The television host, comedian, and fisherman sits down with The Whitefish Review

T he Whitefish Review is celebrating its 10-year anniversary in 2017. Its most recent publication, Issue No. 20, entitled “Out of Time,” includes an interview with Jimmy Kimmel, host of Jimmy Kimmel Live! and a Whitefish Review subscriber. The excerpt below features an exchange during the interview between Ryan Friel and Brian Schott, two of the journal’s editors, and Kimmel about fishing. Kimmel is an avid fly fisherman.

RF I think that you’re right, that most anglers, maybe fly fishers in particular, see that cycle of life in the ecosystem, and they want to be back in the water. And if we take that away from them, well, they can’t go stand in the water and wave a stick anymore.

JK Yeah, it’s hard for people who aren’t fly fishermen to even understand the idea of catch and release. That’s what most people ask me about. They are puzzled by this. They are like, “Why would you even bother to fish if you are releasing the fish?” It’s almost impossible to explain, other than to tell them, “If we didn’t release the fish, there wouldn’t be any in 10 years.” And even then, they’re still scratching their heads. I think you really have to be there to get it. I know I did. For years, I grew up bait fishing. On the off chance we caught something, we gutted it and ate it almost immediately. And we were very excited. And the idea of releasing these fish was an alien one to me. But now, I can’t even imagine intentionally killing one of these fish.

RF Right. My brother and I grew up that same way. You know, you would just bonk every fish you caught and eat it.

JK Yeah.

RF And now, my smart-ass comment to people, as I’m trying to explain to them what we are trying to do, is, “Well, you can only eat them one time. That’s it.”

JK That’s right.

RF I saw that you did some winter fishing on the Gallatin River. I assumed it was a nymph game over there, just by the temperatures.

JK That was really a photo shoot more than we were fishing. Typically I much prefer dry fly fishing. But it was very cold, so we were nymph fishing. But that was primarily for a magazine photo shoot. They asked me to do a photo shoot and I really didn’t want to do it. And they said it was a “bucket list” issue. I think they just wanted me to pose on the cover with a bucket or something dumb. [laughter] And I said, well, if you’re really looking for a bucket list item, I’d love to fish that river. You know, I saw the movie, A River Runs Through It, and that idea has always excited me. And they said they would set it up. And they did, so I couldn’t say no.

BS We got to watch that episode Buccaneers & Bones where you fished with McGuane and Tom Brokaw. It looked like a hoot.

JK Yes, Buccaneers and Bones. That was a mess. Oh … It’s hard enough, my first bone fishing trip. And you know, it’s windy and everything. And, I’ve got camera boats circling and scaring the fish off every single time.

RF Of course.

JK I was like, “Oh please, will you guys go away and let us fish.”

RF Let us just get a couple and then come back.

JK The good thing is, the first bonefish I ever caught was professionally filmed. So that is a nice memento. The bad part was watching me flail helplessly into the wind.

RF That’s all of us, though, that’s all of us.

JK Trying to remember how to double-haul in not so great conditions.

RF Yeah, there’s no one who’s good at it. I don’t care what they say. [laughter]

BS Well, we certainly would like to invite you to come and fish with us in Montana sometime.

JK Send me an email and when I figure out my vacation schedule, maybe I’ll take you up on that. We like to try new spots and we’ve not been up there.

RF Yeah, we would love to have you up here for sure, Jimmy.