to fish for. It seems that everyone has a view on what is the proper species of fish to pursue. There is a loose connection between what the ultimate purpose of the fishing is and what species one pursues. Sometimes this means that there is a connection between personal taste and the appropriate fish to catch. I grew up in a town that sold Bullhead meat in the grocery stores. Needless to say, there were people that would go out and specifically fish for bullhead because they ate it. For them, the bullhead was the goal; actually the biggest bullhead was the goal. Many people here, fish for walleye. It is very tasty meat and a game fish to boot. So it has a double draw. In that way the walleye fisherperson and the bullhead fisherperson are effectively engaged in the exact same activity with the exact same goal. They are both trying to catch the biggest fish possible that is made out of the meat that they think is tastiest.
Given the commonalities in our pursuits, one would think that there would be a very tight camaraderie amongst all different sorts of fishpeople. However, like any community, there are fissures and fractures that cause different factions to spring up. These factions tend to ignore the things they have in common with other groups and focus exclusively on differences. One group finds that catching a certain species of fish is easy, ignoring the fact that catching THE LARGEST of that species is still hard. Or that the official handbook has not designated a certain species as a game fish and it is therefore not worthy of a cast. Or my favorite, that certain species of fish are non-native and are thus not actually fish at all, but actually don’t exist. We use different tackle, different bait, or differ in whether or not we release the fish. All of these thing are used to make one group of fisherperson distinct from others and therefore allow a superiority complex to emerge.
One of the things I love about flyfishing is that I can cross boundaries in terms of what I want to catch, and I am not limited by what I have originally gone out to pursue. If I went out after Largemouth Bass and a spinner fall occurs, bringing the Mooneye to the surface to feed. I don’t have the watch helplessly while all the fun passes me by. I can tie on a dryfly and go crazy. The point is, that flyfishing allows me to enjoy the opportunities that nature, or god or a low pressure system or whatever, afford me as they come. I am not constrained by a rigidity in what is the right fish, because the right fish is the one I choose to cast too. And if he isn’t there, then it is the next one. I broaden my sources of success to include anything that is presented, allowing me to enjoy the world as it is, rather than as I had hoped it would be.
There is a certain species of fish that I would like to describe for you to guess. It is an introduced species; very spooky but sometimes visible as it feed on the surface frequently. Most of its diet consist of small underwater insects. This fish can be a very choosey eater, and if it is feeding on a certain thing at the time it will not take anything else. Give up? It is a Brown Trout. Also, it is a Carp.