I love catching fish. ALL fish. Trout, smallies, bucket mouths,, catfish, fall fish (chubs), and all the fish I have yet to catch. It doesn't matter. If it swims, I want to catch it. But not all fish are created equal. There is a scale. Native, wild andronymous fish are at one end, stocked, non-native fish are at the other. Just the other day I was on a trout stream here in Virginia with client fishing for native brook trout; "Natives" as they're known down here. Well after a hard morning my client landed a beautiful 8" native. Its colors were stunning; reds, oranges, whites, and beautiful camouflage lines on it's back. When I netted it and handed it over to him he replied "That's it?" THAT'S IT?!?! I thought. That's it? These fish were chased down to Virginia and the southern Appalachian mountains by glaciers. GLACIERS! When was the last time you were chased from your homeland by a damn glacier?! These fish have survived 15,000 years of evolution where it constantly gets above 90* through the summer. Not survived, THRIVED in our cold mountain streams. They have survived logging, mining, acid rain, otters, and countless assaults by bait and meat fishermen only to finally be tricked into eating a nymph smaller than your pinky fingernail. This is not fishing, this is aquatic hunting. Have some respect!
Today I had the opposite experience. I went out to a delayed harvest section of a popular creek in the Shenandoah Valley that had been recently stocked. We slayed them. I stopped counting stocked rainbow trout at 20 and we continued on. The client was exuberant needless to say. But this wasn't fishing. It might has well been a trout pond filled with mindless pellet eaters. I think all except 3 took the sucker spawn fly. Barely a fly. But it was ON FIRE. I couldn't keep them off the line. Nothing huge, but fun. I'm not saying that I don't like to catch fish. And clients LOVE catching fish. Some days any fish will do; truly, ANY fish. But when someone asks "that's it" when they catch a native brookie that has survived eons faced with a plethora of difficulties, yes, that is it. "They" are it. "They" are the past, present, and the future. "They" were here long before me and "they"will (hopefully) be here long after my grandchildren are gone.