Wildwood Outfitters Blog and Fishing Report
One of life's sweetest pleasures is besting a fish and then getting your picture taken for the ever classic "grip and grin" photo. For as much as the style of fish photography has come under fire recently it's a time tested way to show everyone your success as an angler. You catch a fish, grab it, pick it up, snap a few pics, let it go. It's just that simple. Yet mastering the art of holding a fish is only achieved through repeated practice, and it's a skill that few beginning anglers possess, much to their disappointment after viewing their pictures.
A million things have to go correctly in order to catch a fish. The fly choice, the cast, the drift, the hook set, the fight, the net job, etc. Assuming for a moment that it's an angler's first catch, elation fills the air! Everything worked out how it's supposed to and now you have the opportunity to catch a fish and show the Instagram world how cool you are! The fish is barely in the net and you have already decided on the correct filter and accompanying hashtags. And then this is the type of picture you are left with...
Neither of those two fish are as small as they look, and that's what you try to explain to people. The conversation usually goes something like this...
Master Angler: "Hey want to see pictures of the fish I caught!"
Person Pretending to Care: "Sure!.....Oh, it's just a baby fish!"
Master Angler: "It's actually much bigger than it looks there, and it was SUPER pretty."
There is one of the great lines in amateur fish photography. When in doubt as it pertains to size, just keep talking about the colors on the fish. It doesn't have to look big as long as it's pretty!
Over time (and hopefully more fish) you start to catch the hang of it. After that initial dopamine rush of your first fish subsides, subsequent catches tend to be a little less excited which leads to more focusing on arranging the fish and your hands for a more suitable picture. As a guide I have probably said "tilt the fish towards me," "flip your hand around," "open your fingers," and "let me see the fish" more than just about anything else. When it's the first fish in the net, I might as well be screaming obscenities in Greek for as much as anyone is paying attention. After a while though, my suggestions start to turn into practice and the pictures slowly improve...
The pictures start to look better but they still don't capture the moment. The truth is it's very difficult to master the art of holding a fish, especially when the guide is pushing you to make haste so the fish can be released quickly in the hopes of it living to fight another day. Even as the fish handling learning process continues, there can still be moments of backsliding. After all, the fish does have a say in all of this activity.
It might take a season or two of catching to full get the hang of things, but eventually it all clicks. You realize that 1.) trout don't have "spikes" like those fish you caught as a kid, 2.) you do sort of just, pick them up, 3.) they won't bite you, and, 4.) the closer you hold the fish to the camera the bigger it looks. More than anything else though, more experience will lead to better fish-holding abilities. Unlikely as it might seem while looking at your first fish photo, after a while it might even be possible to hold two fish at once!