Thursday, May 5, 2016

Make Fishing Fun for Kids and The Rest Will Come With Time

The most recent volume of Trout Unlimited's quarterly magazine Trout (Spring 2016), was dedicated to mentoring.  Inside was an excellent article on tips for introducing kids to fly fishing, twelve tips to be exact.  Reading the article on bringing kids to the sport of fly fishing reminded me of my own introduction to the sport, or actually, the fishing precursors that eventually brought me to the sport.

My first experience catching a fish wasn't on a fly at all.  I was fishing with my stepdad on the Bighorn River in Thermopolis, Wyoming.  The area we were fishing was below a number of the hot springs from which the town drew its name; mineral laden waters flowed from the terraces above us, down the nearby cliff wall, covering it in rainbow hues. The hot springs are the natural infrastructure for two public swimming pools that make use of the geothermal heated waters.

On this particular day I was walking down the shore, stick in hand, doing the things little boys do on the water front, when my stepdad beckoned my over. "Take this Brad, I think we have something," said my stepdad,  handing me the pole rigged with a hook, worm, and sinker.

Taking the pole, with my stepdad standing directly behind me, I immediately felt the tug on the line and what felt like a tremendous weight as that pull was transmitted through the pole to my little hands.  Unsure what to do, I turned my head, which was answered by a large hand engulfing mine as my stepdad told me to reel in the line.

With only a few cranks of the reel a rainbow trout revealed itself.  It was holding just offshore as my stepdad had reeled the fish in nearly to shore before handing me the rod (little to my knowledge or care at that point).  With my stepdad's help I finished reeling the trophy in (of course my first fish was a trophy, what else would I think?!) half reeling, half- walking backward and dragging it on shore.

All it took was this act of mentorship to hook me for life on fishing.  I learned to fish with worms and a bobber, then graduated to spin casting lures and spoons.  Learning how to cast a fly rod at the side of my grandfather a few years later would eventually put me on a path to fall in love with the sport of fly fishing, which over the years has become coupled with a love of conservation.

My progression in the knowledge and types of fishing was underpinned by something more than the joy of sport or an early love of the outdoors, that all came later.  Before any of that, my mentors made it fun and that made all the difference.
Cheers,
Brad

Monday, April 25, 2016

How I Accidentally Decided to Write a Book (Part 4)

Over the several years that this project has grown, morphed, died, and been reborn, I learned that protecting your writing time is critical to successfully seeing a book manuscript through to completion.  As my project began to mature, protecting my writing time was never an essential component of my day or my mindset.  Instead, life intruded at every (in)opportune moment.

During the life of this project we moved three times, bought two houses, began multiple jobs, and not least of all, had two beautiful children.  Somehow in spite of the constant interruptions of life the project matured, even if that route has at times been torturous.  More importantly, the project matured and in doing so, became more focused, which led to it moving beyond the moniker 'the cabin book' to becoming a book manuscript initially titled "Rubyat".
Unnamed tributary creek in the Cloud Peak Wilderness, Bighorn Mountains, Wyoming

I'm not quite sure when the all important, "ah-ha" moment struck, but it was sometime after the birth of our first little one and moving between states to chase new career opportunities.  I had once again decided to work on the book project, but having put on paper all of my childhood stories about summers spent at the family cabin and fly fishing (see part 3 of this blog series), I found that something was lacking.  The stories themselves were missing something; they were missing a larger unifying purpose behind them.  And without the larger purpose, they were simply cute stories about a kid experiencing nature in the mountains of Wyoming.

It was at this moment that I realized if I was going to continue putting time into this project there had to be justification for it, and if that justification was to publish my story, then I needed a reason for readers to pickup the book and read it.  This was also the moment I realized that if I was going to work full-time and write at night during time that in all right belonged to my new daughter, I needed to approach the project as a professional.

The next post will cover how the project matured into a book manuscript and I grappled with finding a reason to give readers a reason to pick up the book.
Until next time,
Cheers,
Brad

You can also find my discussions on fly fishing and conservation issues at-
Twitter- @conservationfly
Facebook- https://www.facebook.com/conservationflyfishing

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

How I Accidentally Decided to Write a Book (Part 3)

My collection of childhood stories about exploring the outdoors (see Part 2 of this blog series), as a side project to my dissertation, took on the moniker of 'the cabin book' once I realized the connection between the family cabin, nature, and my life-long love of fly fishing.

But before it truly got started, all work on the 'cabin book'  came to a halt in the summer of 2010.  I'd only been sketching ideas and stories for a few months.  From the Flathead Valley of Montana, I watched as the economy tanked even as I edged nearer and nearer to graduation.  My response was to submit a resume to every posting I found as I continued to grind away on my dissertation.  My diligence bore fruit late that summer.

I was in the middle of a training exercise at the Army's National Training Center in the Mohave Desert as my National Guard unit prepared for a deployment to Afghanistan, when the call for an interview came.  To this day I'm indebted to my commander and the other officers of my unit for finding a way to get me time and to a location where I could do an interview over a cell phone in a 120 degree tent while 18 soldiers stared at me while laying on cots, watching me pace back-and-forth, answering questions, while we all tried not to succumb to dehydration.

The tortured interview paid-off, and soon after returning home my wife and I quickly found ourselves moving to Colorado.  I knew I'd miss the many waters filled with Westslope cutthroat trout, but the security of a full-time job took precedence.  All effort on the 'cabin book' dissipated as I worked on the dissertation every night while working full-time as a civilian environmental scientist for the Department of the Army in Colorado.


Thoughts of the 'cabin book' occasionally crept into my consciousness during this period, particularly during those time when I most hated my dissertation the most.  It typically took only a short conversation with my mentor ( who was also my dissertation chair) to get me back on track and writing the dissertation, which banished the errant thoughts of the 'cabin book' back to the horrors of my cognitive wilds.

I defended the dissertation in the fall of 2011 and graduated at the end of December that year.  For the next two months I didn't even think twice about not writing, not... even... once.  The glow of accomplishment from graduation quickly wore off as I began looking for a new post-graduation job (who wants the same job you had while you were still a student, I mean, really??).

The 'cabin book' languished through the winter and spring of 2012 without a word written until the spark was rekindled during a trip to the family cabin that summer.  Returning to the location at the heart of the book rejuvenated my enthusiasm for the project like the strike of a lightning bolt to a lodgepole pine tree that I discovered less than one hundred feet from the cabin.  Under the hazy light of gas lanterns I jotted notes on the meager notebook I found tucked away in a cabinet on the porch.  Taking cues from the cabin itself, the forest, and the stream where I had learned to fly fish, I found stories hidden in the most likely and unlikely of places.  Every item in the cabin had a childhood memory attached to it, while the natural evolution of the forest outside spoke to my love of the science of ecology.

Next time, life gets in the way as I once again pick-up the wannabe book project.
Cheers,
Brad

You can also find my discussions on fly fishing and conservation issues at-
Twitter- @conservationfly
Facebook- https://www.facebook.com/conservationflyfishing

Thursday, April 14, 2016

How I Accidentally Decided to Write a Book (Part 2)

In the last post, I shared how the idea for my book manuscript on fly fishing and conservation germinated, although at that moment I had no conception that a book was on the horizon.  Today, I'm going to share how the idea began to evolve and how the organizing concept for the book developed.

I took my wife's advice and began writing on fly fishing and how it shaped the course of my life.  I sat on our ratty couch we'd had since our undergraduate days, notebook in hand, and reminisced.  My mind drifted back to childhood summers that included a fair dose of fishing Wyoming mountain streams.  One remembrance in particular stood out, the day I caught my first fish on a fly.  That seminal event took place at a cabin in the Bighorn Mountains of Wyoming, built by my great-great-grandfather in the summers of 1916 and 1917.

In short order, as I was sketching key fly fishing events in my life, I quickly realized with few exceptions, all of my stories took place at the family cabin.  That realization was the first, and I would argue today the most important, organizing concept of what would turn into a years-long project.
Tensleep Creek, Wyoming

The collection of stories about fly fishing were actually stories about the childhood discovery of nature that took place while at the family cabin.  The cabin itself, at this point in the process, became the focal point around which the stories began to coalesce into a less amorphous whole.

 But, something was missing.  What was the link between fly fishing and my study of ecology I wondered, as I sat on the ratty, old couch actively avoiding my dissertation.  With a little work I pulled apart the different stories and rearranged them by chronology, theme, and location (in this case meaningful stretches of water near the cabin), and I found the critical linkage between fly fishing and conservation.  Childhood trips to the cabin connected me with nature, that connection was deepened through my introduction to the sport of fly fishing.  In turn, my love of the outdoors was truly unlocked when I began studying ecology in graduate school.  Broadly, I had traced the path of my life from the stream below the cabin as a child to the Flathead Valley of Montana where I was working on my doctoral dissertation.

In the next post I'll discuss how the project bogged down before it really ever got off the ground and how I found it again, almost on accident.
Cheers,
Brad

You can also find my discussions on fly fishing and conservation issues at-
Twitter- @conservationfly
Facebook- https://www.facebook.com/conservationflyfishing


Sunday, April 10, 2016

How I Accidentally Decided to Write Book (Part 1)

When I started on this project I didn't set out to write a book.  At the time I needed a break from the endless grind of trying to write my dissertation, but needed to find a way to ensure that I was still writing every day.

We were living in Montana's Flathead Valley, barely thirty minutes from Glacier National Park.  Given my absolute passion for fly fishing you'd be forgiven for thinking that staying focused on writing the dissertation when surrounded by world famous trout waters a daily crucible.  Rather, guilt and frustration kept me largely tied to the desk in my apartment.  I tried to use fly fishing as a form of dissertation writing reward, and kick myself every time I look back at the period and realize how much stream-time I really lost out on... by choice!
Red Meadow Lake near Whitefish, MT

Sitting in Taco John's (a local fast food Mexican restaurant) after a day on the water in the nearby Flathead National Forest, my wife and I discussed our future and how much of it hinged on finally completing the dissertation.  While sitting in the molded plastic bench-seat surrounded by the smell of deep fried food, I made the off-hand comment about how learning to fly fish set us on our current path.

Without a second thought, my wife quickly exclaimed, "you should write about that!"

Recognizing the wisdom in her words I knew this was the project I was looking for, the project that would allow me write on days when I just couldn't stand to look at the dissertation.  There was nothing in this idea that would constitute a book length project, or even a desire to write a book.  Sitting on our gnarly, old college era couch, pen and paper in hand, I began documenting the strangely circuitous route from childhood poverty in northern Wyoming to studying ecology and environmental policy in graduate school in New Hampshire.

Next time I will walk you through how the fly fishing project evolved from a side project to a book manuscript.
Cheers,
Brad


You can also find my discussions on fly fishing and conservation issues at-
Twitter- @conservationfly
Facebook- https://www.facebook.com/conservationflyfishing

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

A Failed Fishing Trip Becomes a Wildlife Safari

This last weekend I once again attempted to get on the water for the first time this year, but my merciless enemy, the wind, prevailed yet again on Sunday.  Finding the wind unrelenting as we stopped at spot after spot, we ascended the Absaroka Mountains along the highway that leads to the East Gate of Yellowstone National Park in an attempt to get above the wind.  We were defeated at every stop and never wet a line.

The day became a bust for fly fishing, but turned into a North American wildlife safari as we traveled closer and closer to Yellowstone.  I don't have any photos of trout to share today, but I hope you enjoy the wildlife photos instead.
Disclaimer: All of my pictures were shot with my cell  phone camera and the clarity of the photos reflects this.
See you next week!
Cheers,
Brad

You can also find my discussions on fly fishing and conservation issues at-
Twitter- @conservationfly
Facebook- https://www.facebook.com/conservationflyfishing





Elk Herd
Elk Herd


Bighorn Sheep

Bighorn Sheep

Bison

Thursday, February 18, 2016

When Cold Water Alone Isn't Enough to Protect Trout

My goal for today was not to write a blog post, but to be on the water for the first time this year.  Today the temperature is hovering right around 50 degrees Farenheit, balmy for mid-February.  It has been unseasonably warm this week and temperatures appear that they will stay the course over the next ten days at least.  This would worry me much less if here in the Bighorn Basin of Wyoming we hadn't had such warm temperatures all the way through November and into early December.

As is typical when such warm winter temps strike the basin the wind is howling, which is what keeps me off the water today.  Watching the clouds whip across the sky without leaving a drop of moisture behind makes me wonder what's in store this coming summer and into the season of low-flows in the fall and next winter.  With that in mind recent research  by the U.S. Geologic Survey has revealed that streamflow along with warming water temperatures both should worry anglers.


The paper is a synthesis that examined forty-two studies from across the globe and found that reduced streamflow, in addition to warming water temperatures, are a concern for trout survival.  Anglers are well versed in the importance of ensuring that trout have cold or, at least, cool water temperatures.  Many of us carry thermometers with us in the field to inform our actions on the stream.  When waters are warm we play trout and release them quickly.  When waters are too warm, we leaving fishing for another day.  In some states government has gotten into the act by reducing the hours when fishing is allowed during times of high water temperatures or at times closing waters to angling when the peril to trout is too great.

Of greatest importance from this paper is the role streamflow plays in trout survival.  The research found a 67% negative impact to trout when streamflows are reduced.  Alternatively, the research noted a 67% positive impact to trout during times of increased streamflow.  Why does this matter to fly fishing?  Because society has control of streamflow on so many of our waters across the country.  This means that with engagement with conservation organizations such as Trout Unlimited and engagement with the agencies that maintain control over so many of our water, we have an opportunity to maintain healthy trout populations and habitats in times of what may otherwise seem like unavoidable losses.

Local irrigation districts to the mammoth Bureau of Reclamation and U.S. Army Corp of Engineers control the waters we love and therefore the habitat and ecosystems we depend upon.  Engaging and then collaborating with such a diverse set of agencies from the local to the federal level is a tremendous challenge, but one worth undertaking to protect the sport and resources we love.

The research cited in this blog is from:
Kovach, Ryan P., Clint C. Muhlfeld, Robert Al-Chokhachy, Jason B. Dunham, Benjamin H. Letcher, and Jeffrey L. Kershner. "Impacts of climatic variation on trout: a global synthesis and path forward." Reviews in Fish Biology and Fisheries (2015): 1-17.

I first encountered this article on the February 1, 2016 issue of Mountain West News found online at www.mountainwestnews.org.

Cheers,
Brad

You can also find my discussions on fly fishing and conservation issues at-
Twitter- @conservationfly
Facebook- https://www.facebook.com/conservationflyfishing