Saturday, December 27, 2014

HFFA 2015 FLY FISHING SHOW ~ Dubuque, IA, Feb 20-22

Please copy and paste the link below to learn about this year's Hawkeye Fly Fishing Association show that is a celebration of the heart of the Driftless!


Monday, November 24, 2014

NO MORE WORDS - MUSKY DON'T CARE ~ The WI-MN Diaries (Part 8, Oct. 20-24, 2014)

   “Stop going through the motions.  I know it’s a hard day but you gotta put some life into that fly …and you’ve got an excuse for everything I say.”


   Those recent comments from a friend reminded me of a short conversation from years ago.  Back in the college days –my early 20s- I asked my fiancĂ© one of the silly questions that men dread to answer.  “Does my butt look big?”  His reply that I will never forget:  “Lisa, I love you just the way you are, but you are a little out of proportion.”  I still consider that response to be one of the nicest things anyone has ever said to me.  I got back into shape.


   Whether it’s about physique, fishing, or something else…  To take the risk in a relationship, to trust that the questioning person really wants the truth, and to be the one to provide that eye-opening answer takes guts.  It’s a likely oddity, but sometimes I’m so surprised by what I learn that I forget to remember it and apply it.  Years ago, I told the same fishing friend that I wanted him to smack me upside the head to get me to listen- if that was what needed to be done.  Either it took a while for him to believe I meant it or maybe I just fished that poorly during this recent trip, but after the initial shock and mortification evoked by his words wore off, I actually felt a stronger appreciation for our friendship.  When it mattered, he simply gave to me what I had asked of him in a way that really made me listen. 

The Path Less Traveled

   “You should fire that fly”, I was told.  Maybe that particular fly, but I stubbornly fished it a little longer.  That white fly, despite being a fly that moved with a little wiggle but mostly like a stick with a marabou tail, had had a couple follows and a strike when I fished alone the previous day.  These flies, originally tied by Rich McElligott, are great bass flies, but I threw some estrogen into the recipe, added 5/0 hooks and they became musky flies.  I think if they could, the popular fur, feather, big profile, articulated, testosterone flies would bully these inexpensive, quick-to-tie, yarn and marabou flies.  I think other anglers might similarly snub them, requiring that the nerd flies hook up twice as many musky prior to proving their worth.  I tied up a couple for my Wisconsin, 5-day musky fishing trip.

   Funny thing, though, I think that some of the time (spring, early summer) these hopped-up versions of a Shannon’s Fly could out-perform traditional, artistically-rendered musky flies.  When the tail is wrapped with just the right amount of tension –the tricky part- the action of the nerd fly is amazing.  It zigs, it zags.  It looks like an injured baitfish struggling on & just below the water’s surface.  

   On day 4 of my trip, I fished my variegated version of this fly on new water.  I did have a couple follows when initially fishing a more traditional fur/feather pattern of mine called BB’s Forage, but the follows, no matter how exciting, weren’t strikes.  I switched to the variegated fly and cast to a steep drop-off near the bank.  After a few strips, fish on!  Following a decent fight, I landed my only musky during a trip that had been graced with musky follows and strikes to both traditional and non-traditional flies.  Despite some laughable esox-angler antics at the watery landing zone, the 36-inch long musky with a surprisingly narrow head was safely released.  I yelled and whooped it up under the drizzling, clouded sky of a beautiful October day.

   To grow and be the best fly fisher one can be, it is necessary to be open-minded and willing to learn from others.  However, it’s also important to balance this with acting on one’s own thoughts even if they don’t follow the norm.  Under particular circumstances –often pertaining to big fish opportunities- I ask myself, “Will I regret this if I don’t do it?”  When the answer has been “Yes”, I’ve done it & now have a surprising number of memorable smallie, trout, and musky stories.

   My fly fishing recipe to success includes learning from others, learning from myself, exploring the path less traveled, and practice.  Ironic, but when I strike out on my own and am finding success by my own hand, what others have taught me becomes vitally active in my mind.  While I might find success on the path less traveled to be more satisfying, I can’t honestly say that I’ve ever landed a fish in solitude without the help of my angling friends.  And, by the way, when I haven’t technically found success, I’ve still learned something and generally enjoyed the journey.  I’m betting that anyone who is passionate about fly fishing & the outdoors understands this.

If You Keep Doing What You’ve Always Done…
   …you’re going to get what you’ve always gotten.  When fishing, I often mumble this to myself.  Usually, it comes after a couple of mild cuss words or a “Dangnabbit!”  I really try not to cuss but those “duh” moments that occur when fishing tend to set me off for a few seconds.  I have mini fisher-tantrums.  

   I can only imagine how a guide or helpful friend feels after coaching the angler, again and again, how to do something differently & more effectively, only to have the angler continue to do what he/she has always done, despite that angler’s best or nonexistent efforts to change.

   And so that was the way it was during my 2nd full day of the October musky fishing trip.  I’d spent that day with a friend, who is sort of a “Professor Musky”. Ironic, but I think this was the first time I came relaxed, well-rested and prepared, compared to other whirlwind fishing outings with this man.  And it was possibly my worst day of fly casting for musky.

   It struck me that all of the tight quarters, small water casting I’d been doing for smallies, salmon, and even musky during the previous 4 months had unknowingly bred some bad casting habits in me.  I was still having trouble mastering a couple basic skills when using a musky rod versus a trout rod.  At times, I was embarrassed.  He coached.  He repeated himself.  I questioned and casted.  He repeated himself.  I debated things.  I tried to understand and change my bad habits.  He coached, and I took deep breaths & practiced new techniques.  I had a beer.  He did not.  He’s never taken a beer with me until a musky has been boated.  We grew more silent.          

   Other than a few crows, all of land, sky, and water appeared barren of life.  The absolute best I can say for myself is that I strip-set the heck out of the snags I got.  If one had been a strike, the fish would have been mine.  But there weren’t any strikes.  It was just one of those days; hope for a miracle.  At one point, I realized that the fun was feeling more like work, & likely for both of us.  Whether true or not, I sensed that my friend was becoming bored & my spirits waned.  I didn’t give up.  I never give up, but…

   But that is when he said what he said, “Stop going through the motions.  I know it’s a tough day but you’ve got to put some life into that fly…”

Enough!  The Musky Don’t Care

   “…and you’ve got an excuse for everything I say.”  So, I livened up the fly and I think the shock of his words shut down my mouth.  I was glum and irritated, but after a few minutes that changed.  He was right about my fishing, but was he right about everything?  Had I been offering excuses or reasons to my failings following his instruction?  Both?

   Then, I realized that it didn’t matter.  The musky don’t care.  They don’t care why the angler chokes on a back cast or why a fly is presented in a particular manner.  They don’t care!  What the musky cares about is if the object in front of it either looks like a suitable meal or looks like a threat. It doesn’t care how or why the object appears, it just has be there and look the part to elicit an attack.  

   My friend, he thinks like em.  Reasons & excuses are the same to him and he doesn’t care. He cares about the outcome of the cast & if the fly presents like a meal or a threat.  He cares that I catch fish and he cares that I want to become a better angler.  So, he did everything he could do for me on an exceptionally challenging day of fishing.  That’s a friend I’ll fight to keep.  Strip-set!!

No More Words

   When I started fly fishing, throughout all of the snags, knots, failed attempts to hook a fish, & despite the embarrassment of believing a shiner was a different strain of trout simply because it came from a “trout stream”… I could still sense how good it would feel to have just enough skill to cast to and land a couple fish.  Funny, but I truly knew what the pleasure would feel like before I felt it.  That’s what kept me going.  Then, the instruction, intermittent practice, and a fair amount of fishing time improved my skills to where they are today.  

   To be completely honest, I’d place myself at the lower half of average when it comes to overall fly fishing ability.  But now there are the occasional glorious days when I sense how good it would feel to consistently fish as a better-than-average angler.  

   At this time, guides and friends can’t do much more to push me off my angling plateau & up to that next level of fly fishing.  Instruction alone won’t take me farther.  Excuses certainly won’t do it.  Thanks in part to friends, I now know what needs to be done yet I’m the only one who can finish the job.  Only work –consistent practice- will take me to the next level & to yet another path less traveled.  I'd like to go there.  I think that's where one finds the big musky.  ~Twitch (11/24/2014)

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

7:06 PM. A Rainy Evening at the Home of a Fly Angler

   A gentle rain, an infrequent smattering of light wind, and it's warm enough for one to wear shorts but cool enough to comfortably wear rain gear; I'm yearning for another day like this & the opportunity to spend it on the water with a fly rod in hand.  Sitting here on my patio chair, tucked in between the bumper of the CR-V and the interior garage wall - toes resting on the driveway- I can almost completely sense the feelings to be born from such a day.  Calm and delightful, accented by moments of fishy excitement, with peace gently raining down on all.

Monday, September 8, 2014

When Your Fly Fishing Gear Stinks, Life is Good

   If I knew I was going to die tomorrow, I wouldn't be upset if my house was a mess.  I am not neat. I'm only going to live once and my priorities are in order!  That being said, I still remember opening up a buddy's wader tote years ago & getting a whiff of the nasty, bacterial chemical cocktail that was brewing,  I was pretty grossed out.

   It's amazing how things (the same things you'd think would likely remain repulsive) change.

   Work, weather, timing... all sorts of things created a logjam to this year's warm water fishing opportunities.  Feeling that warm water time was swiftly winding down, I simply decided it was time to do some small river fishing, come low or high water.

   As it turned out I did have both water situations.  The Upper Iowa River was running a bit high to easily find the holding areas of smallmouth bass.  The Volga River was running too low to float any kind of watercraft.  A cold front had also come through.
   On Saturday, I floated the first 2/3 of the Upper Iowa River solo.  Much of this stretch flows right through Decorah, IA.  Other than one little smallie striking a topwater pattern at the first bend of the river, there were no fishy tugs on my line and the water remained undisturbed by fish.  After working through color, pattern, size, & retrieve changes, I switched to a couple "desperation flies" but continued fishless.  Around 4 pm I hooked up with a few friends, "T" and her son Ben, & T's DNR co-worker Chris.  The rest of the float included DNR smallie sampling to check for mercury so I'm happy to write we found a few smallies willing to make tissue donations!  I ended up with 2 in the net and lost 2 more.  Chris landed another 2-3 fish.  We also spotted a mink swimming in the water.  It was a beautiful day, we had fun, and I knew that during a particular stretch of my solo float, had the water been lower, I likely would have had to drag my pontoon a long way.  It was dusk when we left the river.

   I camped that night along a creek & on Sunday, I slept in.  Then, with a wet tent drying in the back of my CR-V,  I headed to the Volga River, near Fayette, IA.  I had debated visiting a trout stream, but I heard the tick, tick, ticking away of the warm water fishing season. After carefully bumping down a woodsy dirt road, I fished an unfamiliar stretch of the Volga and ended up with 6-7 smallies and likely lost the same amount.   Generally, I waded  from one hole to another, enjoying the weather, the scenery, wet wading, feisty fish, and simply being alive!  I still love the juxtaposition of feeling like I'm on a trout stream yet lifting smallmouth bass from my net.  While fishing, I was also treated to the sight of another beautiful mink meandering around the rocky bluffs tracing the river's edge.

   My longest fish of the day measured about 13 inches.  While tearing down my rod, the 3 guys who had been spin fishing for about an hour returned with 3 smallies that ran from 16-18" long.  Whoa!  I have my ideas on how they accomplished this, and am looking forward to returning to this stretch of river.

   After the nearly 3 hour drive home, I began unloading the CR-V of its contents.  While I got a stray whiff of something during the drive, it wasn't until I got the suv into the garage that I truly smelled the nasty, bacterial chemical cocktail brewing inside my vehicle!   I might have squinched up my nose, but I was smiling, too.  Heck, I'm smiling now!  That swampy odor was simply the left-over remains of a great weekend of fly fishing!

   While I promptly removed the smelly culprits, my net and fishing sandals, from the vehicle, I thought of my buddy's wader tote.  I hope his tote smells just as badly today as it did years ago.  After all, it's important to keep the priorities straight!

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

'06 Honda CR-V: Is It Possible to Make a Better Fly Fishing and Car Camping Mobile?

   Why does your fishing mobile work for you?  How does it meet your outdoorsy needs?  What is so special about the interior?  Have you altered your mobile?  Did you discover something positively fishy about it after you had it for a while?  What is your ultimate, dream-fishing, 4-wheeled go-getter??

   I bought my ‘06 Honda CR-V in 2008 with 21,000 miles on it.  I wasn’t keen on the black interior and always thought this model of suv was a tad homely.  However, it was practical, had proven reliability, and the mpg wasn’t too bad.  At the time, the big plus was that I could flip the rear seat forward and roll my touring bike right in the back without even removing the bike’s front tire.  It was also suitable for my newly-growing habit: fly fishing.  I wasn’t thrilled with my purchase so I didn’t rust-proof it.  The Honda was simply the most practical purchase I could make.  (Tip: If you are going to keep any Honda for a while, rust-proof it!)

   Soon, fishing, fishing road trips and fishing friends eclipsed the time I spent on my bike saddle.  I learned that I had accidentally purchased the best available fly fisher’s road machine –despite that you just might disagree!

   I’ve heard some people refer to compact suvs as a girl’s vehicle (Smirk!).  This girl values 25 mpg vs. big suv 17 mpg on 6-hour road trips.  A shorter wheel base coupled with my moderate 8.1” of ground clearance has given me access to most gravel-rutted paths that lead to remote fishing holes.  Narrow, wooded DNR roads are best traversed by vehicles not as wide as my little house.  While my Honda’s AWD is best-suited for softroading, when I ditched the OEM tires for Cooper CS4s the Honda performed adequately on gravel and snow.  While I might want it to go offroad like a Jeep, it’s never been necessary. 

Reliable and Practical

   Other than normal wear & tear, a bout with a suicidal Wisco deer, and a couple of pesky recalls, after 133,000 miles my Honda has had no garage repair time.  I expect 300,000 out of this baby.  Maybe it will finally need some exhaust work by then…  I can’t say enough about the CR-Vs reliability.

   My machine has:  Decent mpg – although the newer, small suvs are better;  good ground clearance, esp compared to the newer, small suvs (what are car companies thinking?!;  excellent head room for my male fishing pals – weird, but all of them are tall.  If there is good head room, there is also better fly rod room!  Also, I can store my deflated pontoon, camping gear, fishing gear, & a medium cooler and still have room for 2 passengers.  There is also a hidden storage area for rods and other valuables (because the spare tire is not stored inside the suv).  It has good safety ratings.


  I now prefer the black cloth seats.  They don’t get very hot in the summer.  I don’t have to worry about dirt and water marks created by dirty, wet hands or wader butts.  I can’t grasp why anyone would want an AWD suv with a sand-colored interior – other than that it would be easier to see ticks crawling about.

   The seats are also great for car camping.  Some people prefer to sleep in the back of their trucks or suvs.  I’ve come to appreciate another set-up.  I slide my passenger seat completely forward and remove the headrest.  I recline the seat back flush with the rear seat and throw down my camping pad, etc.  With the ability to recline the rear seat backs, I can kick back and write, read, or plan for the next day’s fishing adventure with choices of light from a lamp set on my cooler, a light hanging from my roof hand grip, or from a headlamp.  Of course, the rear armrest has a cup holder to allow for choice of beverage.  When it’s time for fishing dreams, my 5’7” frame can almost completely stretch out for a pretty good night’s sleep.  The advantage to not sleeping in the rear of the vehicle is that when I wake on a cold winter’s morning, I can simply lean forward, turn the keys, and heat up the CR-V before worming out of my sleeping bag.  In case of emergency I can get quick access to the driver’s seat.

   My center console is actually a flip-down table that includes cupholders.  Space exists under the table and between the table and the seats.  My fly fishing travel binder always sits in one of those spaces.  There is an adequate amount of cubbies for storage.  Nothing beats a van for cool cubbie spaces but there is only 1 AWD van and it has a long wheel base and lower ground clearance.

   The interior roof is great!  I have 4 roof lights.  There are 3 nicely-sized, metal latches on the very rear, interior roof.   These were originally designed for use with child car seats but used by me as part of my interior rod holder system.  Rear above-door grab handles coupled with bungies also contribute to the rod holder system.  And, the roof liner is a felt-like material.  I discovered its benefits a few years ago.  I have a variety of flies poked in the liner.  Gifted flies, retired flies from memorable fishing days, and flies that needed to dry before being returned to the fly box hang from the liner.  Velcro fly patches adhere to the liner.  I use Velcro straps to secure my 7.5’-9’ rod bodies to the liner.  The rods then curve down and along the front windshield.  In case of hard braking, rod tips will not slam into the windshield.
   I’d day-dreamed of keeping my baby until it had 300,000 miles on it.  I know a guy who has 800,000 miles on an Accord & the only major work was done on the tranny.  However, my CR-V has hints of rust starting in the couple areas known for rust.  Once a vehicle starts to rust, something inside of me clicks:  Sell!

  I had a deal on a new ’14 Subie and private buyers for the CR-V.  The deal fell through so I put in an order on the next best thing, a ’15 Subaru Outback.  I am certain it won’t be the perfect fly fishing and camping machine the CR-V has been, but I’m going to rust-proof the Subie just in case.  Heck, I might even wash it once in a while, too!  And, do you know what the best thing is?  The folks who wanted to buy my CR-V are going to wait the 12 weeks until my Subie arrives to take possession of the Honda!  Oh, wait, do you know what is equal to this best thing?  The buyers are John and Cheryl, fellow fly fishing friends, and when we car pool to fly fishing events I will still get to enjoy the best fly fishing mobile around.        

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

2014 Spring Branch Creek Fishing Survey Conducted by Iowa DNR and HFFA Volunteers

      Iowa DNR staff and Hawkeye Fly Fishing Association members teamed up on Saturday, April 26, 2014, to conduct a fish survey on Iowa’s Spring Branch Creek, located in Delaware County.  A hog of an Iowa brown trout, 21.5" in length, was netted, its length and weight recorded, & it was then released.  Many browns, rainbows, brook trout, and other fish species were collected along ~.33 miles of stream via electrofishing, the required data was recorded, & the fish were safely released.
   Brian Comiskey,  HFFA Conservation Director, helped coordinate the work day with Iowa DNR staff Dan Kirby, Natural Resources Biologist, Mark Winn, Natural Resources Technician, and HFFA members.  Mr. Comiskey believes that the benefits are twofold when the DNR and HFFA work together.  He reported that, “More and more the DNR has relied on the HFFA and organizations like the HFFA to supplement labor shortages due to shortfalls in the annual (i.e. state) budgets.  The second benefit of working with the Iowa DNR is that of good exposure for HFFA and its members.”  

   Tools used for the day’s fish survey included a backpack electrofisher, nets, buckets, measuring board, scale, and a PIT tag reader.   On July 3, 2013, one hundred brown trout in this particular stream were implanted with PIT (Passive Integrated Transponder) tags in the abdominal cavity.  The small, long-lasting tags allow fish to be individually identified.  During this year’s April survey, 27 of the 107 brown trout captured contained the previously-implanted PIT tags.  Mr. Kirby reported, “This is a high rate of return for fish left at large in an open stream system for an extended period of time.”

   During this year’s survey, 7 species of fish were collected (brown trout = 107; creek chub = 26; white sucker = 13; brook trout = 4; sculpin sp. = 3; rainbow trout = 1; brook stickleback = 1).  Mr. Kirby indicated this was a fairly low number of species for an Iowa stream.  However, he added that this was not surprising for an Iowa coldwater stream because brown trout are excellent predators & the stream for this region contains a moderately high density of brown trout.

   While no rare species were collected, Mr. Kirby noted that sculpins in Iowa are found only in quality coldwater streams within the Paleozoic Plateau.  In general, the stream’s 324 brown trout/mile calculated by DNR staff from the 2014 survey, is comparable to other surveys recorded yearly since 2010.  It was learned that natural reproduction of brown and brook trout was sparse during the 2013-2014 winter but Mr. Kirby reported this was not alarming because, “…natural populations will have fluctuations in population and recruitment of young fish.”  Data from past surveys indicated up to 165 young-of-year brown trout/mile.  During this year’s survey, just 2 young-of-year brook trout and 0 young-of-year brown trout were collected.

   Approximately 16 HFFA members, representing the 4 branches of the club, and DNR staff Dan Kirby and Mark Winn, participated in the workday.  Following the survey, workers were invited to a cook-out, which was provided in traditional fashion by the Mullins family and their ‘chuck wagon’, with food donated by the HFFA.  An HFFA board member meeting followed but a few lucky members elected to 'survey' another section of the stream – this time with fly rods in hand.

    I asked Mr. Kirby if he would provide readers with current, general information about
Spring Branch Creek.  The information provided in his response is a perfect example of why it is important that the community, whether it be organizations, businesses or individuals, work with the DNR to help protect and maintain our natural resources.  By participating in work days, through education about the benefits of good land use practices, by donating money or volunteering time, or simply by picking up trash & not littering, we can all make a difference & continue to enjoy the natural resources we are so lucky to have.

   This is Mr. Kirby’s response in its entirety:   “The coldwater segment of Spring Branch (from the upper springs to the Maquoketa River) is about 3 miles long and about 1.4 miles of that length is in public ownership or in a permanent public angling access easement.  Spring Branch is recognized within Iowa Code as an Outstanding Iowa Water and it certainly deserves that status.  The springs that supply cold water to Spring Branch are among the highest quality spring sources in Iowa.  These quality waters have long been recognized—a trout hatchery has been located near Spring Branch since the 1880’s.  Temperatures within Spring Branch will typically fall between 40 degrees and 65 degrees Fahrenheit on a year round basis, with temperatures outside that range occurring in stream segments far isolated from the primary spring sources during extremely cold or hot days.
   We discontinued stocking brown trout into Spring Branch during 2008 and the population seems to be maintaining good trout density and size structure in the absence of stocking.  We currently stock about 200 advanced fingerling (8-inch) rainbow trout and 200 advanced fingerling brook trout into Spring Branch.  The lower end of Spring Branch (Baileys Ford Park) receives a stocking of about 12,000 catchable (10 – 12 inch long) rainbow trout and 3,000 catchable brook trout during a year.

   As is the case for all Iowa streams and rivers, water quality is central to the quality of Spring Branch Creek and the fishery in Spring Branch.  Watershed quality and land-use will ultimately determine fishery quality in Spring Branch now and in the future.”

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Drifting Through a Stream Survey with a Large Iowa Brown Trout

   The yearly annual fish survey of Iowa's Spring Branch Creek, located in Delaware County, was completed on April 26, 2014, during a workday held by members of both the Iowa DNR and the Hawkeye Fly Fishing Association.  The following photographs and information track a single brown trout through the survey process.  (Please see this link: for a 2nd post containing information about the workday, findings from the survey, and for more photographs.)

Mark Winn, Natural Resources Technician with the Iowa DNR, right, uses a backpack electroshocker to seek out and briefly stun fish inhabiting a .33 mile section of Spring Branch Creek prior to netting them.  The fish are passed to the net of Martin Acerbo, HFFA member, left, who then transfers the fish to a water-filled bucket carried by Larry Niday, HFFA president.

 A large, stunned brown trout is carefully netted by Mr. Winn.  The fish had been holding unseen beneath a limestone shelf camouflaging a bank hide.  This is a prime example of how electrofishing techniques can increase fish capture rates during a stream survey, allowing data collection that is more reflective of the fishery.

Mr. Acerbo carefully removes the large brown trout from the net and transfers it to a bucket of stream water.

Already reviving, the brown trout begins to work its way to the bottom of the bucket.

The large brown trout submerges surprisingly well into the bottom of the bucket with other collected fish.  Next, the shore crew will transfer the fish to a larger tub of water.  Data for each trout will be recorded.  Population totals each of brown, brook and rainbow trout, & non-game fish, such as suckers, creek chubs, sculpin, and brook stickleback will also be recorded.

Dan Kirby, Iowa DNR Natural Resources Biologist, right, measures the length of the large brown trout.  Kate Lodge, an HFFA member, prepares to use a PIT tag reader to scan the abdomen of the fish.  All brown trout collected during this survey were scanned for a PIT (Passive Integrated Transponder) tag.  During the July 2013 stream survey, 100 brown trout were implanted in the abdomen with a PIT tag.  Each tag individually identifies a fish and allows for the opportunity of year-to-year data comparisons.

The individual weight of the large brown trout and of each brown, brook, and rainbow trout is recorded in kilograms.  The large brown trout was one of 27 browns found to contain a PIT tag.  One hundred seven brown trout were collected during this year's survey. 

Due to the use of PIT tags, it was established that the large brown trout grew 1.1 inches and weighed 1.8 pounds more than when it was surveyed 10 months ago.  For a fish of this size, this is considered to be a good rate of growth.  This Iowa Driftless brown, estimated at 5 years & likely older, measured 21.5 inches and weighed 4.2 pounds during this year's survey.

The brown trout is safely released back to the stream.

Why conduct fish surveys?
   “Much wildlife can be easily observed (e.g., songbirds, whitetail deer, waterfowl), but fish present challenges because they are out of sight under the water surface—this is the principal reason we use specialized fishing gear and surveys to gather information used for fishery management.

   We conduct surveys for a variety of objectives.  The primary reason that we do surveys is to track the abundance, size structure, and health of populations of game species such as brown trout and smallmouth bass.  Fish surveys are also commonly used to assess the environmental heath of streams and rivers.  In some cases, fishery surveys are used for specific research such as to assess the impact of a management action.” ~ Dan Kirby, Natural Resources Biologist, Iowa DNR

Please see this link: for a 2nd post containing information about the workday, findings from the survey, and for more photographs.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Life, Fly Fishing, Hellgrammites and the Pursuit of Ice Cream

   The number and frequency of blog posts are subject to this author's distractibility and amount of time spent fishing, tying flies or doing other things fly fishing-related.  Work and food also play their roles but are requirements to living & not to be mistaken with the aforementioned noteworthy distractions that give greater meaning & perspective to life.

   I am currently working on posts about fish surveys and the recent team effort between Iowa DNR staff and members of the Hawkeye Fly Fishing Association to survey fish species in a coldwater stream.  Since I have now used my new Bug Bond LCR torch, I will be adding a review of the torch to a current post about LCR (light cured resin) lights.  I will offer comparisons to the Loon light.  I have also received an Aquapac 28L Toccoa Daysack (waterproof) that I will review when I have had greater opportunity to use it.

   Hellgrammites are still on my mind.  Recently, it was suggested to me to tie up a few of these critters for use at a nearly-local quarry (where I go for hours to torture myself) containing finicky, tight-lipped smallmouth bass.  Having cruised the internet looking for pictures of hellgrammites and fly recipes, I proceeded to tie my own version.  It was decent but not good enough for my taste.  If I were a bass I wasn't sure I'd eat it.  After a couple more tips and a brief perusal of more tying recipes, I improved upon my original version and it looks larvalicious!  If I were a smallie and one of those hellgrammites was stripped-n-twitched in front of me, I'd soon be sporting a pierced lip.  So, I'm debating posting another fly tying recipe.

   First, I need to ensure my recipe is far enough removed from anyone else's recipe.  Only then can I call it my own.  Heck, the first gosh-awful concoction I tied -when I wasn't even good with winding a thread base on a hook- was the only 'fly' that I can claim to be a 100-proof original.  And if we are comparing flies and whiskey (and we are), then from the get-go, I'd already been influenced enough by others to claim only 50% as  being completely original.  So, we walk a fine line when we post fly recipes claiming them to be of our own creations.  Besides, I've only landed one, squirt-sized smallie with my improved hellgrammite pattern.  I was at that danged quarry where smallies frequently become the fish of 5,000 casts.  No proven track record of hellgrammite fly success has yet to be established.  I can just see anglers flocking to my hellgrammite recipe post to learn how to tie a hellgrammite that hooks onehelluvasmallsmallie after onehelluvalongtime! 

   Now here I sit and once again note that I've been distracted away from writing the fish survey post due to other thoughts about fly fishing.  Does anyone else smell the strong scent of irony?  So I sit and think, how did 1 quick paragraph turn into 5+ paragraphs?  What am I doing sitting here on a Friday NIGHT?  Is this giving me or anyone else greater meaning or perspective in life?

  Doubt it.

  But the reality is if I go out and listen to a friend's band with a bum knee, drink a couple of beers and try to dance (and I've already danced with a cast on my foot, so I would dance with a bum knee), I may not be in good enough shape to wade streams and climb their banks next weekend during our gal's annual fly fishing trip.  I would likely not be in top form at tomorrow's fly fishing clinic while teaching newbie anglers one of the most fun & frustrating parts of fly fishing.  I could even miss out on luring another innocent into the art and addiction that is fly fishing.  

   In the end, I guess the distraction wasn't so bad, and my perspective on life is intact.  The fish survey article can be completed after the casting clinic.  Now I think I'll go eat some ice cream.   

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

2014 Annual Fly Casting Clinic to be Held on May 10 in Bettendorf

   Once again, the day proceeding Mother's Day will find seasoned and fresh fly anglers honing and learning casting skills at the Middle Park Lagoon, 2098 Parkway Dr., Bettendorf, Iowa.  The annual K&K Casting Clinic, held May 10, 2014, is sponsored by K&K Hardware (1818 Grant St., Bettendorf, 563-359-4474) & will take place from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m.  Dan Johnston, a St. Croix Rod rep from Cedar Rapids, will be the primary instructor.  Local anglers will also be on hand to help with casting instruction.

   K&K classically provides a free lunch for participants and John, another clinic volunteer, usually makes breakfast on the grill.  A donation for the latter is usually asked & well worth it.  A sign up sheet is at K&Ks sporting goods counter.  St. Croix rods will be provided by Dan and HFFA (Hawkeye Fly Fishing) staff will likely provide spare rods to those who don't have their own.  Hope to see you there!

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Inclusion or Seclusion?? IGFA Rule Result Splits All Class Record Fish into Angler Gender Categories

   The International Game Fish Association (IGFA) elected to make a couple of rule changes this year, followed-up these changes with a news release, and since then a bit of angler hoopla has emerged.

   The hoopla surrounds the IGFA’s decision to separate - by gender categories - freshwater line class records and fly rod records, beginning in April, 2014.  Written in this manner one can imagine why some anglers might be acting like their underwear suddenly got all up in a bunch.  I was one of those anglers.  But there is a little more to the story:  According to IGFA’s news release, “Unlike those kept for saltwater species, IGFA line class and fly rod records kept for freshwater species have never before been separated into men’s and women’s categories.”  And following a phone conversation with Jack Vitek, IGFA World Records Coordinator, he wrote in an email, “As a reminder, the saltwater line class and fly rod records were split into men’s and women’s categories decades ago.  The purpose of this upcoming change was to create consistency in our records department, and to create opportunities for the most lacking demographic – the female freshwater angler.  As I said on the phone, we know there are great female freshwater anglers out there.  We (IGFA) just want to reach them by creating these record opportunities.”  During the phone conversation, Mr. Vitek reported that the IGFA also sought to develop greater balance between the organization’s freshwater vs. saltwater pursuits.       

In a nutshell, the IGFA, according to its mission statement, is a not-for-profit organization committed to the conservation of game fish and the promotion of responsible, ethical angling practices through science, education, rule-making and record-keeping.  The Florida-based organization’s website is: .  When perusing the conservation and education portions of the website, the IGFA did appear to place greater emphasis on saltwater interests.  Originating in 1939, the organization maintains world records for line class (conventional tackle), tippet class (fly fishing), & all-tackle categories for both freshwater and saltwater fishes.  Even after the rule change in April, the all-tackle world record categories will not be separated by gender.

IGFA Stats
   The IGFA offers various membership levels.  According to Mr. Vitek the gender breakdown for all of the memberships encompasses 21,850 males, 1,944 females, and 130,647 members of which gender is unknown.  Of the known memberships, 8% are females and 92% males.  Regarding line class and fly rod record categories, per Mr. Vitek,  there are 3,337 total saltwater records with 1,510 (45%) being female record-holders and there are 1,374 total freshwater records with 53 (3.8%) being female record-holders.

   In a very simplistic sense, the women’s freshwater records percentage of 3.8%, calculated while there are still no gender separations, more closely parallels the known 8% female membership.  Note that there are 1,963 (59%) more saltwater records than freshwater records, but this will likely drastically change after the gender separations rule for the freshwater records category goes into effect.  The nitty gritty is that when one tallies records created in each gender category, this will not accurately reflect the total percentage of males or females who land that single heaviest species of fish in each line and tippet class, but will offer more male and female anglers the opportunity to obtain a record for a fish due to the creation of gender categories.

National Stats & IGFA
   According to the final report from the 2011 National Survey of Fishing, Hunting, and Wildlife-Associated Recreation (U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, - click the “National Survey” tab), in my “homewaters” of Iowa, 522,000 residents were anglers in 2011 and 143,000 (27%) of these anglers were women.  On a broader scale, the survey detailed that 33.1 million US citizens fished in 2011.  Of these, 8.9 million (27%) were females and 24.2 million (73%) were males.  Furthermore, 27.5 million anglers (~76%) freshwater fished and 8.9 million saltwater fished (I assume that these latter two figures equated to greater than 33.1 million because some anglers fish both fresh and salt waters.) 

   Despite that the IGFA is an international organization & located in the coastal city of Dania Beach, FL, the statistics indicating there are many more freshwater than saltwater anglers in the U.S. makes it appear wise that the IGFA is attempting to increase participation in its freshwater offerings.  The freshwater angler currently visiting its website may not immediately see enough freshwater subject matter to warrant purchasing a membership let alone returning to the website.  One can only hope that the IGFA is planning to give more attention to freshwater education and conservation needs & not just concentrate on expanding the freshwater record program.   

   One might assume that simply due to their greater numbers more men (on avg., 70% of U.S. anglers are male) will have the greater opportunities to land the heaviest fish of each species in their particular line or tippet classes.  If so, then the freshwater female record-holders (calculated prior to gender separations) of 3.8% and the long-standing gender-separate saltwater female record-holders of 45% are not representative of what one would expect if based on percentages of male/female angler numbers alone.  Obviously more factors come into play than will be addressed here.  However, it is understandable that the organization would like to boost its female membership as well as discover ways to increase female participation in securing record status for their catches. 

Cloudy Water
   In contrast, when records are granted for the heaviest species of fish landed by each gender, does the water become a little murky when considering what constitutes a record?  For example, Mr. Vitek writes, “For our All-Tackle records, incoming fish much be at least 1 pound to qualify.  However, for line class and tippet class records, there is no minimum weight for submitting a claim for a vacant record.”  So, let’s say “Chris” already has a world record for a 55# musky in a particular tippet class.  The other gender category in the same tippet class is currently vacant and “Taylor” submits & is rewarded with a record for a 40# musky.  If there weren’t gender categories it would be obvious which angler’s fish would carry the record.  However, there could also be a number of anglers of Chris’s gender who land fish between 40-55# in the same tippet class but would never be recognized.  

Fishing the Records
   When searching for fishing records documentation via the internet, I sampled 10 of 50 U.S. states and found that record fish in all 10 states were listed with angler name & location or even with the angler name absent.  Clearly the emphasis for a record was based on size of the fish.

   The Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame, located in Hayward, WI (USA), does not separate fishing records by gender.  When asked if the organization had ever considered separating records by gender, Mr. Emmett Brown, Jr., Executive Director, responded, “Years ago, the Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Fame actually discussed whether or not it would be in the best interest of the fresh water sportfishing community to divide our world record program by gender.  Ultimately, we decided that it was not.  Our decision was based on the presumption that sportfishing is not about strength and that men and women equally possess the skills to be successful anglers.”

   Via a search of their websites, the Angling Trust (England) and ANSA (Australian National Sportfishing Association) each list record catches by angler name, not gender.  The GFAA (Game Fishing Association of Australia) & the NZSFC (New Zealand Sport Fishing Council) list record catches by angler name and gender.  All 4 of the non-USA organizations have some affiliation with the IGFA.

Summing It Up
  Are we sacrificing the emphasis of a class fishing record being based soley on the weight (& scarcity) of the fish landed to instead being based on the sex of the angler & the largest fish that gender lands?  Do you see the difference?  There is a difference.  Are there pros/cons to separating or not separating genders for record consideration?  You betcha!  However, this might also be based on an individual’s opinion and life experience than strictly factual information. 

   The IGFA may see an increase in female membership and will see an increase in female (and male) freshwater records.  The IGFA will also increase their revenue stream through increased membership and freshwater record submission fees.  Many more women, and to a lesser extent more men, will be recognized for their freshwater “record catches”.  Depending on an individual’s life experiences & perceptions (& the size of an angler’s fish!) this may re-enforce gender stereotypes or it may lessen them; it may elicit ridicule or pride; & it may foster separation or inclusion between the angling sexes.

   Does the IGFA’s rule change broaden the attention it pays to freshwater interests vs. saltwater interests?  Minimally.  Could the IGFA expand education and conservation programs pertaining to freshwater habitat and fishing?  You betcha!  Will the IGFA do this?  I don’t know but I encourage anglers to “drop em a line” and ask!  If you have an opinion about the freshwater record rule change, please share that with the IGFA as well.    
   And when is a fish of a certain size considered a “record catch”?  It seems the opinions for the formal record book remain mixed.  However, most anglers know a fish of a lifetime when he or she lands one.  No scale, no measure, no certificate needed.  Usually, yells of delight, photographs, then toasts and stories commemorate the occasion. 

(Note: this is the link to the opinion pieces, in letter format to Mr. Vitek:  )

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Tie One On at Java Java, March 22, 2014 - Cancelled

   A group of us will be tying flies again this Saturday, March 22, 2014, at Java Java Cafe, located at 836 E. River Drive, Davenport, IA.  

   Tying will start at 9:00 am and last until noon.  Musicians are also being invited but their plans are currently unknown.  All are welcome!!!! 

(3/17/14: Note that there have been some conflicts with this March 22 date.  I will post by Wednesday night if we are tying or if we are going to reschedule.)
(3/19/14: Due to a large number of tiers having other commitments, this tying date has been cancelled. This is the first cancellation we have ever had & I hope it continues to be a rare thing... unless we decide to go fishing!)

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Does IGFA Believe a 58in Musky Weighs Differently If a Man or Woman Lands It?

   This is a link to an article written by Kathryn Maroun referencing the IGFA(International Game Fish Association) decision to separate certain fishing records into specific men's and women's categories:

   Ms. Maroun, an FFF casting instructor, Executive Producer of What A Catch Productions, and a professional fly angler, asks others to email World Records Coordinator Jack Vitek and request that the new rules be reconsidered.

I've worked hard to foster a sense of belonging, not of separation, between myself and other fly anglers.  My email to Mr. Vitek is pasted below.  

(2nd update 3/23/14: Mr, Vitek asked me to email to him my thoughts after discussing the rule change with him via the phone.  My email letter follows the letter immediately below these updates.  I've also created an objective/educational post on the same topic & this is the link:  )  

First update 3/14/14: Mr Vitek requested to speak with me (& other respondents) by phone.  His goal was to clarify the IGFAs objectives to the changes to be made.  I believe the changes are, at a minimum, well-intended.  I hope to research this more fully and compose an objective article for the blog.  Mr. Vitek states the IGFA is also planning to produce a follow-up article in about 1 week in response to angler comments about the changes.  I will also plan to post a link to that article here.  I (& certainly others) would welcome any comments from conventional tackle and/or fly anglers.  Thanks ~Twitch)

Hello Mr. Vitek,

I am choosing to hope that the IGFA rule change to have separate male and female categories for fishing records was enacted in hopes of encouraging more women to participate in the sport of fly fishing.

While I feel I have had to work hard all of my life to prove myself as a capable person in many male-dominated arenas, I do recognize that there are some areas where grouping people by sex, age, etc., is beneficial.  However, it has become very tiresome in many situations to continuously educate others -both men and women- not to limit the growth of an individual based on what society has pre-programmed us to believe are the only correct and acceptable traditional roles males and females should fulfill. 

To obtain a particular record in the world of fishing, one must surpass a particular length/weight of fish & have landed the fish under specific tackle guidelines, etc.  The length or weight of the fish does not change if the person who landed it was a male, female, child, adult, senior citizen, etc.  The fish would fight just as hard with each of these individuals.  I also assure you that any of these individuals who lands a record-class fish will be thrilled because the person is an avid angler not because the person is a male, female, etc. 

Men have greater opportunities to go out fishing with other men.  There are fewer lady anglers and many men are married; this makes it challenging for women to find others with whom to share in a fishing outing or a fishing trip.  When a lady has an opportunity to fish with others (usually men) it can also take some time for the men to think of her as an angler & fishing buddy first. It took me about 4 years of fly fishing and networking to know enough people to have enough 'fishing buddies' with whom to fish and tie flies.  A man is usually more readily invited to go on fishing outings. I love to fish alone but I love my angling buddies, too.

To tie all my comments together, as a female fly fisher I do not need another person or organization separating my successes from others simply based on my sex.  It's taken a long time to go out and feel that wading, car camping, fishing for musky and snowshoeing at night to camp at a tiny brookie stream isn't something special because I'm the rarer female angler.  It's special for the reasons that all fly anglers know and feel despite our sex, age, etc. 

I can tell you that if I submit an entry for a record-class fish and I then see that a man's fish beats out my 'record' by a couple ounces or inches, I will not have earned a record.  I can assure that if a man's fish is a little smaller or lighter than the lady's record fish, he will feel the same as me. It is simply not the biggest fish.  

Fishing is about so much more than having x-amount of muscle mass.  Fly fishing is about passion, time spent perfecting the craft, creativity, the ability and desire to read water and learn about the species we hunt and about their prey.  Of course we also know that luck sometimes plays a role.  Like attending school, it is not a male or female thing. There may be some strengths that each sex brings to these arenas but there are so many factors that come into play to achieve a specific outcome.  Men will simply have more records because more men fish, not because women are less capable to land a record-class fish.  A record is a record in fishing.  The fish's length or weight does not change based on whether it is a female or male who lands it.  

I don't want anymore artificial barriers separating me from other anglers.  The more separations the less we share; there is less growth and fewer quality teachers.  I've often heard rumors of fly fishers being snobs, but I haven't seen it.  More separations between anglers can equate to the sense that some are better than others.  

I respectfully request that the IGFA reconsider the wisdom of creating separate male and female categories for recognizing record-class fish. 

Lisa Davis 'Twitch'

Mr. Vitek,

   Per your request I am providing an email summarizing my thoughts on the IGFA's upcoming rule change which will divide freshwater records into separate male and female categories.

   I became aware of the rule change via another angler's article on the subject.  However, that particular article, while correct, did not include that the IGFA's saltwater records had had separate male and female categories for decades.  During our phone conversation, through our emails and via the IGFA website I have learned more about the rule changes, the IGFA's reported rationale for the changes, and what IGFA's mission is for anglers and fisheries alike.

   My initial opposition to the rule change for freshwater records was watered-down after learning saltwater records had had gender separations for years & that the IGFA had hoped to provide more equality with regard to the attention given to freshwater vs. saltwater interests. I also understand that by separating genders into their own record categories, IGFA hopes to encourage more female anglers to pursue records.  I empathize with the rationales given & I understand the reasons why others will support the change, but after research and careful consideration I still oppose it.

   I am not a statistician, so bear with me.  The simple fact is that there are far fewer female than male anglers.  So, for example, if 70% of anglers are male, common sense dictates the likelihood that many more males than females will find and land record fish.  This does not mean that the individual female has less opportunity than the individual male to obtain a record.  Under this circumstance & where there are no gender separations, the individual angler -be it male or female- has an equal opportunity to land a record fish.   There is no question that this individual has THE record fish in a particular class.

   Once again, because there are fewer female anglers to find and land record fish, fewer females and more males are frequently (but not always) likely to land the heaviest and/or the longest fishes.  When genders are separated into separate record categories, I am concerned that unfair comparisons will be made between the genders.  Simply because there are fewer female anglers, the female record holders may often (but not always) have lighter or shorter fishes than their male counterparts.  On the flip side, I can hear the stereotypical comment, “Hey Johnnie, you got beat out by a girl!”  My perception is that gender separation in a situation where the gender populations are so disparate can do more to separate anglers from one another & enforce stereotypes than bring them together.

   I’ve also considered another scenario.  I imagined that I landed a particular tippet class of musky and it filled the void in a vacant women’s category for a world record.  Let’s say the musky was 54 pounds.  However, the male category in the same tippet class had a world record musky recorded at 56.5 pounds.  I’ve thought about it and I would be tempted to submit this catch for the female record for the simple facts that hooking and landing that fish would be a rarity, a success in any anglers’ eyes and would reflect well upon female anglers.  However, in my mind the male record-holder would hold the true record.  Furthermore, and what would finally keep me from submitting it would be the knowledge that there could possibly be a few males out there who landed musky between 54 and 56.5 pounds (heavier than mine but smaller than the male record-holder) in the same tippet class as me but who would never earn a record or be recognized, simply because they were males and despite the fact that their fish were larger than mine.

   I can’t say that there is a definitive right or wrong with regard to the rule change.  I think much of it pertains to what the individual values more and perceives as important or ethical.  For me, it is more ethical to submit for a record in a particular class when there are not gender distinctions or when one is the clear-cut record-holder.  In the short-term I can see that having gender separations might encourage more females and males to submit their catches for world record status.  However, I can’t say that having separate male and female records will encourage more women to become anglers.  However, coming up with ways to encourage more women to fish can lead to more women wanting to submit their catch for record status and more women simply acquiring more records by virtue of increasing female angler presence.
   In lieu of creating gender separations, I encourage the IGFA to “broaden the demographic” by creating new ways to entice women& others to the sport of fishing.  To broaden the freshwater representation of the IGFA to allow more equal attention to be paid to both freshwater and saltwater interests, I recommend the IGFA provide more current articles on the website pertaining freshwater concerns  (invasive species, how specific pollutants affect riverways, etc), increase the use of photographs taken in a freshwater environment and employ (or at least list) a couple freshwater specialists  (vs. just marine specialists) at the headquarters on the website.  The website alone has a heavy saltwater slant.  A radical change to equalize the playing field between freshwater and saltwater would be to gradually phase out the gender distinctions in the saltwater categories.  I realize the latter suggestion would not be taken seriously but it is just another example that other ideas can be developed to broaden the freshwater scope of interest at the IGFA and to encourage a broader demographic of anglers to participate in and become members of the IGFA and the fishing community in general. 


Lisa Davis