For a second I thought I was alone. I thought I was the only one fly rod in hand who thought it was ok. Dare I lift this fish above the water? Can I shoot a grip and grin? Does doing so make me an evil angler? And I say no- you are not an evil angler for shooting a grip and grin. And thankfully I am not alone.

There’s a sentiment floating around fly fishing lately and it’s all below the surface. A sentiment that while I personally feel is good natured- can easily lead new comers into the sport astray. One that could even alienate many an angler. And this is it: “Thou shall/should not lift a fish above the surface out of the water for thine evil grip and grin desires.”

I first saw this unwritten rule in photos online thru all the social media outlets. It started out as really cool pictures- fish half in and half out of the water held and hovering in/on the surface. Then behind the images an idea formed that joined itself with our mantra of “do no harm” to our piscatory targets/our fishy friends. (Another sentiment I whole heartedly support. Support outside of having to hook set a fish lip and bring the booger to hand for release. Actions which can be perceived as violent to some.) The idea was endorsed with a hashtag that seemed to cement it in stone… #keepthemwet. Don’t lift the fish out of water; its home. Doing so is malice and not the actions of an enlightened angler.

Look, it’s not an issue of right or wrong and I truely believe to be angler preference. But at the end of the day I do not believe it to be sin to lift a trout out of water. Take your grip and grin. Make a memory and save it in a Kodak moment. This is a staple in the guiding industry needed to bring in new blood to a once perceived old fogey sport. Now, there are things to note about fish photography and Gink and Gasoline blog outlines them well in the article, “8 Tips on Photographing Fish Without Harming Them.” 

But it’s ok to grip and grin provide you are caring for the fish well. Wet your hands and be a brief as possible. Don’t squeeze the stuffing out of them or break a jaw (in the case of bass). Leave them as close to as well as you found them minus the lip hole from a well done set hook.

It’s easy in this sport to always look for a higher morale high ground, or way to be more pure that the purist. It’s the culture of this sport. But let’s be clear on why we do what we do. Don’t lift fish out of water? Good for you. Shoot grip and grins? Good for you too.

Thanks.

See you on the high ground,
AirborneAngler