The Maxillary Process – Six Steps

The Maxillary Process is the part of a trout’s upper jaw that extends down to and overlaps the mandible or lower jaw in the corner of their mouth. It is a thin piece of cartilage that connects to the fish’s face by soft tissue and gives trout their tough appearance. The condition of the maxillary process is great way to assess the general health of the trout population and where the anglers and guides land in their angling attitude. It’s a litmus test of the general angling mentality. Kind of like how you might make a judgment about a neighborhood if cigarette butts are piled up in the gutter and junk cars are parked in the front yard.  You could similarly align missing and mangled maxillary processes up with guides and anglers who practice abusive, entry level “fly” fishing techniques. The Maxillary Process is also an angling mindset and our longstanding ideology and action toward preservation of Grey Reef, Fremont Canyon and Miracle Mile. Our ethos has always been foreign, if not unheard of,  in the fly fishing outfitting industry. Plainly, we function to catch fish but we go way above and beyond to preserve the health of the fishery and the trout.

Let’s be real, sticking a hook into a fish’s mouth, removing it and releasing the fish isn’t the least invasive way to massage our sportsman’s machismo. The fly fishing culture, on the surface, has always been a front of exemplifying a sporting tradition. That tradition is about conservation, preservation including an acute regard for the fish and the waterways. There are a lot of abusers who hide behind that image. They don’t give 2 shits about the Maxillary Process and wouldn’t  recognize its absence in the social media influencers grip and grin photos.

What can you do about it?

#1, look at each and every fish and fish picture. Are they damaged? is the Maxillary Process missing? Contemplate that and give a shit. Did you damage the fish you just landed? Contemplate that and give a shit.

#2 stop using pegged bead trout snagging techniques. There is nothing as destructive and lame that has come about in the fly fishing world. It used to be limited to the rookie Alaska guides but has trickled out and become many angler’s and guide’s only avenue for “success”. Hooking fish on the outside of their mouth mangles them. To most of us, the point of fly fishing has always been to trick them into eating your fly, match the hatch…you know, FLY fishing. Tricking them to eat a plastic bead that you pull out of their mouth to snag them with the hook a few inches away is gross and is devoid of skill and requires almost no knowledge or experience.

#3 Pinch your barbs, its better for the fish and better for you to develop angling prowess and some humility. Anglers and guides who routinely and unconsciously pinch their barbs don’t lose more fish than non pinchers. They develop skills and muscle memory that the other don’t. Pinching your barbs creates better anglers and does far less damage to the fish.

#4 Step down one size of tippet and rod weight if you are fishing too much rod. Ease up on your hook set. Be quick but don’t employ so much horsepower…it isn’t necessary. Over gearing is as bad or even worse than under gearing. This advice is contrary to popular fly fishing lore. Become and adept angler and land fish quickly with lighter equipment that applies less pressure to the fish. There are some dumb fly fishing mantras that need to be tossed up on the bank. Always fish your leader one and a half times the depth of the water is just as dumb of a concept as over gearing to land fish quickly.

#5 Hook a few fish and move on. We now see guide services float the same couple mile stretch of river twice in one day. This practice is brutal and amateurish. Progressing as an angler means you need to try other things and other spots. Hook a few and move on.

#6 Ask why you never see pegged bead rigs stuck in the gill plate like you often see a picture of a little dry fly pinned in the trout’s beak. Is it less than kosher?  Even the hacks that do it on the daily don’t want to record their (mis)deeds?


This gorgeous Miracle Mile rainbow isn’t smiling. The Maxillary Process was likely ripped off by a pegged bead “angler”.  Photo: Josh Stevens NPL/TRFS Guide









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