The Release

When you finally land that MONSTER TROUT, it’s time to take that rewarding photo and then release the fish back into the water so others can enjoy the thrill that you just experienced.


When you finally land that MONSTER TROUT, it’s time to take that rewarding photo and then release the fish back into the water so others can enjoy the thrill that you just experienced. This lesson will go over proper ways to handle trout and then release them.

When you hook into a fish, try not to over-exhaust it. Try to reduce the amount of stress the fish incurs by bringing it in as quickly as possible.

As soon as you get the trout close enough, a good net—which we discussed in a previous lesson—will come in extremely handy. I recommend a rubber net versus a mesh one. Rubber nets are great! Your flies don’t get tangled up in them, and they are less abrasive on a fish’s gills when you scoop them in. As soon as the fish is close enough to scoop up with your net, make sure that you wet your net before placing it in the water.  

Fish have a layer of mucus that protects them from diseases. Contact with dry surfaces, such as your hands, a dry net, boat bottoms, or land, can remove this protective slime and make fish more susceptible to diseases. So if you don’t have a net, make sure you wet your hands before handling a fish.

Place the net in the water behind the fish and scoop forward as you bring its head to the surface. After you have the fish in your net, keep the net in the water. This will keep the fish well oxygenated while you prepare to take out the hook.

Congratulations! You have landed a MONSTER!

Take a moment and enjoy it. These are amazing creatures, and after all of your hard work, you should take it all in. After you have had your moment of glory, now it’s time to make sure there is evidence of your adventures.

Let’s start by removing the fly. Make sure that you grip the trout carefully. Fish have sensitive internal organs, so hold it lightly without squeezing. Avoid placing your hand over its mouth and gills, as this would obstruct breathing. With larger fish, grip the tail wrist with an "A-Ok" finger formation and gently support the body under the front fins.

Make sure you are carrying easily accessible pliers or other hook-removal tools, to enable quick and careful hook removal. Take your pliers and locate the fly in the fish’s mouth. Grip the fly with the pliers and push/pull in the opposite direction of the hook. Your fly should pop right out.

Now that you have removed the fly, it’s time to photograph that MONSTER!

When at all possible, photograph the fish in the water. If you wish to take the fish out momentarily to get the quintessential trophy picture, start by keeping it as close to the surface as possible and fully submerged. When you are ready, let the photographer call the shots—1, 2, 3…—then raise the fish out of the water, take the picture quickly, and then get the fish back into the water. This will let the fish get a quick breather in between shots.

Just like humans, fish experience exercise-induced stress, causing them to tire and have diminished muscle function. In order to recover from being caught, fish need to be in the water so they can breathe and pump oxygen into their system.

You can reduce these health effects by keeping a fish’s mouth and gills fully submerged in the water as much as possible during handling.

After all the excitement—not only for you but for the fish, too—the fish might be exhausted and need a little reviving. This can be done in a river by submerging the fish and holding its head facing upstream so that the water runs into its mouth and through the gills.

In stillwater situations, move the fish in a figure-8 pattern to simulate this effect. Avoid pulling a fish backwards or pointing it downstream, as water moving in the reverse direction can harm
The trout will let you know when it is ready to go. Most of the time it will swim off willingly, but if it’s just hanging around, it’s probably because it has to catch its breath first. Let it relax for a little bit, then give it a gentle touch on the tail and it will most likely be on its way.