There is an evolution of an angler. At least for most of us, we start out with a bobber and a worm. It is not wrong, that is the way you learn as a kid. At least in my case, I soon moved on to spinners and the beginnings of a catch and release ethic.
Some of us, I would argue the lucky ones, eventually trade the spinning rod for one a little longer and designed to throw flies. These flies are little and at least early on, mostly dry. We are in heaven and watching 6-8" trout come up and smack a small dry fly is all we dream about. On most western streams summer dry-fly fishing is so productive that we are forced to catch and release most of our fish.
Still our focus is on the catch though. Those days, often early in the season, where we venture out and rise few if any fish are seen as disappointments. Conversely, those rare days where we manage to hook and land a monster of 16-18" are lived over and over in our thoughts and stories told. It is interesting to note that these rare fish are almost always killed. Sure we believe in catch and release but hey, these fish are trophies. We have earned the right to kill them.
After a few years, a subsection of us will decide we are ready for a more difficult challenge. We have heard about the holy grail of a steelhead on a fly and even though it sounds like catching lightning in a bottle, we decide to give it a try. What follows for most is countless hours casting. If we are lucky, or unlucky depending upon your perspective, we might see a fellow angler hook a fish. We might even briefly have one on ourselves. It is the rare novice though that brings a fish to hand their first time out, or their second or their tenth. Soon most of those wanting a challenge decide that this is not for them. Maybe it is the trout fisher in them that says, "if I am not catching fish, this is not fishing".
For those that keep with it a wonderful transformation happens. The goal becomes not the catch but the pursuit. Oh don't get me wrong, the catch is wonderful and without the chance of it, the pursuit loses luster. But it is the need to be on the river, the need to cover the water the best way you know how and the need to do things right that drives us. If we do all those things AND the fish gods smile our way, a steelhead might take our offering and unleash both its adrenaline and ours. This is nirvana.
As this transformation is going on, and maybe because of it, the last piece of the catch and release ethic falls into place. It is no longer about the fish, it is about the fishing. Without the fish there can be no fishing so how could we bring ourselves to kill these wonderful creatures. Oh sure, we will bonk a hatchery fish from time to time because that is what they are there for. I would bet though that most do so with at least a twinge of guilt. And many of us even let the hatchery fish go. Hey we have earned the right to do it.
All of which brings me back to the subject of banned flies and indicator fishing. While each of us has evolved from bobber and worm, we have evolved at different rates, to different points and with different needs. For some, there is no longer the need of the fish to hand. Just the possibility is enough. For others, that is why they fish. Neither is right or wrong or for that matter better than the other. As long as both are legal, both are ethical and the fish are not unduly harmed, neither method is superior.
There is no doubt that indicator fishing is a very effective way to hook fish. I have tried it a couple of times and yes it works. Personally, it is not for me though. For the same reason I prefer not to fish nymphs and an indicator for trout, I prefer to not indicator fish. Both feel like a step back to the bobber and worm days. And contrary to the oft quotes saying, "you can never go home", you can, it just is never as good as it was before.
That is why I will continue to get up early and sweat in summer and freeze in winter. Hour after hour just trying to do it right so maybe just maybe, the gods may decide to smile.