Monday, August 28, 2017

Fly Tying: The Night Rider Streamer

It is silly sometimes the things we put off. Usually it is the simplest of things too. I'll chalk it up to human nature. Either way, multiple recent requests to either tie or give instructions for the this fly have motivated me to finally film a tutorial. I apologize for it's length. It really is a simply fly to tie, but you never know how long it takes to explain a simple pattern, and your reasoning behind it, until you try. The simplicity of this pattern makes it easily customizable, so don't feel the need to do it exactly how it is shown. Good luck if you give it a whirl, and I hope it helps you do some damage.



Fly Tying the Night Rider Streamer

I looooove brown trout. In any given day they are generally my favorite fish to chase. I love their primal predatory instincts, aside from their buttery mother-lovin' exterior. Hunting a hunter is a bit of a thrill. Careful, I'm not saying you should go chase someone in an orange vest during hunting season. That could end very badly. 

Brown trout are all about the ambush. They prefer the nocturnal darkness of night to chase down unsuspecting minnows, leeches, and even rodents. Because of their hunting prowess, they are often found in the same areas as their quarry at night. This means big brown trout waddle up into those shallow areas we walk right through to get to the deeper lies during the day. Fishing these shallow areas can be tricky with a heavier fly at night. Also, fish are notorious for short-striking in the darkness. Swatting at silhouettes is tricky business. For these reasons, I developed this pattern early on in my night fishing explorations, and it has remained an effective staple fly in my night fishing arsenal, even to this day. 

The artificial material gives the fly buoyancy, the natural materials add a seductive movement, and the stinger hook helps seal the deal. Don't be fooled by it's simplicity. I am a firm believer, born of experience, that the simpler patterns are often the deadliest. 



Ingredients:
-4x size 2 streamer hook
-Size 4 Gamakatsu Octopus hook
-65lb Braided Fishing Line (Spider Wire)
-Beadalon (optional)
-4mm plastic beads (in whatever color you want to tie - black and clear are my go-to colors)
-Marabou (whatever color you want to tie in - again black is my most common)
-Rabbit strip (you choose the color)
-Polar UV Chenille (or another similar chenille of whatever color you prefer)
-Rubber legs (usually black), or glow flashabou
-Other optional additions: Bead or cone head, dumbell eyes, deer hair head, fish eyes, etc.



A few victims, who went for a night ride:












Tuesday, July 18, 2017

The secrets of your water


"I am haunted by waters."
-Norman Maclean

When Norman Maclean wrote this iconic phrase, I wonder if he realized how immortal it would become. The words mean different things to different people, but all anglers feel some bond, or connection to them.

For myself, the idea conjures up an image of an angler, on a warm summer morning, standing in a clear-watered freestone river, the sun dazzlingly adds a soft glow to the dense cloud of mist, rising in softly webbed sheets from the water. It's a place I want to be in the very heart of. It's a place I want to feel, to experience, to attain. It embodies all that is good and hopeful with creation. It's an ideal most anglers spend their days trying to realize. We all seek after those magical moments. It bedevils our subconscious dreams, and we are left with an urge to be in a place where nature cleanses our souls. These words, and those that precede them, are so simple, and yet so powerful. They resonate with a desire held deep in my bones. Their author knew, as many who read them know.

All waters, no matter their location, or the size of fish, hold promise and possibility. A perfect timing for a perfect hatch, where all the elements align and the fish feed with reckless abandon and you can do no wrong. A perfect moment where the light and firmament combine to give you a glimpse of God's creations in their eternally unmatched beauty. It may just be a moment on the water with someone you care about, where you make a kindred-spirited connection, or a peaceful day spent pondering similar relationships. Whatever it is, the stars can align, and that elusive moment can be experienced, usually in a once-in-a-lifetime manner, but it leaves us, well, haunted, wanting more.


The Secrets of Your Water

The diversity that fly fishing offers is what keeps me coming back for more. It is why I love it. Just when one avenue starts to lose its thrill and interest, another opens up, and often from a place I had not foreseen. The techniques and methods of fishing can be mixed and matched in an almost infinite amount of ways, and I am not one to draw boundaries around what I will and will not include in my angling. The locations we fish are not excluded from this blessed diversity. That doesn't mean we have to travel to all corners of the earth (though with the money and time, that would be nice). It just means that we can search for new approaches to the water we already know and love.

I get excited about figuring out my waters. All waters hold their secrets, often in the form of bigger fish, more fish, or new methods to catch the same fish we are familiar with. Whether you are trying to catch a bunch, or the biggest one of that bunch, it can always be done better, differently, more often, or in a way to get that fish of a lifetime. In smaller waters, it may just be a matter of catching more fish, or catching some amount in a different way. This is often why people use lighter weighted rods, such as a 3wt on a small stream. The challenge increases, even if the fishes size does not. On the other hand, in the moderate to larger waters, it usually has some connection to finding fish with increased size.

While I don't know the secrets of your waters, I do know the secret to finding them out. One of my favorite lines in the old movie "Better Off Dead," embodies the main idea.


Okay, so maybe it's not the best illustration, but here is the trick, start from what you know, and do something different. To get the results we have never seen before, we have to do things we've never done before. For a fly fisherman, this may mean using not only a different fly pattern, but a different type of fly altogether. From dry to a nymph, from a nymph to a streamer. From small to large. From low-profile in color to flashy and flamboyant. From slow, methodical retrieves to fast and erratic. It could be as simple of a change as fishing at a different time of day, or year, or in different weather. The whole point is to do SOMETHING different than how you normally do. And, once you have made a change that gives you a taste of success, you'll want to keep looking for other changes that could possibly result in more or better pay dirt. This approach is the key, aside from learning everything you can.

Coming to know your water is critical (and I don't mean just fishing it the same way over many days, in the relatively same locations every time you go). Truly learning about your water means learning about the water temperature and how it may be affecting the fish, learning the terrain, finding out about all the species that live there, and identifying potential forage like insects and their life cycles, and gaining an understanding of the times of day the fish seem to be most active. Learning about all these elements will lead to more success. Timing and location are probably the two main elements, and they frequently dance together, presenting opportunities as varied as the seasons in Idaho. All these aspects, and more, will allow you to make more educated guesses and changes, and the more deliberate the adjustment, the quicker the road to success.

The idea of delving into all there is to learn can be daunting. I think that is why many never take the plunge, striving to be content with the patterns of fishing they know. This is one of those areas where social media is a phenomenal resource. Most anglers aren't super excited about giving up locations, but many are willing to share general knowledge, and observations they have made. Just ask. Those who have made an effort to learn already practice this, and on a regular basis, especially in the beginning to build a base of knowledge, and to hone the skill of knowing how to generate more reliable information. This information and knowledge lead the learner on a path to cracking the secrets of the water that haunts them. Not only is this approach more polite and ethical, it is also far more fun. We place far more value on the things we discover ourselves.

I am a firm believer that in most larger waters, there is usually far more high quality fish than most anglers would like to admit. Admitting it is to admit that we are spending most of our time not catching the bigger fish, and I don't know about you, but my pride and ego don't like that thought too much, even if it is the truth. That being said, certain waters simply do not have the biomass, size of living areas, or have too much pressure to produce large fish.  The fish size versus fish bowl size concept seems an appropriate analogy here. Also, what is small in certain waters could be considered a trophy in others. In this case context matters, and I am not so ignorant as to think all waters hold 30" trout. If the biomass and size of water is there, chances are there are fish to match. Please do not be insulted. More than anything, I am making the point that there is usually more to the water than what we casually see.

The fact is, your water has secrets, and not like the Victoria kind. Everyone knows there isn't much to hide there. Rather, these are those little nuggets of gold that only the persevering and observant angler gets to uncover. That very same water you have fished as a wee lad or lass has a treasure chest of success, only hidden from the unwilling. The question is, are you willing to create a map to find it? Time is the great enemy in this endeavor, but with persistence, and some degree of consistency, one can find gratifying success. I know I get excited at the prospect of better learning the secrets of my own waters, even after all I have learned.









Wednesday, June 21, 2017

More Lessons in Mousing for Trout

How boring would our sport be, if there were not room to do things differently, to learn from our experiences, and to explore new ideas. I'm thankful the only thing keeping me from making more of my experiences is myself.

I wanted to take a moment and share a few things I have learned, or that have been reinforced over the past year concerning mousing for trout. I mostly fish mice at night, and I primarily target brown trout, so that may be something to take into consideration with the following rambling.


Trying It

The first thing I always tell someone when they are looking into mousing for trout, is to simply do it. It seems redundant, but I cannot emphasize this enough. When I first transitioned to fly fishing I had a hard time leaving the spinning rod and garden hackle at home. The doubt I had in my fly fishing potential pushed me to lean on my old ways, and they became a crutch, crippling my growth. It wasn't until the day I convinced myself to leave the old gear home that I started to see how it had held me back, and distracted my focus from where it needed to be in order find improvement with the alternative method. I remember going through the same process with steelheading. I knew I could catch them with the good old bait-caster. Even then it was sometimes a trial. It took time, but eventually I made the transition. That doesn't mean I don't use spinning rods anymore, but when I do it is not from a lack of confidence like it used to be. I went through the same process with streamers and European nymphing. The moral of the story is, sometimes we have to leave the things that keep us from growing behind. In the case of mousing, that may mean leaving all our other flies at home, and only taking the mouse pattern or patterns we have chosen to experiment with. The risk is that nothing may be caught, but by the end of the day, or night, we will have a much better feel of how our flies look in the water, and how they react to our retrieve.

Not everyone is willing to spend a whole day or night fishing and not catching, and that is okay. We are all at different stages in our angling, and one stage is not better than another. They're just different, and all are enjoyable for their own reasons. If these musings apply to you, cool, if not, don't sweat it.

Stripping

In previous articles I recommended stripping the line in slowly, trying to make the fly look and swim as natural as possible. In many cases I still feel this is most effective, but what this past year's mousing has taught me is that making a ruckus can really induce bites. The trick is to try multiple retrieves. I did really well with short chugs, sometimes slow, sometimes fast, and found that in one place one approach worked better, but on the same water, in a different location, another approach was better. I learned to mix it up, and not be afraid to make some noise with the fly. I also found that the more natural disturbance there is in the water (from current, wind, or rain) the more "noise" you have to make with the fly to get a fish's attention.

If you are primarily a pm mouser, I highly recommend a stripping basket. You're line will last much longer, and you will have far less frustration pulling your line out of tangled weeds. A DIY stripping basket tutorial is in the works. Still testing the one I put together to see if it's worth recommending.

Hook Set

Initially I said that in setting the hook you should wait till you feel the take. While you can't go wrong with this approach, over the past year I found that setting on the sound of a take sometimes produced a hookup. This leaves me to recommend that you do whatever the heck you want. Two things that I found helpful though, were waiting a moment when hearing the take before setting (in New Zealand I have heard they say "God save the Queen" before setting) and then doing a super strip set when it is time to do so. Be sure to close your eyes/wear eye protection/duck if this is your approach, and be ready to clean your line out of the bushes or hook into a monster.



I have done a lot of searching for a preferred pair of protective glasses, and gone through multiple pairs. One of the things I routinely struggled with is that most protective glasses have some degree of UV protection, which in the pitch black of night decreases the amount of light coming through to the eye. Finally I have found a pair that I really like, which do not have any UV, light reducing, coatings. They are the Head Impulse Protective Eyewear racquetball glasses. And they have a strap, which makes them easy to take them on and off, are comfortable (to me), and are only around $10.

Current Direction

This may not apply on other waters, but all those I fish have appeared sensitive to this. Knowing the down stream current direction matters in the moving waters I fish, even with slow current. I still have found it true that a fish is 95% (Abraham Lincoln said this percentage was accurate, and that the internet tells only truth) more likely to take a mouse if it is moving the direction of the current, not against it. Unless you're in Alaska, or some other place where this doesn't apply, then all bets are off. Maybe just pay attention to which direction you are bringing your fly when you get your strikes more, or if you don't seem to be getting any strikes, try approaching the water from downstream moving up.

Also, with current direction, I have found my hookup rate is much higher when I present the fly so the fish hits it from the side, in a perpendicular/T-bone direction. Often this just means I hook up more fishing from the side of the run, with a slight swing downward toward the end of the retrieve, or casting diagonally upstream or downstream, versus casting directly upstream or downstream. I think it is largely to do with how the fly goes into the fishes mouth, and what it does when the angler sets.

Hook Issues

Generally speaking the hookup rate when mousing seems to be about 20-30%. That means for every 10 takes, only 2 or 3 will stick, and even if those do, they don't always stay. I have my theory on why this is, which I'll address in a different post sometime, but with such low odds an angler wants to do everything he/she can to increase catch rates. Having a super sharp sticky hook is an obvious aspect to this, but what is less obvious is keeping that hook clear of fly tying material. A little bit of fur in the way is all it takes to prevent that sharp tip from doing it's little job of grabbing, and if it doesn't grab, there's nothing for the hook to penetrate into when we do our epic strip sets. To check this I place my fly in water long enough for it to absorb the water and move it around to check if fur is covering the hook. I then take scissors and trim the small parts that may be laying on the hook. I'm not positive this is a game changer, but I feel on some occasions it has prevented hookups before I noticed it.

In terms of which hook is more valuable in an articulated mouse fly, I feel the back hook takes the cake. AND, after extensive testing, I really feel that this back hook is best placed at the butt of the body of the fly, or just a bit (roughly half inch) behind it. Hooks in tails have not been at all effective for me, though this may just be from the wheres and how I fish. They also seem to tangle more than without.

Location location LOCATION!!!!!

The more time I spend mousing at night, the more I have come to realize that where you mouse is critical to your success. This could be general water, such as a particular river, lake, stream, or pond. It could also be where in any given body of water you are fishing. In my experience, the closer to cover you get, the better. Bushy trees that overhang the water are my favorite places to focus on, and mostly because I think fish hang out near them hoping for something to drop. The closer to the bank you can get, the better because that is where land-dwelling morsels originate. Also, foam lines/seams where things naturally are pushed in the water are an excellent place to focus on. These aspects of location are not without complications. The first location concept means that to find success, one has to explore, and risk having plenty of fishless nights. The second aspect of location is tricky because one cannot see the bank or tight spots in the dark, at least not in any great contrast so as to tell where the bank ends and water begins. The more you know your water during the day the better off you'll be at night. Timing also adds a tricky element to location. A place may not produce even a single blowup one night, but then be ridiculously productive two nights later. This could be a factor of light, hatches, water temperature, spawning times, etc. The fact of it all is that location is a critical part of mousing. The nice thing is that once your find a productive area, it tends to remain a productive area.



These aren't exactly earth-shattering tips or realizations, but some I thought worth mentioning. Good luck if you make it out to give it a try, and don't be afraid to dedicate a day (or night, though a night dedicated usually results in the following day dedicated to sleep, so same-diff right?) to it.







For other night fishing, or mousy posts, check out the Tips and Tactics section.



Monday, May 1, 2017

DIY Shake Fly Floatant

I don't often fish dry flies, 
but when I do, 
I sure as heck want them to float.

It's no great secret. I am always looking for ways to save money, while still feeding the addiction. Fly fishing is such a small niche in the world of angling. With any small, specialized market, there tends to be a pretty high markup on products. The more unique the product, the more expensive it tends to be. For this reason, many fly anglers seek out inexpensive resources. Craft stores are often a fly fisherman's best friend. I always feel a bit odd wandering around the toll paint, yarn, and beads. This doesn't mean I don't fund my local fly shop, because I feel that is important too, but, where possible, I will try and save money. The funny thing is, in all my efforts to save money, I think I probably end up spending more. Oh well, at least I enjoy the effort.

DIY Shake Fly Floatant




Some years ago I stumbled upon an online forum where two people were talking about purchasing the same stuff used to make Frog's Fanny, and other similar silica based powder fly floatants. I found it interesting. I ended up purchasing some of the material myself, and came up with my own little shake style floatant container. It has worked great ever since, and though I do not fish dry flies very often, when I do, I appreciate having it. For this reason, I thought I would take a moment and share the ideas.

The material is called fumed silica. It is a common additive in epoxies as a thickening agent. It is remarkably hydrophobic, and can even be dangerous if handled incorrectly. Acquiring this main ingredient is the first step in creating your own shake fly floatant. I have provided a couple links where this can be purchased. It is usually around 10-25$, which may seem expensive, but this will probably last a lifetime.

http://www.eplastics.com/m/mobile.html?item=31822
http://epoxyproducts.com/silica.html
http://www.epoxyusa.com/category_s/4.htm
Another Seller

Image result for fumed silica

The fumed silica is a very fine powder, and should be handled with care. Once you are ready to open it, and start working with the material, make sure to wear a breathing mask, and protective glasses. Because of its hydrophobic nature, it can cause all kinds of problems in both lungs and eyes, which require copious amounts of moisture. Make sure to keep it away from your kids.

The next thing you will need is some Silica Gel (balls). This is usually easy to come by if you know where to look. When I first created my own shake fly floatant, I was working as a satellite technician for Dish Network. Electronics are often packaged with silica gel packets to keep moisture out. I grabbed a few from the many receivers I worked with. I imagine you could talk to a local store that sells electronics, and they could dig some up. Another option, if you don't want to be social, and don't mind spending money, is to purchase some online.

Amazon has them available in bulk --> Silica Gel Balls

Related image

The last thing you need is some type of container. I chose an old film canister. It was the perfect size. I had some laying around the house, but if you don't, or don't know someone who does, you can either ask your local photo processor, order some online, or use a different type of container. Non-childproof pill bottles could work as well. It would be easy to request one from your local pharmacy. Who knows, it might be worth it for the looks you get on the river. There's something fishy about an angler messing with a white powdery substance in a pill bottle out on the river.

More from Amazon --> Film Canister

Image result for film canister
Image result for pill bottle


Once you have acquired your fumed silica, your silica gel (balls), and a container, all that is left to do is fill your container around half to two thirds full of the silica balls. Then, carefully transfer the fumed silica into the container. I used a plastic spoon for this part. It also doesn't hurt to wear rubber gloves, since the powder can dry your hands out quite well. Once you have a couple spoonfuls in your container, place the lid on and shake it up. Then, slowly remove the lid, place some more fumed silica in the container, and repeat the previous step. Once you are satisfied with the amount you have (I prefer a decent space open so it shakes well) you are good to go.

When using, simply place your fly (attached to your line) in the container, hold the lid on with your finger, and shake it around. This allows the silica balls to force the fumed silica into your fly. Then, remove your fly, place the cap back on your floatant and resume fishing. It is stupid simple, but it has saved me money. I'm not sure I'll have to ever by this powdered floatant again during my lifetime. When necessary, I simply add more fumed silica to the container. In between fillings, make sure to save your silica in a safe and dry location. It will suck up moisture from the air, and become far less effective if it is not stored in a sealed container.

4+ years of use.


One last thing to mention. I used tape to attach a key ring to the container. I then attached it to a small carabiner. You could probably come up with a better system, but this redneck setup works for me for now. Hopefully this is helpful, and good luck if you give it a try. And, as always, if you have some recommendations to add, feel free to do so in the comments.







Thursday, April 13, 2017

Stupid flies

I spent at least an hour on that dang thing. Two virginal casts, and it was gone. Another sacrifice to the gods of rip rap and underwater snags. Somewhere down in that dirty green hued abyss lay a beautiful fly. I had poured love, attention, and detail into that thing. Maybe I should start carrying a wet-suit and goggles, I thought to myself. Should I throw caution and comfort to the wind and make an exploratory dive to salvage that little work of art? The thought was a tempting prospect at the moment. It is painful to lose something created with such care and attention to detail, and only after the second cast. In a grumpy funk I tied on another pattern. This time it was one I could fish and lose without the same agony I had just experienced. Two times in a trip would be more than I could take. I made the switch, cut my loss, and slowly drifted into a focused state. Without the risk of lost artwork, I could dedicate my attention to the reason I was there; to fish.

I try not to think about how often this scenario has been revisited. It's a natural following for someone who loves to create and experiment with fly patterns. The flies that are most pleasing to the eye are often the hardest ones to lose.

Anglers are left with two options: 1- they can fish beautiful flies, enjoying the confidence they induce, but all the while stressing over the potential snag and loss, or 2- they can fish a basic bread-and-butter fly that took a fraction of the time to tie, is far less painful to lose, is cheaper to make/buy, and induces a different type of confidence born of consistent success. Each scenario has unique consequences.



What is a stupid fly?

Beautiful and complex flies can create a confidence that is remarkably valuable, but also often results in a distracted angler, who gingerly fishes the fly in a superficial manner, and only hits the sweet spot zones here and there. This confidence is a result of seeing something that resembles the real thing to the angler. It may not move or really look like the real thing at all to a fish, but out of the water it may resemble, at least with the help of our imaginations, what we're trying to mimic. For one of these more artistic, many-materialed patterns, fishing it slower, deeper, or tighter to cover is to risk losing that little labor of love.

Bread-and-butter, or what I like to call "stupid flies," can be fished with a reckless abandon. Sometimes they are ugly. Sometimes they don't actually have an apparent relevance to a living thing. These patterns are stupid because they are often extremely simple to tie, and are made of relatively inexpensive materials. They let the angler probe the deepest depths, toughest cover, and snaggiest riffles to get to those sweet spot zones rarely reached by the cautious fly guys. This is one reason the tried and true woolly bugger is so amazing. Simple, cheap, and easy to tie, and probably one of the most effective patterns out there. Usually boring, always effective.

Confidence is a crucial element of success in the world of fly fishing. We work a run differently when we have some degree of faith in the catching. A fly that has so much attention to detail that it truly resembles what it is trying to mimic, or at least gives us that impression, is phenomenal for inducing confidence, but the pain of losing one of these flies is considerable. If the resulting success is substantial, we usually endure the pain. Whether bought or tied, this can be hard on the pocket book.

To summarize, one confidence comes from an impressive looking fly, but another type of confidence comes from fishing a fly that just plain works, even in it's simplicity, and can be lost without much remorse. With this kind of confidence an angler fishes the deeper, slower, faster, and snaggier runs, and covers those sweet spot zones better and longer. Anglers who tend to fish the stupid flies are generally more effective. They fish without fear of loss, which is to say, they are far less distracted.

Stupid flies are for anglers who like catching. Fancy flies are for those who like to tie, or admire what has been tied on top of the attempted catching. So, if you like catching fish, I highly recommend identifying your stupid flies. If you're nymphing, these could include Pat's Rubber Legs, Glo-bugs, San Juan worms, or mohair leeches. If you are throwing dries, these could be Parachute Adams, Chubby Chernobyls, or Rusty Spinners.  If you are throwing streamers, these could be Wooly Buggers, Circus Peanuts, Peanut Envys, or any other glorified, articulated woolly bugger-like streamer. For myself, I always have woolly buggers/leeches, Skullcrackers, and Skullchasers, in my box. These are all flies that are relatively easy and fast to tie, and don't break the bank. I can fish them with confidence, and without fear of losing a fly or two in the process.

It isn't stupid to like the nicer flies, to enjoy purchasing or tying them. Sometimes that is just one way to find more enjoyment in the sport. It really all depends on your goals, and what stage of angling you are in. In fly fishing, we all have different things we consider stupid. For some it could be a view that someone else's methods are unorthodox, or not really fly fishing. For another, fishing is stupid when there is no catching going on, or the catching is not easy. For me, it's probably because on the end of my line you will usually find a stupid fly. They work, and that's why I love them. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy the others, but you'll never find me without my stupid flies.

I am curious, what are some stupid flies you would add to my lists?









Monday, March 20, 2017

Neascus trematode: It's a Dam Shame

Who doesn't love catching a big beautiful trout. Their large and small spots make for unique artwork on the canvas of life. Unfortunately, these are not the only spots that can decorate a trout's side. During one of my busier semesters this past year I had been spending my scant fishing time on the Henry's Fork of the Snake River, and what I encountered had me somewhat concerned.

Diversion dams litter the landscape here in Idaho. It's how we water all those potatoes. It's not altogether a bad thing. It often presents excellent fishing opportunities, but the fact is, they are not natural, and often prevent nature from taking care of business. The situation it creates is similar to the plaque that builds up in a human artery. Poor circulation ruins health and prevents cleansing.


The main culprit fueling my concern is a parasite called Neascus trematode. And, while fishermen often like worms, these little guys are a pain in the side, or neck, or whatever other fleshy surface they can sink themselves into. The process can ugly up a trout in a hurry.

Neascus trematode is a type of flatworm, called a fluke. These parasites burrow into the flesh of a vertebrate (trout in this case), after which the host encapsulates the parasite in melanin, creating a little black cyst. The fluke lays dormant inside of the cyst, waiting for its host to be consumed by some type of fish-eating bird. Once the fish has been consumed by a bird, the parasite matures and lays eggs inside the bird's digestive tract. The eggs are then scattered in the birds droppings. Once in the water, the eggs hatch, and the babies look for a host to mature within. In this stage they only have a short while (roughly 24 hours) to find their next victim, which, in this ecosystem is a snail. Once in the snail, the parasite matures. Then they leave the snail, looking for a fish to burrow into, and the cycle begins all over again.

Now, I'm no official biologist (though I do aspire to teach biology), but the proliferation of the parasites seems to be dependent upon how many hosts are available, for any of the given stages. In many river systems snails are a normal part of the ecosystem, but the quantity is kept in check by a lack in standing, silty water. Here is where the dams become a problem, especially on beautiful freestone rivers like the Henry's Fork. When the parasite is present, and silt and still water allow for snails to reproduce in copious amounts, the result is a spurt in parasite population. This is exactly what I have observed on the lower Henry's Fork in places that have not previously been affected by the parasite. To see it down lower, where the water meanders through silty farm fields is to be expected, since the Teton river is rampant with the parasite, but up further, on some of the water that is classified as world-class fishing, it is a frustrating find. 

In 2008 the Fall River Electric Cooperative was given the green light to install a rubber bladder system on top of the already constructed Chester Diversion Dam. The bladders added height to the dam, to further divert water into their little power-plant by increasing the water depth. This created even more of a lake than there already had been. Now, I'm not sure that the bladders made things worse or not, or if the increase in parasite population has been a direct result of warmer temperatures, but I had not noticed any fish infections before their installation. I feel they have slowed the flows enough to cause greater silt collection (more breeding ground for snails), and warmer water. The combo is hard on the fish. Warm water, and parasites! This past summer the vegetation in the water was incredible, which is definitely a correlation to warmer water. Now, I'm not sure how big of a role the dam changes play in this little equation, but it seems to be the straw that broke the camels back. It has the potential to be a tragedy for those who love the big feisty beautiful trout of the lower Henry's Fork. 

Neascus trematode Teton River victim
Another Neascus trematode Teton River victim

I wouldn't be too concerned if I had only noticed it on one or two fish, but I noticed it on every brown brought to hand, and I have seen just how bad it can become. Also, by way of note, this is not likely to become a concern much higher in the system, as the water maintains a decent flow. It is just frustrating to see it taking such a hold in the lower stretches. 

For those concerned about human health: The black spots (cysts) that result from the infestation have not been found to be fatally harmful to the fish, or even to anyone consuming the fish, though it is recommended that those who choose to eat the fish will do so after thoroughly cooking the meat.

I wish I had some kind of solution for this problem, but when money is involved, I worry that much can be done. Is it a large enough cause to rally behind? Is it even a real issue, or maybe a spike in the natural ecology? Is fish and game aware? Do they even care, or do they have bigger fish to fry? (Pun extremely intended).

At this point, I feel the best thing we can do is to keep an eye on it. With this winters snow pack, it bodes well for the coming year bringing a good flush. Who knows, if we have multiple winters like this one, maybe it will succeed in cleaning the system up as well as providing plenty of cool water for the fish throughout the warmer months. Let's keep our fingers crossed.









Tuesday, March 7, 2017

This One's Personal: Looking Forward

I was getting tired of opening the blog and seeing the eulogy to my father. Not that I don't miss him, because I do, very much so. It is more that I have trouble seeing the same thing over and over again, and life does not stop, so neither should we. There are some exceptions in needing to see different things though, like my wonderful wife; I'll never get enough of that. And, my rambunctious children, who drive me quite crazy at times, but who I would give heaven and earth to remain with. Their love and companionship is not something I'm in any hurry to change. That being said, variety in most things in life is desirable and often healthy. Here's to moving on and looking forward!

I was once told that our greatest joys are found in our greatest suffering. I thought it an odd idea at the time. In the midst of trials, it is remarkably difficult to see any joy, as most people who have experienced this little hoohaw we call life can attest to. Much like the traveler who stands at the foot of a lofty mountain, sometimes imagining the view to come is not an easy task, especially when the wanderer has not climbed that particular mountain before. Often the only thing that keeps us going is knowing that we still can, or knowing that we have climbed other difficult mountains in the past with success. I think the latter tends to be more motivating, but sometimes the former is all we have.

I am better coming to understand the concept today. The joy usually comes after the suffering, though sometimes the two can be experienced simultaneously. It is quite possible to be happy for someone else while being sad for ourselves, and vice versa. Like a bittersweet treat, opposing elements throw one another into sharp relief, and the contrast helps us better appreciate the differences.

If there are constants in life, change and trials would probably top the list. It's amazing how things can all fall apart in one moment, only to fall into place the very next. Money troubles, disease, loss, broken relationships, job problems, and even unwanted consequences from our poor decisions plague us day to day. But among all the messes are the little nuggets of bliss and joy, which can put our whole existence into perspective and give the suffering meaning.

The past 8 years have not been easy, and for more than the obvious reasons. Watching friends and acquaintances, many younger than I, buying homes and settling into the patterns of life traditionally expected at my stage of life. In some ways I still envy those who enter college knowing what they want of life and occupations. I have spent the whole past decade trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my occupational life. I had graduated college, intending on furthering my education, with the final destination to teach at a university. Shortly after graduating though, I became uncertain, and started to think that income needed to be more of a priority. After some initial plans fell through, I set my sights on becoming a physician assistant. Having a BA degree in history was far from the required prerequisites needed to enter any medical profession, so I went back to school.

It was a tough transition, going from the philosophical views historians work with, to the cut-and-dry, matter-of-fact approach that the sciences utilize. It was eye opening, and stretched me far more than I had ever been stretched, academically speaking. I needed some type of medical experience. Eventually I was offered a position as a psychiatric technician at a local behavioral health center. I worked there while still working as a satellite technician. The stretching continued. It was an eye-opening experience. A revelation really, in the messiness and difficulty of life. It was an education in love and trauma, and helped me to see the good in even the seemingly worst of people. I learned to judge people's actions through their circumstances, rather than who they are themselves. I learned the value of true teamwork, and depending on others. I learned how to better communicate, and how important it is to show love in the process. It was an education I never thought I needed, nor wanted, but now consider invaluable. It changed me.

The application for PA school (CASPA) is beastly. I applied two years in a row. The first attempt resulted in an "interview waitlist" response from one school, and a bunch of "we're sorry to inform you" letters from all the others. The second application cycle produced two interviews. I accepted the invitations to attend both, and felt each went quite well. I was hopeful, though things did not feel quite right. Eventually the "we're sorry" letters arrived, along with feelings of frustration and confusion. I was at a point where I had to decide whether to redouble my efforts and keep pushing for something that made sense in my head, but did not feel good in my heart. As a side note, I had prayed routinely that God would not let things fall into place if it was not meant to be. This left me in a slightly confusing situation. Be careful what you pray for, and how you ask for it! After some serious soul-searching, and trying to grasp the message I was being sent, I came to the realization that becoming a physician assistant was not my mission in life. It was a hard realization, and hard to let go of the benefits I saw accompanying the occupation.

The thought of income can be both motivating and terrifying, all at the same time. Some may say that it matters, and maybe it should to those people, but I came to realize that for me and my family, it was not the priority. Money is only a means. So I let go of the means, and embraced the goal, which was to provide for my family, and place myself in a good environment that would push me to be a better me through helping others. I let go of my aspirations to become a PA, and oddly enough, turned back to my original plan, to become a teacher. And you know what, it felt right.

I searched for a certification program that would best fit my needs. Eventually I entered an accelerated program through ISU. I am currently student teaching and loving it. It is hard, but overcoming the difficulties, and knowing that I am helping others make it all worth it.

I am confident that our trials work to our betterment, and that God is mindful of our difficulties, dreams, and hopes. Sometimes things end messy in this life, and I still feel that things will work out when all is said and done. Sometimes though, we get to see things work out in this life. I know divine providence has played a large role in where I am today. Let me explain why.

I would not change my focus in college for anything. Learning about history, peoples, and cultures was enlightening. The world became so much bigger, and I grew to see people and their differences as amazing and wonderful. I also learned that certain things are better for the health of societies, and we can learn from others' actions. The history degree did not prepare me for a vocation. It prepared me for life. It prepared me to be a better human being, and gave me a desire to contribute.

The money and years I spent learning about sciences, the body, and general biology after college were not wasted either. I became fascinated with the natural world, both the living and non-living things. I consider both history and biology fascinating because they teach us about what it is to be human, on multiple levels, and isn't that what we all want to know? What makes you, you, and what makes me, me are questions we spend our whole lives trying to answer.

I had only intended on certifying in world and US history when I entered the secondary education certification process, but when time came for me to declare what my focus was, I counted up all my credits and realized I gained enough biology to certify in that as well. Thinking that I would be far more marketable as a teacher, I requested to include it and was given a green light. I then prepared for, and passed both Praxis tests for both areas. At this point I was still thinking I would be teaching history. As part of an observational (pre-student teaching) course, we were placed in a situation that was the opposite of our main focus. For me, this meant that I was placed in a middle school (7th grade) biology class. To my surprise, I found that I really enjoyed teaching biology, perhaps even more than history.

When the time came to request a school for student teaching placement, I had intended on a school further north. Surprisingly, things didn't feel right about requesting my originally intended school. I couldn't make sense of the feeling, but decided to follow it. I asked for the only other thing I could see mattering; proximity to my home. When the announcements of our placements came, I was placed in the school I had requested. We weren't supposed to contact our cooperating teachers just yet, but I looked her up to see what I could learn. I was surprised to find that she only taught science/biology. I contacted my supervisor via e-mail, and she said that she would let me know what to do after contacting the principle. I was supposed to have been placed with a history teacher, since that was my emphasis. To my further surprise, I received a phone call from my supervisor. She had spoken with the principle, and had been urged to place me in the class anyway, as long as I would agree to it. This was to be the cooperating teacher's last year, since she was retiring. My supervisor asked if I would be interested in doing my student teaching in biology instead. I jumped at the opportunity, and here I am.

There is no guarantee of a position with the school, though, if I am honest, I do feel I am in a good position. I am loving the environment, and am excited for what the future holds. I may have chosen to be a poor teacher, but things feel right, and I know the Lord takes care of those who listen and try to follow. It gives me so much confidence in my decisions, looking back and seeing how much has fallen into place. Each step along the way has given me different tools, even when things did not seem like they were working out. I still feel things are unfolding, and my experiences have helped me to see that I have no idea what the Lord has in store for me and my family.

Through all the suffering and trials, I am seeing joy. I have climbed a mountain that did not seem climbable at times, and know I now I can. The view up here is hopeful. I know I can't stay at the top, but that is okay. I know the next mountain has a view worth the climb. Life is not meant to be only mountain tops or valleys. Like an EKG shows, life is all about the ups and downs. It would not be living without the contrast. The rests in music. The white-space in a painting. The black that surrounds the stars. The trials of life. All give definition and place things in some type of gratifying relief.

Change truly is constant, and is the irony of life. One of those changes that I hope happens before too long though, is that I get to go fishing! Student teaching has me crazy busy. Here's to looking forward.










Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Goodbye Dad

My father died yesterday (1/14/17). Sixty three is too soon. You hear it said often, that nothing can prepare you. I think it's a fair assessment, even for a person with failing health and an overall diminishing quality of life. Dad was officially diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease about four months ago. He had been through multiple surgeries over the past few years to take care of his back, knee, and shoulder. He fought for lucidity so hard that most couldn't see his struggle. I think his personality helped him hide it. He was in a considerable amount of pain, despite the operations and medications, but he wouldn't hesitate to jump up to help, to participate, or to just show you he cared, even through all the pain. He was the last person to think of himself or ever put himself first. We all knew he hurt, but he refused to let it stop him from loving and serving. He was a broken man, and yet one of the most whole people I will ever know.



I can't remember a time when he wasn't serving. People; serving and loving them was his life. He had every reason to turn inward, but he never did. And it can't have been easy. He grew up in a small town, with alcoholic parents who struggled to show love. As is common with those situations, he followed suit at a young age, drinking, living without bounds, delving into drugs and living a life that matched.

Then he met Mom. They dated, married, and even partied together for about five years. Once children came my mother began to see how much her little family needed stability, and divine help. She started going back to church, and Dad kept on a rocky downward path. One day Mom caught me taking a small baggy of cocaine off of a windowsill, being the curious toddler I was. It was the straw that broke the camels back, so to speak. She realized that things were too dangerous to keep children in that kind of environment and began to make plans. She opened up a new bank account, went back to school to refresh her nursing skills, and prepared to move in with her mother. Dad found her journal and learned what she had been planning.



He loved her. He truly loved her. Not that shallow, if things are difficult I'm out kind of love, but that messy, I'm not going anywhere, no matter what kind of love. And she loved him back. It's the kind of love this world could use more of. He loved her, more than anything in this world. How do I know? It's simple really, he changed.

I can still remember attending N.A. meetings with him, and spending time at the Friendship Club that he volunteered at to support others dealing with drug addictions. The alcohol and drugs were the first to go, then the smoking, and eventually even the coffee. The anger and temper took longer, but eventually even they went. The fear and resentment I had as a child has given way to forgiveness, respect, and even admiration as an adult.



Age has a habit of stripping away our pride, and refining our perceptions of what truly matters in life. I have felt the process in my own life, and recognize its refining effect in my elders. I thank Heavenly Father that I lived to witness my father treating my children with the very love and tenderness that he missed showing to his own children. There is healing in that, in heart and mind, for both my father and his children.

My father's life reminds me of the movie "Big Fish." If you haven't seen it, I highly recommend taking the time. Dad never really met a mermaid, giant, or worked with a circus, but the sentiment is somehow very reminiscent of my father. Much of the movie the son is trying to comprehend his father's life, and what it really meant, and in the end has to let his father go, being left to decide whether or not to believe his father's stories. The movie ends with the son symbolically letting go of the negative judgement he had toward his father, and accepting him for what he was, a dreamer doing his best with what he had, who was able to accomplish amazing things with his vision. My own father always dreamed bigger than life, and he was so concerned about others having meaningful experiences and creating lasting memories, that it was hard to see the man behind it all. I think that's how he wanted it though, all about others. It was he who taught me that some of the best experiences and moments of life are created, not just happened upon. I don't think most people who enjoyed the things he organized realized the attention to detail and the amount of work that went into the orchestration, and that's how he wanted it, all about the experience.



My dad taught me to serve, to repent, to create, to serve some more, even when it was hard, and most importantly, to love with a love more fierce than death or addiction. All the difficulty and sorrows of the past are swallowed up in the goodness of his life, and his lasting legacy.

Like a big and magnificent fish... I had to let him go too.

But don't think the tone of those words is hopeless or even really sad at its core. I know because of Jesus Christ I'll get to be with him again, but next time it will be without the limitations of mortality, and I have no doubt it will be such a happy reunion that the weak words we use now could not ever truly describe it.  Till then Dad, keep on the lookout for some good water, and keep the rods rigged up. In the meantime, know I love you.





For those interested in reading the obituary: In Loving Memory of William Theadore "Ted" Cutler




Saturday, January 7, 2017

DIY Automatic Hook Setter (JawJacker) 2.0

Simplicity is a wonderful thing. I like simple flies, simple techniques, and simple gear. The more simple a thing is, the less time and focus it requires, which allows more time for actual fishing.



A little while back I thought up a simpler way of creating an automatic ice fishing hook setter. I liked the previous version, but it was a bit of a pain to put together with all the wire bending. I have been fishing this newer version lately, and it works great, so, I decided to put together a tutorial on how I put one together. This time I made a video, instead of taking pictures. It is long, so skip past the parts you grasp. You can even skip to the very end, just to see how it works.

So why go through all this, instead of making one of those simpler designs that has a wire hooking into the eye of the fishing pole? Well, sensitivity. This setup can be made far more sensitive to bites, requiring the fish to pull less before it goes off. This means a fish is less likely to swallow the hook, and when they bite lighter, they can still be caught. This setup also keeps the wire away from your line, and not able to mess up your rod tip.



Materials:
-PVC Pipe: 1 1/4" (or bigger) schedule 40 pvc pipe (cut to roughly 31" section, or longer depending on what rods you plan on using with it)
-Fiberglass surveying stake (or any other sturdy material that could be used as supports, such as wooden dowels)
-Wire Hanger
-Empty Deodorant Container
-Thick Rubber Band
-Spiral Rod Holder
-Clip
-Duct Tape
-20lb+ mono
-Plastic Beads for spacers (optional)

Tools:
-Dremel, with cutting bit (to cut PVC and Deodorant Container)
-Wire Cutter, or pliers with wire cutter
-Needle-nose Pliers
-Drill
-Chop Saw (or some other saw to cut the Survey Stake)
-7/16 or 1/2" drill bit
-Drill bit to match Survey Stake size
-Drill bit to match Wire Hanger size
-Super glue
-Sharpie (Permanent Marker)
-Safety Glasses
-Straight Edge

These materials and tools are not a set-in-stone list. Many could be substituted, but this is what I had access to.  I'm sure there are better ideas, so please feel free to share any in the comments.



Here are some closeup shots and additional tips with the different parts.


If you set it off a couple times to check how well it works, make sure to look at your line to make sure the deodorant plastic line catch does not have burrs that are scraping it. If you have already sanded the line catch part, and it is still hurting your line, you can always put a couple layers of nail polish on it to smooth things out.



If you don't want to mess with the clip, or worry about the extra elevation, you can cut the rod holder shorter, and only drill the top hole in the PVC.


If you find that your setup falls over when going off, you can re-drill the support post holes at less of an angle. This will bring the whole setup closer to the ice, and more stable when it goes off.

Also, other materials could be used for the support stakes, such as wooden dowels. I like the strength and durability of the fiberglass myself.


If you find finish the project, and find that your rod holder holes are at a different angle than your trigger system, or you need additional rod holder holes to match a larger rod, you can simply cut the PVC in the middle, and place a simple PVC coupler in the middle. They are often less than a dollar at the hardware store. This allows you to change out the back rod holding section. It also allows you the freedom to adjust the angle of the rod holder. When I do this, I do not glue anything together. Simply press the PVC together firmly.

Thanks for having a look, and let me know how it works out for you if you make one!




Thursday, January 5, 2017

Video Killed The Radio Star... and a video worth watching

I recognize that the tone of my posts as of late have been heavy. I do not apologize. This blog is all about the journey of an angler trying to find balance, while enjoying the passion of fishing. It's not all cupcakes and rainbows. And, for those who take the time to read, I hope you get something for your time.

I recently stumbled on a video by a gentleman named Simon Sinek. He's one of those guys who has keen insight on how things work, and what is going on in our society, in relation to people. I have watched the video a few times now, and have really come to feel that what he has to say is at the root of our social media woes concerning fly fishing. 

I highly recommend that you take the time to listen to what Simon has to say, and think about how it relates to you, to those you socialize with, and the big picture. I see connections, but I wonder if other people will.