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Retirement number crunching with River King Dave Bureau

You meet people throughout life that you hope you end up like someday.  In my day job, I’ve been able to meet a lot of people over the years planning their financial futures.  They often want to know what money they need to save or if they have already saved enough to live the life they want when they are done working.  They want to know if they’ve reached “their number” or need someone to run the numbers to affirm their decision to stop working, buy a lake house, or maybe gift to their grandchildrens’ education funds.

Seeing this enough times has served as inspiration for starting this blog.  Rather than waiting until I’m done working to experience and then write about the fishing, travel, and nature experiences I’ve always wanted to do, I attempt to squeeze in 5 hours a week to get a preview of that retirement dream now without neglecting the key responsibilities of today.  Through this blog I get to meet and profile people in the world of fishing I find interesting.  Dave Bureau is no exception, basically living today the retirement I someday dream about.  He picked a great name for his Instagram (@river_king) and we’ve followed each other the past few months.  Dave is not fishing the Seychelles, Iceland, or Patagonia every year but he’s got access to a dozen plus species in his backyard that provide plenty of variety.   Plus he’s not just getting numbers but also hauling in the big movers from Catfish, Drum, and Buffalo, to Stripers, Bass, and Bluegill, on to Brook, Brown, and Rainbow trout.

What I love about Dave and his retirement is that he’s a numbers guy through and through.  The numbers involved in his plan for retirement however are all about the fish to catch.  4,000 being the goal for this year alone, he’s had some challenges you’ll learn about in this piece but he’s still moving towards that goal (if not this year, he may be “burdened” with trying again next).  It’s an admirable feat to shoot for and is what has been missing in many people I’ve met over the years.  Even if you have the time and money, you need to have a passion once you are work-life independent to drive you out of bed each day and keep you active.  Dave’s story should not only inspire you but also give you a few tips to try on your own waterways!

Tell us about yourself. How did you get started fishing? I’m a husband, Dad, Brother, Grandfather, Vietnam Vet, Marine Corp helicopter pilot, Dawg Fan and retired High School Science Teacher with a fishing addiction.
Of all the things I’ve done, fishing has always been the one constant throughout my life. No one in my family ever fished, and I really don’t know where this passion came from, but I can’t ever remember not fishing. Also, I wasn’t very good at it for my first 50 years. I just struggled along, and accidentally caught fish. I drifted into tournament fishing, and I can confirm that dragging a Carolina Rig for 5 bass a day is really boring. I remember one particular episode that was a tipping point in my fishing. During a tournament, my partner and I stumbled onto a school of big stripers feeding up a river, and we were catching 20 pounders, one after the other. When I heard the boat motor start and my partner told me to break off the fish I had on because he was tired of wasting his time. That was the end of bassing for me, and the beginning of my multi-species fishing.
I sold my bass boat, bought a 16 foot aluminum jon boat and started fishing rivers and catching fish. I went after anything that would tug on my line ….. gar, bream, Skipjack, mudfish, catfish, hybrids, trout, white bass, yellow bass, drum, stripers… it didn’t make any difference, if it was swimming in a river that fish was on my list. I quickly understood that fish are not hard to catch, but you have to be there when they are, so catching than becomes a timing issue. This is where a Fishing Log comes into play. I record notes on every trip I make which includes the weather and water conditions, the lures, and the fish caught. Over time, patterns begin to emerge, and I learned when to be at certain locations to catch. Over the years, this resulted in a 12 month Fishing Calendar to keep me on biting fish all year around. Each of these specific species and timing events, I call a program.


Every species of fish is different in its requirements. They seek cold and warm water refuges at different times, they feed at certain times, they inhabit different environments, and they spawn at different times. In particular, it is the spawning activity that I key in on, because fish are most vulnerable when they swim up rivers in mass and create target rich environments behind dams and Shoals for the angler. The striped fish do it in the Spring, and the salmon and trout do it in the Fall. Many spawning areas are famous and common knowledge. Others have to be sought out through word of mouth, fishing boards, and magazine articles. I always say the best tool I have for catching fish is my I-Phone because I’m always using it to read fishing articles, check fishing boards and look at U-Tube videos, which are all great sources of fishing locations and techniques.
All fisheries are not created equal. Many are great for only 2 months of the year. Others are great year around. Also, fisheries come and fisheries go. I try to put my self on great fisheries year around, but most of the programs I currently fish weren’t on my itinerary five years ago. Floods wash hybrids over dams and create new fisheries, drought reduces river flows and destroys the spawn, invasive species move in and kill or create new opportunities, dams that provide cold water for trout have problems and the cold water is lost and the fishery is destroyed, and on and on. So part of my fishing strategy every year is researching new programs to replace old ones that are failing. It’s extremely difficult to show up at an unknown fishery and catch. Timing is critical along with baits, and fish locations. It is so true that 90% of the fish occupy only 10% of the water. For example, I have a program that is only available for two weeks in April, the fish are stacked behind a discharge manifold on the river bottom spawning, and they are keyed in on green jigs, it’s 100+,3 pound fish a day and it’s been happening like clockwork for the last 7 years. It’s a very tiny area that I found just by accident, and I feel fortunate it has lasted this long. Secrecy is important in fishing.

Can you elaborate on the numbers caught goal for this year and what’s with the counter?

Every year, I try to challenge myself to keep my fishing interesting to me. Last year my goal was a big Brown Trout, and I caught one that was 29” and 14lbs 6ozs. Before that, I decided to move from jerkbaits to jigs. Another year, it was fishing 125 days. This year, my goal is to catch 4000 fish and I’m having a tough time. All the rain this Spring really hurt my white bass and trout programs with high muddy water. Also, my summer striper program has had 3 consecutive years of poor spawning, and the the daily catch rate is way down. I was hoping to have caught about 3000 fish by now, but I’ve only touched 2300 so far. In the Fall, I spend a lot of time fishing for trophy Browns, and my catch rate per trip goes way down. So, I’m going to have to change my Fall fishing programs this year if I’m going to make 4000 fish.  Also, the numbers of fish that I catch are only relevant to me and my programs. There are people that catch a lot more fish than I do, and anglers that catch a lot less. I typically touch 3000 to 3500 fish a year, and I knew if I set a goal of 4000, that would push me to become better at catching fish, so that’s where that number comes from.


The counter that I use to keep up with my catches is essential to insure accuracy. I have several, and on days I’m catching multi-species, I’ll have one devoted to each species. I don’t trust my old brain with numbers anymore.

My goal every time I go fishing is to catch 100 fish. It happens a lot in the Spring, but it’s tough to do in the Summer and the Fall. Another goal I try to accomplish at least once a year is the 1000 pound day, which I have done several times over the years behind dams. That last time I did it, I had 631lbs on 71 drum, 283lbs on 227 Skipjack, 42lbs on 11 hybrids, 78lbs on 6 striper, and 27lbs on 3 catfish. This is fishing craziness. After 100 fish, it gets to be work…work …. work, but if you like catching, it’s memorable, and you get really good with hook sets, drag settings, and playing fish.

What are the unique fishing opportunities near you, favorite kind of fishing to do, tackle tips or tricks?

My favorite fish to catch are trout because they live in beautiful places. In particular, I have a fetish for big Brown Trout. Also, I’m not a fly fisherman. I love my spinning rods and Ci4 Striadic reels, and I feel they are the most efficient fish catching tool available to river anglers. I typically set up my rods with yellow Fireline as my main line attached to a fluorocarbon leader with Duo Snap clip to attach the bait. Fireline, like braid, gives me a feel for the bait that I don’t get with monofilament. Also, it handles well, it’s strong, it will cast a long way, and it gives excellent long distance hook sets. In addition, I like using yellow because I can frequently see bites before I feel them. Also this year, I’ve been fishing a lot without a leader because of problems with the connection between the main line and the fluorocarbon. All leader knots take a beating going through the guides and must be constantly retied before it breaks. Also, I color the yellow Fireline with a black magic marker when I don’t use a leader, and I haven’t noticed any change In catch rates, even in clear water.



That’s a quick outline of what I do. I hope it helps others that enjoy the bite as much as I do. I really feel that catching fish comes down to exposure. It sounds trite, but the more you fish, the more you catch because you have a greater chance of being on the water when the bite is happening. Also, It’s hard to get into depth on so many topics in a short article like this, so If I can answer any questions, please contact me on Instagram.

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Fly fishing is elevated in the work of Andrej Krysov

 

If I fished only to capture fish, my fishing trips would have ended long ago.”
Zane Grey

Fishing can sometimes look like a foolish pursuit.  In the mind of many, it’s just drowning worms by the bank to pass the time, an excuse to day drink, or a honey-do list escape.  There is great enjoyment and an element of skill in all types of angling but fly fishing is not only renown but a case can be made that it’s the closest to an art form that fishing gets.  Simply watching others’ casting technique can be a therapeutic experience.  Like many aspects of the sport, it looks deceptively simple to perform.  There countless varieties of rods, line, and reel choices paired for presenting the right flies, targeting chosen species, or to address a specific condition you’re fishing.

Not only fly selection but fly tying is another element of fly fishing that demand an artist’s touch.  An attention to detail so specific is required within your current surroundings and then in your approach to replicating their forage with chenille, hackle, and more.  The entire sport of fly fishing is something which requires a lifetime to develop competence, not expertise.  There are plenty of experts in their chosen waters, species, and conditions but there really aren’t fly fishing experts that can be dropped anywhere on the globe simply knowing what to do.

This rich pursuit of fly fishing is understood by many artists.  Some are anglers themselves and that brings a depth to their work that is not easily replicated.  A favorite artist of mine who understands this is Andrej Krysov.  If fly fishing is an art form already, his work certainly elevates it.  I had a chance to learn more about his own fishing and work in the following interview.  I hope you enjoy learning more about the artist and certainly take in the many samples included here.

 

How did you get started as an artist and angler?

I’ve been drawing and fishing my whole life. Specifically fly fishing 15 years. Four years ago, I decided to combine these two of my hobbies, and started to take pictures on a theme of fly fishing. I graduated from the Academy of graphic arts in Moscow and professionally engaged in the illustration of children’s books.



 

What is your “why” when it comes to creating your artworks?

Work on the pictures about fly fishing brings me more moral pleasure than material, I do completely different in technique and execution of the work, it’s drawings and watercolors and calligraphy and cartoons on the topic of fly fishing.

Where can those interested find more of your work samples?

I have a portfolio on behans website and I exhibit my works on Facebook page. I am grateful to all who are interested in my work and will answer the letter including about the purchase of my pictures. A big thank you to my friends.

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Fly fishing, guiding, and nets for Carp with Andrew McCLellan

Carp Fsihing

So many fly fisherman begin with panfish, master the basics, and then proceed to spend the following decades pursuing mostly trout and bass.  It’s only been in the past five or so years that interest in fly fishing for carp has developed.  Fly fishermen without local access to trout streams took to practicing sight fishing on these “trash bass” near home. What many learned quickly is that carp were often more difficult to land on a fly than anticipated. That frustration eventually became respect for an intelligent, wary fish that more than delivered a bend on the rod. They became a challenge to test their mettle as a fly angler. They became THE fish they were out to catch that day, not just an afterthought to cast at because they were surface feeding or cruising the shallows.  Industry publications like Field and Stream and The Drake have been featuring carp content for years. Multiple Carp tournament venues are sprouting up each month.

I have approached fly fishing completely backwards from the earlier description.  Having owned a fly rod for 25 years, it was rarely used before falling in love with carp fishing at my local rivers.  I was so caught up in the fun of landing these beasts on ultralight gear, I hadn’t looked back to try bass, bluegill, or others.  I definitely had forgotten about my fly rod before I started joining groups about carp fishing.  With only 3 carp under my belt a few months later, I may eventually get to fishing for bass or trout but for now it’s a singular focus.

Another passionate advocate of carp fly fishing is Andrew McClellan.  In short order he’s begun a net company, guides for carp, has been featured on some pretty slick videos, and still manages to keep a day job with 100 days on the water each year.  I took some time to catch up and learn more about the ways he’s helping more anglers become carp on the fly junkies.



Have you always been a fisherman or has that been an interest that’s developed over time?  

By day time I’m an Engineer for a food company where I get to create kitchen tools to make people’s jobs easier; my hobby and passion is that I’m an avid fly fisher. My goal is to spend at least 100 days on the water a year, and this year I’m on track. I squeeze in a day or a few hours whenever possible. I live in Southern California, where I have carp locally to me, and pristine trout waters anywhere from 3.5 to 7 hours away.

I got into fly fishing about 5 years ago when I showed up to a boys trip to the river and I was the only one with spinning gear. The motion of the cast and the incremental changes you can make to fool a fish to taking hand crafted bug imitations really opened my eyes to the science behind fly fishing. Being a science guy, I really got into understanding entomology and why fish react a certain way.

What’s your average day of guided fishing like? What fish do you target, preferred techniques, flies, etc.

Often times I get asked how to fish for carp, or what they like to eat; when asked, I develop a perception that people are looking to me for professional answers, but in reality I literally stumbled upon carp fishing. Desperate for anything to take a fly, I found a video of a carp jumping like a tarpon at the LA river. Did some googling, and ended up with a 10+ lb carp throwing corn flies. You can see the edited version on Youtube. LA River Piglet, where you can see me using my wooden net. Funny thing was, while I was down on the river a guy mentioned that “you are going to need a bigger net”, and the video displays that.

Since that first fish, I have landed close to 200 carp to date in the 3 years I have been fishing it, often times with double digit days. I really enjoy taking people out for their first time to get a carp on the fly. I charge nothing, IMO carp is not a guided fish…too many conditions to consider and is heavily dependent upon skill and a “ninja-mindset”. My favorite way to get a carp is to dap…top water is always a treat, but to watch a fish stop what they are doing and come over to suck in your clam imitation, a set with glass and game on is something worth living for…….I love how freaked out they get and how far they run.  My second outing for carp resulted in a slip and fall and my net broke, not noticing it until I reached for my net when I had a fish on the line. I ventured online to purchase a rubber bag, heavy duty, carp net. I was astonished with the prices. The net I wanted, was more than my fly rod, and there was no way to justify that.

Tell us the story of how you started your net company?

Being an Engineer, I took it upon myself to build one myself and see how much it would be. It just so happens my fraternity brother is an owner of Rhino Linings. Three years later and 400 strong in the Rhino Herd, it’s been the a great part of fly fishing with all the people I meet. My pricing ranges from $75-$120 for my largest net, being a boat net. Nets are meant to be abused and affordable. Keeping manufacturing lean, I am able to afford to donate about 50-100 nets a year to charities and fishing competitions. In my humble opinion, a net should not cost $135 or more. Rhino Nets is the most affordable:ruggedness ratio on the planet. All nets are made to order, and can be customized at very low costs.

How can others learn more about your products or hire you as a guide?

If you want to hire me as a carp guide, I charge nothing…..I only teach.

If anyone would like to learn more about Rhino Nets my website is:
www.rhinonets.org

For Carp fishing questions and fly ideas
@ffrhino on Instagram

For additional LA River footage and questions,
LA River Gold – UrbananglerUSA visits

 

 

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From Fry to Angler: Bringing Together Family and Fishing Gear

Family

“What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make.”

 Jane Goodall

Take a moment and remember being a kid.  Before we became jaded by the real world and when the smallest of surprises would just make your week.  That element of surprise and accompanying joy definitely gets numbed, even lost in adulthood.  One of those pure joys of childhood luckily stuck with me and still provides so much joy and that’s fishing.  I can still remember the lake by my house where countless bluegill and an occasional yellow belly catfish would just as well have been an Amazon adventure to this 6 year old Missouri boy. Family

For some fishing is just a hobby.  A way to kill some time and get away for a bit.  For many of us however, we got our start fishing because of someone important.  Someone took the time to show us we were important to them.  They took us for a walk to the lake or creek, showed us how to cast, bait a hook, and maybe even clean and cook our catch.  Even if it was a bore and you never went fishing again, it was a multi-hour investment of time that many quite frankly are not willing to make in the life of a child in today’s busy world.  That same feeling of being important enough that someone thought of us what From Fry to Angler delivers right to kid’s doorsteps nationwide.  The brainchild of Patrick McAnear, From Fry to Angler provides a Lucky Kid Tackle Box weekly to children all over the country.  Patrick is a passionate angler who wanted to do more.  He’s decided to make a difference with his non-profit that will hopefully play a pivotal role in the development of our nation’s future fishermen!  Always curious to learn more, we had a chance to catch up with Patrick McAnear to learn more.

Tell us about yourself?  Have you always been a fisherman or has that been an interest that’s developed over time? What’s your average day of fishing like? What fish do you target, preferred techniques, flies, etc. ?

I’m Patrick McAnear founder of From Fry To Angler a nonprofit that sends fishing tackle to kids all across America to get more kids involved in fishing. Also put on kids fishing tournament possible doing the worlds first online kids fishing tournament. From the time I was a kid my grandpa, mom, dad and uncle would always take me fishing. Some of my greatest memories are fishing with them when I was a kid. When I’m fishing I target bass I use jigs, drop shot and crankbaits for the most part.


Tells us the story how the nonprofit was started? 

I always fish with my little nephews and little brother when I get the chance.  My little brothers are just as crazy about fishing as I am and I always give them stuff I don’t use or was not planning on using and they love that. That’s when I came up with the idea to give that joy to others and I put together a box with tackle and started a Facebook page to find a kid to send it to Every week I kept making another box and sending it out.  The first few kids where local in Lubbock and then it started to spread across Texas and then New Mexico and just kept going into other states.  Now I’m sending boxes all over the US every week and it just keeps growing. The giveaway keep getting bigger and bigger.  We went from 1 box a week to 4 and I plan on getting as much out as I can. I want to give these kids fishing memories to last a lifetime as well as a reason to just get out of the house. The most touching box I have ever sent out was to a kid whose grandfather had always fished with him.  His grandfather passed away and the day of the funeral he put his favorite lure in his grandfather’s casket. That same day he got his Lucky Kid Tackle Box and some how I put that same lure in the box that he put in his grandfather’s casket!

How can others support your mission and help provide these kits to more kids?

Everyone is welcome to send in Tackle and lures to our P.O. Box that is found on the Facebook page they can also donate via PayPal or even just like and share the page also they can take a kid fishing.

If you had that one person take you fishing as a child, pay that forward!  A small donation of some tackle could not only make a difference in this child’s week but also start a lifelong love of fishing, the outdoors, nature, and more!



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The love of fishing and art run deep in Erik Schmidt’s work

Fishing Gear

Who and what we love is deep. It’s a part of who we are. In a 20 year study done at Cornell University, it was found that experiences rather than things have a lasting impact. An enduring happiness that far outweighed the happiness found in purchasing stuff like homes and cars. Experiences and the stories generated become our identity. They enrich us far beyond anything that can be purchased in an attempt to make us more interesting, appear smarter or more attractive.

Fishing Gear

The love of fishing shared by billions on planet earth runs deep for many. Like a lot of other endeavors, it’s importance in our life can be seen with a quick look at our calendars and checkbooks.  For some anglers however, that love runs deep enough to eventually physically become a part of you. Tattoo art is a truly amazing way to rep your love of all things fishing and if there’s anyone who knows this it’s Erik Schmidt. He “gets it” as an angler himself as well as a professional tattoo artist. We had a chance to learn more about his artwork and how he got started in a recent interview.

Tell us about yourself. How did you get started as an artist and angler?

I have always loved to draw and be creative within the visual arts world. I was an art major in college and during that period is when I started getting tattooed. I loved tattoos and I would try to draw my own tattoo designs. Fast forward and I have been a professional tattoo artist for over a decade at Neptune Tattooville in Neptune, New Jersey. This is where my “fish art” was born. I was asked to do a Snook fish tattoo on a friend who gave me the artistic freedom to create the design however I wanted. After I did the tattoo I was inspired to recreate the image on paper using watercolor paints in a “Tattoo Flash” style. Oddly enough, the tattoo inspired my art instead of the art inspiring the tattoo! My fish paintings have a lot of tattoo qualities. Bold, hyper-graphic, saturated images that are simplified and exaggerated to depict certain features of the fish species. So far I have done over thirty species and plan to keep adding new ones.

I began fishing as a young child with my dad and friends, mostly fishing in freshwater rivers and streams in central Vermont where I grew up. We would usually spin-cast on the White River and a few small brooks by my house. I especially loved fishing with light gear on a very small brook right behind the house, we would simply lob a worm or spinner into the small pools and catch brook trout. It amazed me that these fish could survive in such a small environment. 

After moving to the New Jersey shore fifteen years ago I have become an avid surfer. I feel at home by the ocean and connected to the way of life that revolves around it. After catching a large striped bass off of a friends boat I was amazed by the power and beauty these fish possess. I now surf-cast locally in Bradley Beach, Avon by the Sea and in Shark River Inlet when I have the time. Fishing is a very personal thing to me and I enjoy the solitude it provides.


Tell me about your favorite fishing experience?

My favorite story would have to be fishing on Marthas Vineyard with my dad in Lobsterville. He had never caught a Striped Bass “keeper” and we were scheduled to be on a ferry home that afternoon. It was our last chance to fish before we left and he was out at the end of the jetty methodically casting into the outgoing tide current with a little pink eel bait. Just before we were going to pack it up, he hooked into a really nice one! We landed it, got a photo for him and released the fish back quickly. The experience made the trip highlight for us both!

Where can folks learn more about your work?  

To see my paintings and other artwork, I’m on Etsy at Offshore Artwork.  My tattoo artwork can be seen on my Instagram page @erikcschmidt and erikschmidttattoos.com.

This may not be your cup of tea as an angler. Maybe you never intend to tattoo your body, much less with a fish image of all things. Regardless, what can be agreed upon is that Erik’s talent as an artist is strong. He’s skilled and appreciates the specimens that ultimately adorn the bodies of his clients. It shows in his work and that breathes life into the designs. The experiences and memories made fishing can bring last happiness. Erik’s work can bring that back for you every time you view his designs permanently made a part of you.


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Fishing for Gar on the Fly with Michael Bishop

This week I have the joy of stepping aside for a guest post about a topic gaining attention online pretty rapidly.  There a fewer fish species more despised than the Gar.  They are one of the most resilient creatures on earth, with fossils dating back to the Jurassic period onward.  So love them or hate them, they will likely be in rivers or lakes near you for many years to come.  Their physiology, specifically their swim bladder, allows them to stay out of water longer, inhabit waters with minimal oxygen, and even pollution yet they still thrive.  Michael Bishop is into a lot of things including an upcoming blog at Flyoholics.com but another interest he has is Gar on the Fly, a Facebook page full of fun pics, giveaways, and other good stuff.  I invited Michael to share more about his experience and provide some tips to both fly fishing novice and veteran get started with gar fishing on the fly.

When I tell my friends I went fly fishing for gar; their response is a ‘mixed reaction.’ Some of them look at me like I’m an alien that was dropped off by a UFO passing by planet earth. Others will get a big smile on their face, nod at me, and then begin to think of a way to call in sick to work. Most folks I know who fish for gar in this neck of the woods do so with the traditional method of live bait. When I tell my fishing friends I love fly fishing for the gar, they’ll say to me in utter disbelief ‘I can’t even begin to imagine what that’s like.’ I have to say, there’s a lot of truth to that statement. There are no words to describe what it’s like to catch a big, hungry, trophy gar on a fly rod.

My first encounter with Gar on the Fly was a complete accident. To be honest with you, fly fishing for Gar was the last thing on my mind. I was fishing for bass on a metropolitan lake, and I noticed quite a bit of commotion at the surface of the water. At first glance, it looked as if largemouths had moved into the shallows to feed on the spawning sunfish. With my inflatable boat in position, I quietly dropped the anchor down. The suspense of targeting these shallow-water largemouths was starting to eat away at me, or so I thought it was largemouth bass. The size of fish I saw made my jaw drop! Those weren’t largemouths attacking the schools of sunfish; they were Longnose Gar. And I do mean lots of Longnose Gar—some of them were absolute giants.

My family and I were new to the Ozarks, and I heard a great deal about Longnose Gar. However, this was the first time to see Gar. Knowing nothing to the contrary, I cast my bass-size streamers at the Gar. My frustration mounted as I hooked many gar, only to have them come off the hook and lose them.

I went home that night and searched for as much information as possible on fly fishing for Gar. The articles I found had one element in common: The writers spoke about using rope flies for Longnose Gar. Using rope flies, with no hooks, really sounded strange to me. But I decided to take the plunge and give the recommended rope fly a try.

Armed with my rope flies, I went back to the lake in search of the Gar. In 3 hours of fishing, I hooked over 15 longnose gar! The largest Gar maxed out at 40 inches long, and I missed some gar that was over 50 inches. The power and stamina of these gars were unbelievable! To say I became addicted to Gar on the Fly is an understatement, and the experience set me on the path to ‘Garmania’ and becoming the ‘Garoholic’ that I am today.

WHY FLY FISH FOR GAR?

Humans have persecuted few species of fish with such brutality to the extent that Gar has endured. During the 1800s, people used to blow Gar up with dynamite. They believed Gar would destroy the resident populations of game fish. Sadly, the myths and misinformation of the past have led some anglers to think the Gar is nothing more than a nuisance species.

Why do I I fly fish for Gar? To me, the mystique of fly fishing for Gar is very appealing. The Gar is a beautiful fish! Traditionally, anglers who fish for Gar use the conventional method of live bait and lures. Anglers who pursue Gar with regularity are a minority, and there are even fewer anglers who fly fish for Gar. Fly fishers who pursue Gar are a rare breed! There’s very little information published on fly fishing for Gar, and misinformation from the past may influence the writings that are available. Fly fishing for Gar is starting to become very popular with adventurous anglers who have a taste for different things. In fact, there’s even a new Facebook group ‘Gar on the Fly.’

Gar is the perfect fish for the beginning fly fisherman. Introduce someone who’s new to fly fishing for Gar, and I can almost guarantee you they’ll be fly fishermen for the rest of their lives. For the novice fly fisherman, the thrill of catching panfish is great fun. However, the experience of seeing a 40-inch fish strike your fly with the power of a freight train will etch itself into the memory of an ANY angler for years to come!

Fly fishers dream of taking exotic trips in search of the fish of a lifetime. Fly fishing for Gar offers one of the best opportunities for the angler to land your dream fish, right in your backyard. When I say Gar can provide you with the chance to land a real trophy fish, I mean that in a genuine way. I have access to 5 bodies of water where I regularly pursue Gar, all of which are close to home. Some of these fisheries hold outstanding numbers of enormous Gar. I’ve lost Gar on the fly rod that 55 inches long, and I’ve spotted some fish that were over 60-inches in length!

Gar is a great ‘stepping stone’ for the novice fly fisherman. Fly fishing for largemouth bass, pike and muskies require casting large flies tied on 3/0 to 6/0 saltwater hooks. New anglers can’t cast these larger patterns. The majority of flies we use for Longnose Gar are constructed from nylon rope, and they don’t require the use of hooks. The novice angler can get comfortable with casting larger flies without the fear of dealing with larger hooks, and this can help them to make the transition to casting large streamers gradually. Let’s get one thing straight: Casting 50 feet of fly line, in the wind, with a 6-to-12 inch long fly that tied at the end of your leader/tippet is not something to take lightly.

People who refer to the Gar as a ‘trash fish’ have never taken the time to study the facts. The great news is that anglers & fisheries managers both have seen the need to change this way of thinking. On a variety of lakes and river in our state, I’ve seen signs our Game and Fish Department have posted which show anglers how to tell the difference between the various species of gar. Here in my home state, fishers who are desirous to fish for alligator gar are required to have a special permit, and report catches of alligator gar to the Department of Game and Fish.

BASIC TACTICS

When it comes to fly fishing for gar, you need to think in terms of the gar’s preference for warmer
water. The months of July and August can be some of the best months to fly fish for gar, and we heartily encourage you to take advantage of this peak season. Fly fishing for Gar during the ‘dog days’ of summer is a bonus to the fishing season. Many of the game fish we love to catch will often be in a neutral/negative mood during the hot, daytime hours.

The angler who understands how gar responds to seasonal changes can pursue Gar throughout the calendar year. To this day, I hooked-and-lost my biggest longnose gar, ever, while fly fishing for walleyes in a local river during November. I spotted the gar sitting stationary at the bottom of a pool in the crystal-clear water. I cast the fly ahead of the gar, retrieved it, and let it sink down towards the gar’s mouth. The large female moved a few inches, inhaled the fly, and the battle was on. I left all of my gar flies/equipment at home because gar was the last fish on my mind in November. After a 15 min fight, I brought the gar close to my boat and had taken a section of rope from my anchor that I could use to land the fish. The hook fell out of the gar’s mouth, and I watched it swim off before I had a chance to bring it in for a picture. This longnose gar was easily over 55-inches long. It was a very painful lesson!

GAR LOCATION

We’ve all heard the old saying “90% of the fish hold in 10% of the water”. This statement certainly holds true for gar. In fact, gar are the very personification of the general rule! So before you plan a day’s outing in search of gar in a new body of water, spend some time exploring the waters that you intend to fish for gar. Not all watersheds are created equal, meaning that some rivers/lakes will naturally hold higher numbers of gar than other bodies of water do. A call to your local Game & Fish Dept, local bait shops, research on google/google earth, etc.. can all be excellent starting points to put you in the right direction. From my own experience, local Game and Fish officials love to hear from anglers who are wanting to pursue gar–especially when you tell them that you’re fly fishing for gar. After you’ve done some research and have located some perspective gar waters, you can then start exploring those waters.

While you’ll find the occasional gar swimming & surfacing throughout the water, the largest Gar will reside in areas of river/lake that meet their needs for food, shelter, and safety from the current. One of the most common patterns I have found in fly fishing for gar is a pattern of seeing a staggering number of gar found together in ‘wolf packs.’ Prime locations for aggregated gar are river bends, long pools & deep holes that hold schools of threadfin shad. Some of these holes are home to not only incredible numbers of gar, but will also hold some absolute giants. I’ve seen longnose gar in these prime areas that were easily over 60 inches long.

When you find these prime areas, take note of where those areas are located and mark them on your map. You can be sure that gar will be there from 1 season to the next season. And be alert as to what’s going on around you. Don’t make the mistake I’ve made on numerous occasions of paddling down the river and admiring the plant/animal life along the river bank–only to turn around and see that a 48-inch Gar was swimming alongside my boat. In August of 2017, I was startled by a 50+ inch longnose gar that was swimming alongside my boat. The Gar drifted back into the river depths before I had the chance to cast my fly out to it. It’s enough to drive you to mental insanity!

GEARING UP FOR GAR

When it comes to tying flies for gar, I’ll use downsized patterns early in the year. Other times to use smaller flies is when casting to gar that is in an inactive-to-neutral mood. A perfect example of this is the experience I mentioned earlier of missing my largest-ever longnose gar in cold water that was holding tight to the bottom of the pool. I will also use downsized flies when I see a longnose gar that is swimming about by itself. I’ll cast the fly slightly in front of the gar and let it pause, which will get the gar’s attention. They’ll move closer to inspect the fly. Once the gar is close to the fly, I’ll strip in about 1 inch of fly line to twitch the fly just a little bit, which often results with the gar inhaling the fly and the fight is on!

As previously mentioned, flies made out of nylon rope are prevalent for longnose gar fishing. Not only do these types of flies have great hooking percentages, but nylon rope also takes pen markings very well. Casting large flies for gar is very safe because gar flies do not require the use of hooks, which is advantageous for the angler that is new to fly fishing. In contrast to materials like zonker strips or rabbit strip hides, nylon rope flies don’t get water-logged. Even large gar flies can be relatively easy to cast with a balanced rod/reel. The peak summer months usually calls for fishing with larger patterns, or when dealing with hungry, aggressive gar. Fishing for gar in murky or stained water will also require the use of larger flies. It’s rare that I’ll fish with anything smaller than 7 inches long during the peak of the gar season.

Ideal rods for casting larger gar flies are in the 7- to 9 wt range. I carry two fly rods with me in the boat. Both of my rods have fighting butts on them; which helps provide some extra leverage when dealing with large gar. One of my reels contains a weight forward floating bass bug tapered fly line. The large taper of these fly lines does a great job to help you to cast larger gar flies.

My 2nd rod & reel is spooled with a wet-tip fly line that I can use when I need to get the fly down deeper. Fishing topwater gar flies with a wet-tip fly line results in a suspended or ‘jerk bait’ style of presentation, which has proven to be a very effective technique. You can add a little bit of weight to the hook shank to slow down the rate at which the fly will rise back to the surface. Slow-rising ‘jerk bait’ style of gar flies seems to trigger gar to strike more often than flies with a faster rate of descent do. Believe me when I tell you this: seeing a gar attack a diver/jerk bait style of fly that is slowly rising back to the surface is an incredible experience.

My topwater gar flies will often consist of nothing but nylon rope and diving heads made out of foam or cork. For both surface and subsurface fishing, I prefer to attach my flies to the leader with the traditional non-slip mono loop. I have not found wire leaders to be necessary for gar. The gar will eat the nylon rope fly, which results with a tangled fly in the gar’s teeth. It’s essential to carry a good pair of sharp scissors with you, which makes the job of cutting the fly from the gar’s mouth an easy task to do.

Various types of retrieves work well on gar, which is dictated by the mood and behavior of the fish. Most giant gar seems to prefer big, bulky flies that are stripped slowly at various depths. There are many times when the strike from a large gar is very subtle. These subtle takes will feel like mere bumps or taps. Anytime you think a fish is biting at the end of our lines; our natural reaction is to set the hook. Trying to hook the fish when you feel those bumps and taps will result in the fly pulled out of the gar’s mouth. When you get these little ‘bumps’ of a strike (and it’s very often a big fish on the end of your line that’s striking very subtly), let the fish go with the fly for about 10-to-15 feet. Don’t make the mistake I’ve made of immediately setting the hook in these moments. Let the gar take some line so that your nylon rope fly has a chance to get tangled up in the gar’s teeth. When this happens, you’ll often feel some ‘head shakes’ from the gar….that’s the time to set the hook. When you set the hook on them, tighten up on the fly line with your hand vs. setting the hook with the rod, and hold on! Once hooked, a big gar will make wild runs and leaps like few other fish do.

SAFETY IS VERY IMPORTANT

Be very careful when you do get the Gar close to the boat. Wild, thrashing, leaping gar have been known to jump right into your boat. Trust me when I tell you: an angry 40-inch fish won’t do be doing your legs any favors. Even their scales can cut your legs. Because of this, I always prefer fishing in my chest waders. I also love drifting and getting out of the boat to fish in the river as I’ll also be in search of smallmouths, largemouths, and panfish.

I’m personally in favor of wearing the gar down a little bit before trying to bring it in the boat with me. Gar will often be calmer and more manageable to catch-and-release. Leaving the gar in the water, I’ll tie a slip knot with some extra rope that I keep with me to put over the gar’s mouth. Just tighten the slip knot up and then bring the gar into the boat. Take along with you a sharp pair of scissors to help you cut the nylon rope from the gar’s teeth. A stiff brush should then be used to help you remove any remaining nylon rope fibers that may still be lingering on the gar’s teeth. A yardstick is a great help in holding the gar’s mouth open. Fish handling gloves, such as Lindy’s fish handling gloves, can go a long way in helping to protect your hands while removing your rope fly from the gar’s mouth. Keep a firm grip on the back of the gar’s head while extracting your rope fly. Be cautious as you remove the fly, as gar can explode on you when you least it.

Of all of the fish I love to pursue with a fly rod, gar is unquestionably near the top of the list. Prejudice and misgivings have kept many anglers from intentionally pursuing gar. However, I can assure you the first time you experience hand-to-hand combat with a trophy longnose gar; you will be suitably impressed.


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Nature is the subject and the medium at Scott Hirschi Fine Wood Burning

nature

Fish are beautiful.  Even if you’ve only caught a handful in your life, you know that no two specimens are alike.  The scaling, colors, and spotting so unique, we anglers are just as anxious to snap a pic of our catch as get them to shore.  I’ve always thought of each one a distinct work of art.  I appreciate the hundreds of catches I see in my feeds each day online and while the photos do these fish plenty of justice, sometimes an artisan can bring out an even higher level of detail to catch your eye.  Especially for a memorable fish from a memorable trip, you can take your photos and make much more out of them.  Some catches can be transformed into a permanent keepsake to hang on your wall, decorate your man cave or complete your study mantle. Expressed in a new medium, your special catch can be seen in a whole new light.  This happens to be the work of Scott Hirschi and it’s called pyrography.

pyrography: the art or technique of decorating wood or leather by burning a design on the surface with a heated metallic point.

He takes some of the finest woods and turns them into gorgeous artworks that bring out the sometimes overlooked aspects of your catch.  To learn more about how he does this, we reached out to Scott talk more about him and his artwork.

Tell us about yourself. How did you get started as an artist and angler too?

I’ve been an artist and a fishermen as long as I can remember. When I was a kid, fishing was really my favorite activity. My family was heavily involved in stock car racing and that took up most of our summer weekends in Montana. But, on the rare weekend off, my dad would take us fishing and I couldn’t get enough of it. I remember wanting to fish every body of water that we would drive by and wanting to live in the small towns with rivers running right through them. When I got old enough, my friends and I would walk 5 miles to a small creek to fish all day. We would carry our rods and tackle boxes with very little water or anything else in the hot summer just to fish. I discovered fly fishing as a young adult and taught myself through trial and error. I still love it every bit as much and I fish a couple times a week on average throughout the year.

As far as art goes, I was always drawing. My coloring books as a kid had a blank page inside the front and back covers and that was always filled with drawings, mostly of race cars. I thought I wanted to be an artist and my focus turned to wildlife in middle school. I got a really small art scholarship to a small Wyoming college and thought I’d be a fine arts major. I wasn’t college material and didn’t last. I dabbled in pencil drawing and some pen and ink stuff off and on for many years. Then, about 8 years ago, I discovered pyrography (wod burning) and found that I was better with a burner than I was with anything else. I put a piece in a charity auction and it sold for much more than I was getting for my drawings. I loved the fact that it is different and you rarely are next to other wood burners when art is displayed. I also like the fact that almost everyone has tried it as a kid and that I’ve taken it to a higher level. So, I set out to see how far I could get with an uncommon media in the art world. Now, I’m in a couple Montana galleries and I’m making it into good juried art shows. This past March, I was in a show in Great Falls, Montana for their prestigous Western Art Week. I’ve been interviewed by Woodworker’s Journal, a national publication. My art is hung alongside some fantastic artists that I look up to. It’s only been three years since I got really serious about it and I’m enjoying every step of it. I have some great artists as mentors and they are very excited about the progression of my art career. At age 51, I’m now ready to do everything it actually takes.

A favorite fishing story. Maybe one that provided(s) art inspiration?

Wow, so many. Most of my favorite fishing memories are of specific fish that are difficult to catch. There was a large rainbow trout on the Missouri River sipping tricos that ignored every cast and every pattern until I finally fooled it with a rusty spinner that was just different enough to catch her attention. There was a large brown in gin clear water. I, somehow, made a perfect cast on the first attempt. I watched that fish move up to take the fly and just couldn’t wait to set the hook. So, I set it slightly prematurely and pulled the fly just before it actually took it. There was another rainbow on the Missouri feeding in a tough spot. I cast at that fish for nearly an hour trying to get the right drift until it ate the fly. I should use these and other personal experiences to inspire art, but it seems that, when I’m fishing, I’m fishing and, when I’m creating art, that is the focus. I’m more inspired by just the beauty of the fish and animals that I encounter. I do a lot of different wildlife in my art, but the fish really get the most attention. Every time I create something with a fish, I am inundated with inquiries about buying it. My galleries want more fish!

What are the unique fishing opportunities near you, favorite kind of fishing to do, tackle tips or tricks?

I live in one of the best trout fishing areas in the country. I am near the headwaters of the Missouri River and it flows very near to Helena. The Missouri as a tailwater is one of the best trout streams in the world. Also, the chain of reservoirs that it flows through are fantastic for trout, walleye, perch and more. I’m a short drive to the Madison, Blackfoot, Big Hole, Beaverhead, Bitterroot, Clark’s Fork and more. Helena is centrally located in Montana, so we really have it all for trout.


One of my favorite things to do is to fish the reservoirs for trout with my fly rod. I have a small pontoon and I can be on the water in twenty minutes. I love fishing chironomid patterns under and indicator for big rainbows. I also love to fish crayfish patterns by throwing them tight to the bank and stripping them. I’m also starting to figure out how to catch some perch and walleye on the fly rod. This smmer, I plan on targeting carp in the bays of Canyon Ferry Reservoir. Add to that many small mountain creeks and I have lots of great options!

Living in Montana has plenty of advantages.  For Scott, it’s not only a constant source of inspiration but also a good excuse to get outside fishing often!  To learn more about his work check out this link to his page or his Facebook page!


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Fly Fishing the City: A sewer runs through it

“Discovery consists not in seeking new lands, but in seeing with new eyes” – Marcel Proust

 

It’s a part of our human nature that we long for adventure.  Being a fisherman means you are first an explorer. This need for new experiences is really part of our DNA. Fishing travel provides just a multitude of ways you can scratch this itch.  Tarpon on the Fly in Mexico, Giant Catfish in Spain, and an innumerable number of other adventures abound on earth to fill your bucket list.

For most, our job and home life precludes us from searching the four corners of the globe for new fish.  What the travel blogging community accomplishes is truly awesome for those who can swing it but for the rest of us, it’s about all we can practically manage to take a vacation each year or a short weekend out of town to satiate this need. While that is the reality for millions of anglers, one of the best aspects of this sport is that you can still accomplish plenty of new fishing experiences without stamping the passport.  Fishing firsts can be achieved in your own backyard if you’re willing to challenge your perception of a good catch or a good spot.  This year I’ve invested more time in uncovering spots to fish close to home.  Some are within reach of a short bike ride!  I’ve been amazed by what I’ve discovered.

After our CARPSTL group was formed earlier this year, I’ve met some really great guys that are in to Carp fishing and also know some interesting places about town to try.  I’ve found in recent years that the overlooked, undesirable fish species located in overlooked, undesirable locales can provide your most unexpected fishing adventures.  Joe Oelke from our group offered to show me around River Des Peres to see what we could catch on the fly.

The river Des Peres meets the Mississippi in south St. Louis. It’s known for one thing in particular; the smell. “The River of the Fathers” was named after the Catholic missionary efforts here in the 1700s. Floods here have inflicted damage to property, even taken lives and has led to efforts to channel the flow of water.  This is when the concrete “banks” were constructed.  It’s actually a mixed use sewer and storm drainage facility for thousands of residents. While it’s improved in water quality a lot over the decades, it’s not your picturesque Colorado trout stream. There are trophy smallmouth bass and trout waters just a couple hours away. So why bother fishing in this literal shithole? (just being presidential in my choice of descriptors here)

Guides and other serious anglers have discovered these opportunities in other cities.  A great example can be found in Houston with Danny Scarborough of Houston Fly Fishing Guide Service.  Running right through downtown is a drainage facility (the “concrete flats”) where a smorgasbord of fish species can be caught on the fly.  Tilapia, eels, Common and Grass Carp, Koi, bowfin, catfish, buffalo, mullet, redfish, bass, you name it.  Another great example is the LA River that has been the scene for famous movie scenes including Grease, Transformers, and more.  These aren’t just random anglers but sometimes professional fishing guides building their careers in what could be considered unconventional urban sport fishing.


Joe and I set out to ring in the Memorial Day weekend at sunrise Saturday morning. A short jaunt from the Walgreens parking lot and we were on the water. We’re seeking carp mostly, fly rod in hand. I have 6wt Berkeley Stinger rod I’ve had 25 years. Fly fishing has only recently become an obsession, brought on primarily in the pursuit of Carp on the fly. I’ve had some great fun landing carp on ultralight gear so fly fishing seemed to be the next curious step in this pursuit.

We were looking more than odd with our fly fishing rods and packs crossing Carondelet.  The bikers, runners, and random residents going about life were not stopping to ask what we’re doing and we were definitely the only ones fishing.  No worries there at all.  Undesirable species + undesirable locales=unexpected fishing adventures.

As we approach the shoreline, it’s clear (not the water) that there are no shortage of fish and activity in this river.  We spot gar near the surface, carp tailing and leaving bubble trails.  It’s maybe 10 minutes before we have our first fish – a short nose gar.  While some may throw them back on the shore, a gar is a great deal of fun on the fly.  They give good chase to most any offering.  For a newer fly fisherman, they are excellent practice.  Casting to targets you can make out regularly just below the surface greatly help in both accuracy and they also provide you some chances at long casts that can generate a catch.

We continue catching gar as the early morning quickly disappears.  Time is always evasive once you get fishing.  We cast to dozens of bubble trails and spot at least 50 carp but not one had interest.  The water clarity was too dark to ID them so our best guess was they were bighead or black carp or perhaps spawning with no interest in taking a fly.  Some grass carp were also evident near shore, feeding on and below random vegetation.

The landscape provided no shortage of views while we casted away.  Post-war bungalows and ranch homes from the 50s and 60s still line these streets.  The blocks untouched by modern home renovation standards like that seen in areas like Kirkwood or Brentwood where homes like this are leveled for a modern, more luxurious structures.  Much of the area still retains the charm of a bygone era.  Much like the fishing opportunity that is River Des Peres, this area has a peculiar beauty to be appreciated.

So yes, you are free to turn up your nose or plug it altogether if you won’t fish the River Des Peres but it’s your loss. There are a wide variety of species and in good numbers in select parts of this body of water.  You’ll get some crazy looks but you’ll also find some adventure.  This area is not unique to St. Louis by any means.  Get out and explore your local waterways.  Many teem with fishing opportunities to be enjoyed for those “seeing with new eyes”.



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Celebration Saturday: Fishing & Sobriety with Ian Wilson

Family

"So let me get this straight, you spend all that time and money chasing after fish, only to throw them back? "  It's a question I've heard most of my life as others try to understand the appeal of fishing.  Often this line of questioning comes from folks who pay $75 to chase a little white ball in miniature cars after driving all week back and forth to the office.  Or those who drop $20k and countless amounts after that on accessories for their beloved motorcycles.  We all have our passions, interests, and hobbies that truly make life worth living.  Fishing however is much more than just catching fish.  For many it's a form of therapy.  Fishing can, as this HuffPost article aptly describes, make us a better person.

Fishing has always been an outlet for me during the good but especially the challenging times in life.  During middle and high school, I didn't have many friends.  I didn't date girls.  Some of the friends I did have were getting into things that were not good for any of us.  While fishing didn't help me develop social skills at all, it definitely helped me develop an appreciation for nature.  A respect for all living creatures I could demonstrate each time on the water.  I learned how interconnected our world was and that ultimately influenced a belief in intelligent design when I had been an agnostic for years.  The quiet solitude of the shoreline made being a very introverted kid feel at home.
Rapala 10% Off FISH10 125x125

These days, the lake, the forest, the stream, the rivers: they still provide the much desired respite from work, family, and more that can be stressors.  For many, it's the only way to escape the man-made constructs of daily life.  The floruescent light, cubicle walls, and bathroom air dispensors of the office workplace weigh heavy on the human psyche.  Maybe it's that stack of laundry, house cleaning, and the fighting kids at home.  Whatever your reason, fishing is a great stress reliever.  It gets you outdoors, it provides some exercise, time with family, and for those challenged with addiction, it's a healthy habit away from the temptations of alcohol and drug use.

This feature looks at the story of Ian Wilson, a fisheries professional who recently celebrated three years of sobriety by getting an entire day out on the water to chase trout. This was Cinco de Mayo no less of course, one of the biggest party events of the year.  His message below on Facebook I found inspirational and I was curious to learn more about his story.  Lucky for us, Ian was willing to share.

"My amazing wife let me fish all day today to celebrate three years of sobriety.  Three years ago I couldn't have tied a fly to save my life, my hands shook so badly.  Tying has been a big part of my recovery from years of abusing my body with alcohol and drugs.  I highly recommend tying as a form of therapy to anyone in a similar situation.  Thanks for everyone on here's direct and indirect support.  It means a lot.  Tight lines and God Bless!"

Have you always been a fisherman or has that been an interest that’s developed over time? 

I am a seasonal fisheries technician for a government wildlife management agency based in Steamboat Springs, CO. In the winters, I teach adaptive skiing and snowboarding to people with cognitive and physical disabilities for a local non-profit.

I started fly fishing when I was a kid, probably around age 11-12. I fished a lot as a teenager and in my early 20’s, but stopped taking it seriously the more my drinking progressed. Now, living near a fantastic trout fishery has it perks. I get to fish around 150 days per year, even if just for a couple hours after work. I always have at least two rods rigged and ready to fish in my truck at any given time. I don’t subscribe to any one school of fly fishing, I just like to catch fish. More often than not, that means nymphing for trout. I do find dry fly fishing to be the most relaxing for me. Focusing on a drifting fly allows me to quiet my mind like nothing else I’ve found except maybe tying flies.

Below are a few of Ian's own fly tying creations.

Wire bodied soft hackle

Blue Wing Olive Emerger

Variation of a Charlie Craven pattern called the "Two Bit Stone"



At what point did you identify that your drinking was becoming a problem in your life? How did fishing play a role in helping with your sobriety?
I had known that I drank too much for years before I actually stopped. I knew I had to stop when after a doctor visit and routine blood work, my doctor called to tell me that my liver was in bad shape and I seriously needed to consider lifestyle changes. I took me over two years and three treatment centers of struggling to get 90 consecutive days sober. I just celebrated three years on May 5th. I quickly turned back to fishing and fly tying soon after getting sober. I found myself with tons of energy and enthusiasm for life once I wasn’t thinking about getting drunk all the time. Fishing gave me something to wake up early for, to be excited about.

Advice for others in general regarding how fishing can be a positive outlet that can keep them on track in life?
I have heard of people using fishing as a positive outlet in so many different ways, it blows my mind. In my opinion, getting outside, clearing your mind without drugs or alcohol, learning a new skill or method, and getting exercise at the same time is my idea of a perfect day.

Another great example of what's possible when you create new routines and experiences that don't involve alcohol can be found in Mike Fisher's story.  He set a goal to not only catch a fish in every state but to also help others on their path to sobriety in the process.  The film One Cast at a Time below is well worth the five minutes.

There are perhaps no better ways to spend a day celebrating independence from alcohol addiction than to spend it in an activity that helps you stay away from the temptation.  One of my "go-to" responses these days when people ask "why do you love fishing?" is that you can't get into much trouble doing it!  If you're finding yourself needing an escape, want to create a new healthy habit, or are struggling with addiction, fishing maybe helpful in your pursuit.  For actual help with addiction to alcohol, Alcoholics Anonymous can help.  If you're concerned you're seeing the signs, start by talking to your doctor or counselor today!

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Scout spots and hunt fossils to spend time with family in nature.

Nature Family

In Playing for Keeps by Kristen Ivy and Reggie Joiner, they share a very important data point.

We parents have less than 1,000  weeks from the time our kids are born until they move out of the house. 

Fishing is one activity I’ve incorporated with both my sons over the years as a way to get outdoors and spend time together.  Of course if you’re a serious angler, your kids will not be interested in going as often as you like but you don’t want to miss out on those chances to be together either.  One day in March, I had a few things I wanted to accomplish.  I had already been a good hour into a task when my youngest was bored.  He wanted to do something but just didn’t know what.  It was finally a warm enough day that we had no excuse to be indoors.  I wanted to go fishing but thought a good middle ground would be to scout a local creek for my future fishing and while we’re there, go on an adventure.  We’d try to see if we could find some “fossils”.

I honestly had no expectations of finding real fossils.  I assumed we needed to get out of the suburban area where we live to make any real discoveries but was shocked by what we found in only 20 minutes.  We brought home a bucket just full of fossils, some of which had real bone structures, leaf patterns, and shell impressions in them.  This short jaunt brought on a theme that has followed us all year in our fishing trips.  He wants to go fishing simply for the fossils, dig in the dirt, and just enjoy being a boy in summer.  It’s been such a fun fixture of our relationship I thought a parent or two may want to try this with their own kids.

Missouri doesn’t always have it going on. Few big things happen here outside the world of baseball or beer but we got fossil hunting potential galore. During the Paleozoic era, Missouri and other midwestern states were covered in water, so there’s many marine creature fossils embedded in our soil. As the eras progressed, saltwater seas even ran through southern portions of the state. These seas dried over time and an abundant plant base took root. Your odds are much greater to find plant fossils today as a result. Plant fossils are often found but sometimes you can get lucky finding invertebrate fossils (creatures without bone structures). Brachiopods are the most common to find per Wikipedia. They look like tiny shellfish do their shell shape can be pretty apparent in a rock’s surface to let you know it’s in fact a fossil.

If you want to give this a try with your own kiddos, here’s a few items to help you get started.

Things to bring with you:

Brush or old toothbrush

Bucket to hold water and your fossils later

Spray bottle

Gloves

Safety Glasses

Sunscreen

Hat


Features to look out for:

Exposed sandbars in the river

After flooding especially, look at the front slopes of sandbars where the current has carried debris around both or either side of the sandbar.

Rock wing dikes

In addition to being excellent fishing spots along major rivers, they can also collect a variety of rocks and artifacts when water levels are high.  Again the front side of these dikes where the current makes the most contact will often be a spot containing debris when those water levels drop.

Dry streams and creek beds

Disturbed soil near waterways/pathways

Near river beds where higher waters bring through higher flows of current can sometimes wash up fossils.  Sometimes remnants of a more recent period result.  Gas cards and even presidential campaign pins are among the discoveries I’ve made in local rivers growing up.  Sometimes the fossils are much more interesting.  I still recall on a sandbar as a child when a friend found a perfectly shaped arrowhead.  A painful discovery that pierced his foot but that made for a pretty fantastic keepsake and memory (I’m still talking about it 30 years later!).

Low water levels in summer

In creeks like the below, rocks under streambeds will be revealed after the spring rains slow down and elevated water levels recede.  These opportunities are not only a chance for you to scout local creeks but also discover fossils.

 

Below are just a couple of examples of the fossils we discovered at the above creek.

Make the most of your time together
Bring your phone to maybe snap some pictures but otherwise take this time to explore together. Look for crawfish, minnows, tadpoles, and aquatic insects. Overturn rocks and see what you find underneath. It’s also a great time to find some flat stones and teach them how to skip rocks. These simple things that we took for granted growing up don’t always happen for kids these days. Introduce them to the many ways to entertain themselves without the constant distractions they get in the daily routine.

Observe and share

The excitement of discovery in the eyes of your child is something to behold. As adults we’ve gotten a bit jaded over the years. We see more things online in a day than many of our forefathers saw in their lifetime because of the interconnected, global reach of online mediums. Your child has not gotten there yet. Enjoy that moment of genuine excitement in making discoveries.  Revel in their joy.


Leave it better than you found it
These are the times you can really impart the lessons of respect for nature. There will be others who inhabit this planet after us. Littering is not showing respect and you can show them first hand.

On a recent fishing trip, I explained to my youngest why breaking bottles by the rivers shoreline is dangerous to the other creatures and returning fisherman. After moving down the shore we found a dad and his 20+ year old son breaking bottles! I know this is common sense but Someday you can do this with your son or daughter as long as those who live here show respect, don’t pollute, and disregard our natural resources.

During your spring, summer, and fall, take as many opportunities as you can to get outdoors with your children.  Look for nearby creeks, rivers, and their tributaries with the above mentioned potential fossil features.  You can get some great ideas for where to later fish, teach your kids some basic lessons about nature, and show them they’re important with your undivided attention!

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