Explaining fly fishing and the practice of catch and release to those who don't fish is kind of like trying to show your parents how to use an iPhone. Often you may hear upon return from a fly fishing trip "where are all the fish?" I usually answer slightly confused "well they're in the river" before it occurs to me that most people see fishing as a way of harvesting food and don't understand why you'd go fishing just to let them all go.
Occasionally I'll get a client who asks if the hy storage boxes under the seats on my drift boat are where we keep all the fish we catch. I try to politely explain that these are wild fish and we practice catch and release on guided trips. Then I'll joke that they are kind of business associates of mine and it just works better for both of us if I don't kill them. I used to tell people that they don't taste that good out of the river anyway but I got tired of lying. A grilled trout moistened with some lemon and fennel is a beautiful meal that transcends me into childhood memories of camping trips in the Adirondacks. On the upper Madison river I can avoid this conversation altogether since it's all catch and release anyway, unless your 14 years old or younger you can keep one rainbow. A rule that I only understand as a way to placate the grandfathers who grew up in a different time and want to pass that tradition of a trout dinner on to their grandchildren.
I've been practicing catch and release for so long it almost never enters my mind to keep a fish. Not to say I've never kept fish or never will again.
Fishing for me has mostly been about the activity of recreating in the outdoors so much that I often forget it is a blood sport originally developed for providing sustenance. I'm not interested in the debate over whether it's right or wrong because honestly both sides have such valid points I don't know if I can make that statement. However I do choose to let fish go 99.9% of the time.
The real difference to me is the point of view one takes when there is a predetermined outcome on fishing for sport or for food. As bizarre as it does seem to spend all the time, effort, and money on successfully catching a fish only to release it and not have a physical prize to show for it, there is an unbelievable amount of beauty in releasing a fish. You could say it's sort of a if you love something set it free or some other incredibly cheesy quote type of thing. But for me it's more the satisfaction of an intangible feat that makes very little practical sense. There is something very amusing to me about it. The fact that there is a facet of an activity,which the activity is mostly based on, that even those involved can't quite explain makes me smile. It's also something that those who don't know will never get and that's okay to. Coming home with a cooler full of fish to feed your family certainly has its merits but it makes total sense why that is fulfilling. The fulfillment of catch and release I relate a bit more to the fulfillment of creating a painting or piece of art. It may not directly help your survival as a human but it's what makes being a human so wonderful. Sometimes it's more fun to not make any sense at all.