A.A. Luce on Angling Ethics


Leaving religion aside, let us now face the ethical question on an ethical basis. Is angling cruel? People with a conscience who love their fishing rod are placed in a sad dilemma, as long as the question remains unanswered; and those who with Izaak Walton “love virtue and angling” will not grudge the time and trouble involved in answering it thoroughly: and no answer but a thorough answer really meets the case.

A.A. Luce, philosopher, fly fisher, and clergyman.  From Fishing and Thinking, 1959.

7 Responses to “A.A. Luce on Angling Ethics”

  1. Thom Goodmann Says:

    Braided currents, this topic. What I have read in biological studies offers evidence that fish do not–cannot–experience pain as we do neither in physical nor emotional terms. But I keep in mind those who counter that, were we to see anyone hook a bird by the beak and let it fly around for a while before setting it loose, we might well think they were participating in a cruel and senseless amusement. We all have varying investments in different animal species (and breeds!) Interested to hear what others have to say on this topic. +1 for A. A. Luce


  2. Kenov Says:

    Hi Thom, My understanding is that they feel some sort stimulation when hooked, but it’s difficult to know how that is perceived by them. Pain aside, there can certainly be physical consequences. I really like Luce, simply because he deals directly with the issue, even before we knew what little we know now. I don’t really agree with his conclusions (fishing for meat OK, catch and release not OK). Frankly, though, I’m not really sure why.

    A few years back, a friend told a visiting Thai Buddhist monk that I practiced catch-and-release fly fishing. The monk was horrified and insisted that my first child would be born with a deformed lip. I’m happy to report that his prediction was wrong.


  3. Mike Rectenwald Says:

    I found your site by ‘fishing’ around on the web for some thoughtful guides to angling and literature. This was the first book I read on your list. I’m incredibly thankful that you shared your syllabi and bibliography for those of us still getting started in this artful sport.

    Needless to say I also disagree with Luce’s ethics regarding catch and release, but I think he is of a different and age geographical place so I’m not sure he would argue this in the U.S. where conservation is so deep in our consciousness.

    But I was hoping he might touch on a subject that troubles me–fly-tying materials. I don’t hunt nor do I care to learn at this stage in life (I’m pushing 40). I would like to think that the materials I purchase are coming from eco-friendly environmentalists who provide the animals shelter and a long life apart from their prey, but I’m not so naive to believe this is the case. My brother-in-law traps animals and sends their hides off to be traded in the marketplace and I imagine this is where our materials come from, no?

    Are there any books or articles on the subject you might recommend? I have a feeling this is the unpleasant side of fly fishing as I’ve not read anything on it, but perhaps I’m wrong.

    I might have some luck searching magazine articles, but thought it was worth mentioning here in case you have some guidance.

    Again, thank you for the great posts–I teach college English and with my newfound hobby I can already see a college class in the making based on your suggestions.



  4. rectenblog Says:

    I’m not sure if my original comment took so please accept my apology if this is a duplicate.

    I also disagree (or don’t understand fully) Luce’s ideas on catch-and-release. I would guess, however, if he lived in the U.S. and had the conservation mindset that we have he might feel differently.

    However, my ethical concerns are in regards to the materials we tie with. Are these coming from a sustainable source? I would like to think that there is some farm where cocks and foxes and deer live free and easy and in harmony, but I’m not so naive to believe this. My brother-in-law traps animals and sells the hides to be resold in the marketplace. Regardless, is this something anglers worry about? Is this the pandora’s box I don’t want to open?

    Thanks for the thoughts and for sharing (especially) your syllabi and bibliographies. These are incredibly useful and this is the first book I have read from your recommendations. I teach college English and foresee creating a class of my own based on your concept (religion) as well as a Baseball and Religion course.




  5. Kenov Says:

    Hi Mike,
    Sorry for the slow response; getting used to a new university. Anyway, I can relate to your concern about fly tying materials. I now where a lot of mine comes from, but I’m sure some other stuff came from farmed animals. I’m trying to pay much closer attention to such things these days. I do know there are a few sources out there who market themselves as particularly focused upon sustainability and such, but their names have escaped me for the moment.

    Good luck with your courses. I’d love to see what you come up with. As I’m sure you know, there are a lot of great writings on baseball and religion.


  6. Mike Rectenwald Says:

    Hi Ken,

    Thanks for the reply. I’ll have to do a little digging and see if I can make a concerted attempt at buying materials from sustainable companies.

    I’m enjoying Luce immensely!

    Take care,



    • Kenov Says:

      It occurred to me tonight that between the many birdhunters and the organic farmer I know, I ought to be able to get my hands on quite a few tying materials straight from the source.


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