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Artist on the Fly Andrea Larko Interview: Part 2

Simms Artist Series is now featuring the work of Andrea Larko. We recently caught up with Andrea talked about art and fishing. When she isn’t working she can often be found on the river, or tying flies. For those who missed Part 1 of our interview check it out here.

What type of flies do you like to fish out in your area?

Come the spring I like to fish a lot of dries, and I fish some wets and do some Nymphing. But I’m not the best at Nymphing. I don’t know if I just haven’t figured it out or what, because I’m mainly self taught so (laughs).

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Check out Simms Women’s Series Trucker here.

I gotcha, I just started in the last year or so.

Really, I think the first year and a half I only caught one or two fish. I just didn’t quite have it figured out. But once it clicks and you get the flow of it, you figure it out really quickly. But I’m not the best caster in the world by any stretch of the mean. I think I get a pretty good dead drift going on. I’ve figured out how to present the fly to the fish so they want to eat it. I fish a lot of the same streams all the time throughout the spring, summer and fall. Mainly through the fall and the winter I go brown trout fishing and King salmon fishing in New York. This is the first year I’m trying to go Steelhead fishing so I tied up a bunch of Decoteau’s and Senyo’s flies that I saw on Steelhead Alley Outfitters, but I haven’t had a chance to fish those yet. I can’t wait to put them in the water.

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Check out Simms Larko Trout Tee.

Where are you going to fish for Steelhead?

I went a few days ago up to the Cattaraugus to go with my dad and sister but we couldn’t find any stream gages before we went up there, and when we got there it was totally blown out. There were four people in the water and they weren’t fishing they were getting their gear and getting ready to leave. So we drove three hours for nothing, but we ended up going antiquing and it was fun anyway.  I want to try and go to Lake Erie this winter and see how that goes. I also want to go to Steelhead Alley, 18 Mile, and 20 Mile and see what all the big fuss is about. I see pictures all the time online of all the beautiful fish they pull out of there and I would love to catch one. I think that would be a lot of fun.

What are your favorite spots to fish that you don’t mind talking about?

There are probably three or four streams that are within five miles of my house that I like to fish. A lot of them have wild trout in them. So I fish there when the weather’s nice four or five days a week even if I can only get out for a half an hour.  But other than that I like to go to the yellow creek trout club. I mean they stock fish,  but the trout there are huge and they have such a variety and there are never the crowds that are often at the other places close to where I live. I go fishing there a lot and it’s a lot of fun. I caught my first tiger trout there this year so that was cool.

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What is your most memorable catch?

I went Salmon fishing three or four years ago and everyone was fishing on the side of the stream, no bank fishing everyone was just standing in two lanes down the middle and fishing the banks right around the edges where the deep water was. I turned around to walk to the other side and I look in front of me and there are three absolutely huge brown trout sitting in probably 8 inches of water. I was saying to myself “oh my gosh I hope nobody sees this”… I put a couple of casts out, and on the third cast I got it out to the one in the front in his mouth and I caught him. That was definitely the biggest brown trout I’ve ever caught. It was just beautiful. I was so excited. I would have to say that was my best catch. I was elated and couldn’t believe it. It wasn’t until my first or second year fly fishing that I actually had a drift that went where I wanted it to go. I figured out the flow of the water, how much weight I needed. I mean, that took me a long time to figure out. I was really excited. It was definitely my best catch.

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What would be your favorite fly fishing destination to visit?

I really want to visit Alaska.

The fishing there is supposed to be like nowhere else in the world.

That’s what I hear because I have friends from all over the world on my Facebook page. Most of my Facebook feed isn’t even in English anymore. I see all these photographs of people from all over- in  Alaska, British Columbia, and down in Brazil. It just makes me think of all the places I want to go. It makes me want to work harder because I know I’ll get there; it will just take time. It gives me more reasons to work as much as I can every day. From when I wake up until the time I go to bed I’m doing something with my business. Either sending stuff out, marketing, posting  to Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and Etsy, taking photographs, doing research on new pieces, [and drafting] contracts. The drawing portion of what I do is really only 10% of what I do between taxes, buying inventory. I wish I could just draw and hire someone for everything else.
Check out more of her work on her Etsy at  andrealarko.etsy.com on instagram @andrealarko , her website andrealarko.com or on Facebook  facebook.com/artbyandrealarko

 

Thoughts on 2015 From The Fishwest Staff

With 2015 only hours away we here at Fishwest have had a chance to reflect on a great fishing year but also look forward to the new year and new adventures. Below you will find our thoughts on the year and goals for 2015. Enjoy!

Morgan – Fishwest Shop Manager

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2014 was a great year for my fly fishing career. I was able to travel to new places, pursue new species and I was even able to catch the largest fish I’ve ever caught on a fly rod. For 2015 I would like that trend to continue. This year, my focus will be on getting to a saltwater destination for the first time. I love streamer fishing and the thought of a hard fighting, large, predatory fish has got me excited. It was 15 degrees on my drive to work this morning and the idea of shorts and going barefoot in the sand doesn’t sound so bad right now. I would also like to make to Montana to see for myself what everyone’s raving about. Steelhead are on the list again as well. I’ve got high hopes for 2015.

Richard  (AKA Maui Jim) – Web Team / Shop Staff

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2014 turned out to be a great year of fishing for me. The goals I set for myself last year were for the most part accomplished, with the exception of landing a striper on the fly. With 2015 knocking on the door it is time to set some new goals for the upcoming year. The biggest goal I have for 2015 will be to get out steelheading for the first time, after hearing stories and seeing photos from co-workers and customers alike steelheading has been creeping its way into my mind.

It’s not just the chance of catching a large sea run salmonids that intrigues me but the difficulty of bringing these creatures to hand and the destinations you have to travel to that really inspires me to target these fish.

Along with that goal would be to continue to target toothy critters on the fly, 2014 was the first year I tried to target Tiger Muskie and Pike at all, and being fortunate enough to have success catching both species on a fly this past year, lets just say I have been hit with the Esox bug, so larger and meaner pike and muskies are definitely on the menu for 2015.

JC – Web Team Manager / Shop Staff

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I had a ton of fun fishing in 2014. Another trip to hang out in the Bahamas and landing my first Tiger Musky amid the countless trout brought to hand had to top the list of personal accomplishments for the year. The thing I enjoyed the most was spending alot of time on the water with the two other jokers who contributed to this article.  Any time on the water with “Maui Jim” (aka Richard) and Morgan is bound to be a fun time and full of a lot of laughs.  We all collectively spent a ton of money in gas on all these adventures but it was well worth it. Having the chance to be part of the adventure and to see Morgan and Richard both land their first Muskies was pretty dang cool.

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As for 2015 a personal goal for me has got to be to learn how to use a two handed rod. I cannot emphasize enough how much I would love to swing flies for anadromous fish. I now finally have all tools at my disposal I now just have to put tools together and just get out and do it.

Lastly I would honestly like to just keep my goals very simple. Spending a lot of time fishing and sharing the water with new and old friends alike seems like a great way to spend my time.

Once again I would like to thank everyone from our faithful readers to our wonderful contributors for making 2014 a success for us here at Fishwest and the Pisciphilia Blog.  As long as you guys keep reading we would love to share our stories and insight. From all of us here at Fishwest I would like to wish you a Happy New Year and a wonderful 2015!

Merry Christmas & Happy Holidays From Fishwest

Well it’s here, the time of the year when you dust off the ugliest sweater you own, spend more than you would like to admit on gifts, and to take long trips to see the family. Although it is the time of year for family, that shouldn’t stop you from getting out there and hooking into some fish.

This is a great opportunity to share your passion with others in your family, take a short trip to your local community pond or stream and toss around some flies. Show the youngsters how to catch fish with a rod and not a PlayStation controller. Show that in-law why you spend hours upon hours on the river every year, the tranquil state it puts much of us in while out exploring the water. Show them secret, or special spots, to allow them a little glimpse into “Your World”. They might then understand why you dedicate so much of your time to this sport.

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This isn’t just a great time to share your passion for fly fishing but can also be a good time to explore old or new fishing spots. If you are heading back to your hometown, take time to see how the river has changed and where the fish have moved to. For me this is a trip back down memory lane. I spend time reflecting on the reasons I picked up a fly rod in the first place, those feelings or experiences I had while learning the sport, and an opportunity to hook into those large ones that got away from me last time.

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This can also be a great opportunity to head out to water that you have never explored before, whether its in your hometown or in a relatives community, this time a year offers a great chance to have the water mostly to yourself. It doesn’t have to be a technical trip with tons of gear, just the rod, reel, few flies, and a cheap pair of waders (if necessary) from your local sporting goods retailer.

Whether you do make it out this week or not, we here at Fishwest wish you and yours a safe and joyful holiday season. Fill your bellies and get your yearly fix of The Christmas Story, we will be here getting ready for 2015 while you work your way out of that holiday fog.

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Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!!

Patagonia Presents a Stoecker Ecological and Felt Soul Media Production: DamNation

Some folks see dams as a source of energy, a creator of recreation, or even the protector from seasonal floods. This can be true but during the early twentieth century there was an obsession to put a dam on any river or stream they felt could be beneficial to human progress and not considering the environmental damages that could be caused during and after the build. Thanks to the partnership of Patagonia and Felt Soul Media, they have produced this amazing video depicting the negative effects caused by dams and the impact they have on native fish populations. This video was an eye opener for everyone here at Fishwest, each and everyone of us learned something new from it and we encourage anyone who hasn’t seen it to view it.

Mongolia: The Land Time Forgot

When folks talk about fishing in remote places for most the first thought that comes to mind  is the Alaskan bush or the back country of the North West. But there’s a place in Asia where human development and time have almost been forgotten. Most of you may have heard of Mongolia and the unique salmonid found in it’s waters. For those who haven’t heard of these creatures, they are the largest in the salmonid family, and fierce predators gorging on everything from bait fish to small mammals and birds. Here is a look at what it takes to have a chance at these incredible fish and what is being done to protect it’s habitat.

Youth & Fly Fishing

Two years ago, the staff at our middle school began to think creatively about activities we could get students involved in. Our goal was to connect students to fitness and promote healthy choices and lifestyles. We considered a wide array of clubs that promoted wellness and fun- snowshoeing, running, tai chi, and yoga.  The idea was to give the students a choice and make it fun, and it’s more likely that the activity and healthy choices will become a permanent part of their life. The same philosophy applies to adults. As a track and cross country coach, I sponsored a “run club” and was pleasantly surprised by the number of students that came early to school to run. The clubs were a wonderful outlet for kids who had varied interests who may or may not already belong to a team sport and a place to make new friends. Feeling, however, that I had omitted one of my life’s great passions, I introduced a “fly fishing club.” I recruited my friend and seasonal guide to come help us out.

The club generated some immediate interest from a few skeptical/curious students. I can’t blame them; in our corner of the world, if you casually mention “fly fishing” it either conjures images of fishing for or with houseflies or among adults, “A River Runs Through It,” the only connection to fly fishing they have thanks to Hollywood. I guess if they have us fly fisherman equated with Brad Pitt in some form or another then we’re doing alright.

The club met every Friday morning and we had three students that showed up regularly. We covered setup, knots, casting, even some fly tying and entomology. Kids are much better students than we sometimes give them credit, especially when they are interested. I say this with experience as a classroom teacher and a former swim lessons instructor for both children and adults. Adults would come to lessons with pre-conceived ideas or things they have seen which resulted in muscle memory habits that are often difficult to break. The same applies to fly fishing. Kids are interested and new to these skills and are often in the mindset of being a student, that is to say, teachable and willing to learn. It seems we sometimes lose this ability as we grow older.

We culminated the year with a casting competition for a puck of flies that my friend had tied. Nearly all the weeks of casting skills we had taught flew out the window as the students worked to hit the target we had placed out in front of them. They laughed, struggled, and had a great time. The skills didn’t matter- they were having fun, and that’s what it’s about. Eventually one of them, slowed down his cast, hit the target, and was beaming with his new prize. Those are the moments that you do this kind of thing for: the look on his face was reward enough and reassurance we needed to keep the club going.

When school started in August of this year, students were already asking about when Fly Fishing Club would start. A fall coach, I planned on November as a good time to begin, allowing fall sports and that “settling in” time to expire. The club had generated more interest this year, a few newcomers that had talked to me in hall. My favorite line, “Hey Mr. R, I’m kind of interested in fly fishing club this year. I don’t know- fly fishing- it just seems like it would be something good for me to know.”

When November came around we had five attendees show and have had near perfect attendance since. We started with the same skills as last year, spending some Fridays in the classroom on knots and some at our pool, working on roll casts with hookless hoppers. We put our focus on fly tying this year, however. Tying, as we know, involves some tools and some expense, and being no money in the school budget for vises and the pieces of various animals we require, we sought out a grant from our state DNR.

The grant provided us funds for a trip and materials. In the meantime, we reached out to various TU chapters and fly fishing associations across the state for help. These are amazing groups of people when it comes to helping kids. Days after requesting help, I was sent an email from a man across the state who wanted to help out by sending us his old vise and tool set. He shipped it that day (which must have been pricey to do) so that a student could have the opportunity to learn to tie. It’s been used every Friday since. More recently, a man sent us homemade bobbins and threaders to use in our club, and another chapter is setting us up with used rod/reel combos for next year’s club. The generosity we’ve had bestowed on our group is incredible and speaks for the generous attitudes of fly fishermen and women.

With tying, our emphasis has been on making it fun. We chose some beginner patterns to start with and let the students decide the colors. We try to repeat the pattern the next time, so it sticks. We’ve tied a lot of wooly buggers and beetles, flies they can use around town on the river and ponds. Quick learners, they have learned how to use the tools and ask questions when they need help. I’ve been amazed with their excitement and enthusiasm. Every Thursday afternoon they make sure we’re still on for Friday morning and ask to borrow copies of Fly Fisherman magazine or the Feathercraft catalog to look at on weekends. The Friday before spring break, they convinced their study hall teacher to host an impromptu fly tying session during the last half hour of the day. It’s fun to hear them talking about fly fishing in the hall or during free time in class. They talk gear, flies, and where they want to fish. A few of them have really found their creative niche with fly tying, bringing in patterns they’ve tied and the stories of their experiences. They find patterns they like, ask questions, and experiment with hooks and materials they are finding everywhere. It’s refreshing and inspiring to see their ingenuity. I’ll never forget the mouse pattern one student brought in a few weeks ago. He had seen it in a magazine and did a great job replicating the pattern down to the shoestring he creatively used for a tail. He told me how he had glued it, and as I held it, I could still feel some moisture. I quickly asked, “Is this wet glue?,” not wanting to pry my fingers apart. His reply, “No, I just tested it in the sink before I came to school!”

I don’t believe that these kids have a real understanding of how excited we as instructors are to be a part of this club as much as they are. Introducing them to a new skill, helping them to tie a fly and be proud of what they created, and seeing their reaction to a technique has been a rewarding experience.  At the end of April, we’re taking our club on one of our first club fishing trips to trout streams north of us. We’re all very excited to put their skills to the test and looking forward to a memorable day on the water.

Yellowstone – A Multi Part Series – 6 of 6

The passage of time is a peculiar thing. It seems that if we are involved in something we don’t particularly like, the seconds pass thick and slow with now rhythm or pace, everything is laborious and clunky. Then there are days when we are so full of what we enjoy and what we love that it is as if time were racing away at warp speed. It was with this thought in mind that I found myself looking square into the last two days of the tour. I had completely abandoned any concept of time to the point that most days it could have been Tuesday or perhaps Sunday and it would have made no difference. Light and dark, awake and asleep…that pretty much summed up existence in Yellowstone, and by the time I had realized what was happening, I was looking into the face of the one thing I hadn’t taken into account. The trip was coming to an end.

 

After leaving Slough Creek, we drove across the amazing chaos that is Yellowstone and up into Montana. One thing that never ceased to amaze me about this National Park was the quick change of the geographic, geologic, and topographic nature of the landscape. Drive a few miles in one type of terrain, cross a hill, and it is as if someone has plucked you out of one place on the planet and deposited you in another location thousands of miles away. Surreal would be an easily overused word here in this majestic location.

So with the disorientation of time and the sensory overload of the terrain, Bruce Smithhammer and I drove west…our destination was to be the last stop on the trip. We would be spending the next two days in Big Sky Montana and fishing the Gallatin River. Basing my expectations of Big Sky upon what had transpired throughout the week was not wise. Every second of rustic living, every moment of wild and unpredictable environments, every old building and historic structure were in another world altogether upon our arrival in this small Montana locale. We were staying for two days in a two story penthouse of Big Sky Lodge, a place in which the President had stayed a few months earlier. I don’t know the exact square footage of our sky high lodging, but I feel very safe in guessing that we had at least three thousand square feet of living space to enjoy. But, just so we didn’t think we were completely removed from the wild, a big bear was wandering around the parking lot as we were unloading our things. It is moments like these that will enamor you with this part of the world.

After gawking at our dwelling for a while, I hit the rack and fell into the kind of sleep that can only come when the perfect bed meets unreal fatigue. It seemed that I had only closed my eyes and it was morning, and with the rise of the sun we headed out to fish the Gallatin.

The Gallatin is a meandering river, much smaller than I pictured it, but an excellent fishery…with one problem…the fish were nowhere to be found. Six anglers, all accomplished in their craft, were pretty well skunked. My only fish on this day was a complete accident. I was fishing a hopper up against the far bank without luck. I misjudged my distance; hit the bank, pulled it free, and bam…a ten inch rainbow smacked it as soon as it hit the water. My only fish.

Back to the lodge. We were all beyond tired. The week that was had begun to catch up with us. Gathered around the television that evening, we watched the opening ceremonies of the Olympics, laughed, and told stories until late into the night. We had started the week as strangers, just names, people who for the most part only knew of each other from what we had read. I looked around the room and was amazed at who I was with. Kirk Deeter, Chris Hunt, Bruce Smithhammer, Rebecca Garlock…Field and Stream, Trout Unlimited, The Drake, Outdoor Blogger Network. Wow. But the cool thing about it is that the accolades and accomplishments of these people were secondary to the fact that Steve Zakur and I were hanging out with friends.

Often on trips like this, when the people don’t know each other, the potential of a train wreck of interpersonal issues is always a potentiality. However, on this particular trip, we just hit it off…everything meshed. It was as if we had done this trip together for years. To say that lifelong friendships were formed would be a gross understatement.

The last day of the tour started with a trip to a local fly shop and an event that will forever define the attitude of Big Sky Country in my memory. After a night of libations and more than one David Allan Coe song being sung loud and out of key, I was parched. Just as you walk in the door of this particular fly shop, there is a soft drink machine. So I stopped there and started digging in my pocket for a buck to feed. I drop in my money, select my favorite citrus laden beverage…and out came a Pabst Blue Ribbon. It was then that the guy behind the counter told me that he could not remember the last time that machine had soft drinks in it. I looked at him and smiled, then I spotted some fly shop hats…one had a PBR style logo with the fly shops name on it. Sold. I still wear it with pride.

Another tough outing on the Gallatin as storms moved in from the west with a ferocity that put every fish in the river down for the day. So we spent the remainder of the morning just hanging out by the truck and talking. Perhaps that was the best way for things to end. In conversation with people who had become friends and may see years pass before their paths would cross again.

This trip and the amazing events that I experienced have forever changed me. It did not make me a better angler, but it did change the way that I go about the craft. The skillset remains, but in some ways the philosophy behind it has been forever altered by this great bunch of people.

Roughly five months have passed, and I am still in consistent contact with these folks. Sometimes it is business, and sometimes it is just to say hi. In the early part of the fall, Steve found himself in my neck of the woods and I took him to the South Holston. I told him where the trout would be, and what they were likely to be keyed on, then I stepped back, cast into water that has never yielded fish, and watched as he pulled multiple fish from the water. It made me happy to play guide for my friend, and in a way it was my gift to him. As we left that afternoon to once again go our separate ways, we said goodbye as if we would be together the following week…because we both knew that eventually we would meet again on a river somewhere.

Fly Fishing, Teenagers, and Cruise Ships

A cruise ship is an excellent way to get teenagers into the outdoors and also fly fishing!

This past summer, my 15 year old daughter and I boarded the Norwegian Sky for a 3 day/4 night Bahamas cruise.  We swam with dolphins in Nassau, kayaked through mangroves on Grand Bahama Island, and snorkeled with reef fish near Great Stirrup Cay.  And I distinctly remember parasailing as well…

Between these ports-of-call, our time on the boat flew by.  Immense buffets – and the gym equipment to work it off – kept me occupied.  I also spent a fair bit of time  scanning the open ocean, hoping to witness some tuna or mahi-mahi churning the surface to a froth.  (I actually did see one feeding frenzy.  Even though the species was unidentifiable, it kept me and another guy– also an angler – absolutely glued to our binoculars for a good twenty minutes.)

My daughter, Kerri, loved the boat’s supervised teen club.  Hanging around with kids from all over the continent was a great experience for her.  To be honest, once we were on the boat, I didn’t see too much of her at all.

But how does fly fishing fit into all this?????

Miami was our home base for a couple days before the cruise departed. We did some shopping, some South Beach sightseeing, and some fly fishing.

Hamilton Fly Fishing Charters (www.flyfishingextremes.com) out of Palm Beach took care of the fly fishing.  The idea was to go just outside the reef and chum a bunch of false albacore up to the surface.  However, the wave action was a bit rough and the albies stayed deep, so we headed back “inside” to the Intracoastal Waterway.  As it turned out, this was a real blast!  It was very visual – the guide tossing out bait and all kinds of jacks crashing it.

I was using a streamer and an intermediate line.  My daughter was armed with a spinning rod.  Both her and I thoroughly enjoyed it – Kerri was actually landing fish out on the boat’s deck in pelting rain.    Unfortunately, some nasty wind and thunderstorms cut our day short.

The accompanying video shows the whole adventure.  It isn’t in chronological order – South Beach and the cruise ship activities come first and then the fly fishing. (And then the nasty wind and thunderstorms.)  I also have to admit that Kerri did all the video editing…  Enjoy!!!

The Madness of Fly Fishing

“Sometimes I caught fish – sometimes I didn’t. …….I lived merrily, mindlessly, uncomfortably on the fringe where fishing bleeds into madness.” – Nick Lyons, The Intense Fly Fisherman

There was a time in my youth when I chased fish with all the passion I had within me – with all the force and vigor and excitement I could muster. I would get up two hours before dawn and drive four hours just to reach the first available trout water. I’d fish all day, stopping only to eat a quick lunch or move to another spot on the river. When darkness fell, I continued to fish – pushing the limit of effective fishing and the legal limit of fishing regulations. A four hour drive back home would end with me dragging myself into the house, leaving all my gear in the truck to be cleaned out the next day, or the day after that perhaps. I was “on fire” for fly fishing and I ate it – drank it – obsessed over it – loved it – was consumed by it. 

 

This went on for some time. Years passed, then decades and then one day I experienced a great tragedy in my life when my father passed away suddenly. At the same time, I lost my job. I was devastated. I stopped fishing almost completely. I think I may have spent time fishing, just a few hours each time, only twice that year. In my salad days fishing happened every other weekend for years and years. I fished only twice in that most terrible year and thought several times that I might give it up altogether. Over the next few years, there were times when I felt like flinging my rod and reel into the lake or river. No, I’m not kidding. I just couldn’t get that passion back, even though when I wasn’t fishing it was still there and as strong as ever.

 

I still consumed fishing articles, photos and chat like they were going out of style. I loved to talk about bass on poppers and trout flies that sit just so, right in the film. I’m still a sucker for hearing  another angler talk about a river that’s new to me. Last year I even took my very first trip out west to fish in Montana and Wyoming. I’m fishing more now – probably twice a month or so when I can get away and I’d fish more often if I had the time and money. So, I had to ask myself – what happened? How did I come back from the brink of leaving the sport behind me for good?

I think what it all came down to, was that I had to realize two things: that I didn’t have that 24-hour-7-days-a-week passion that I had in my youth, and that not having that passion was OK. Once I stopped worrying about the fact that I didn’t go fishing as much (and frankly didn’t catch as much either) I was able to begin to enjoy my time outdoors again. These days it’s not so much about the fishing. It’s more about being outside and enjoying time spent around the water. It’s the feel of the river on my legs and the fleeting glimpse of a deer on the drive home. Now that I’ve had a couple of years of this relaxed fishing life, I think I rather prefer it to living on, as Nick Lyons so accurately put it …the fringe where fishing bleeds into madness.” Maybe someday you’ll be there, too. Maybe you already are?

Yellowstone – A Multi Part Series – 3 of 6

In July of 2012, I was selected to join Chris Hunt and Kirk Deeter of Trout Unlimited, Rebecca Garlock, Bruce Smithhammer, Steve Zakur, and several representatives of Simms, The National Park Service, and The Yellowstone Park Foundation in a tour of Yellowstone.  We were directly involved in removal of the invasive lake trout from Yellowstone Lake, stream study on Soda Butte Creek, and stream recovery on Specimen Creek. This is the third of a six part series recounting my adventures. This was my first trip to Yellowstone.

In part two, we saw how involved and messy gill netting for the small lakers can be.  But what about the big boys?  What about the mature adult that is actively reproducing?  Obviously the whole gill netting thing will not work on a fish that size. So instead of the spider web analogy, lets switch over to the corn maze.  Easy to get into one…not so easy to get out.

What happens is this.  A huge live trap net is set in the lake.  This massive enclosure has a series of extensions on it that are like long hallways.  Hallways that are hundreds of feet long.  Big guys swim in, hang out, can’t find the exit.  And then the men on the boat go to work.

This is where the action really picks up.  We left the gill net boat feeling pretty satisfied with what we had just participated in, but we literally had no idea as to the massive undertaking necessary to get rid of the Lakers.  Yellowstone Lake is big and very deep which is perfect for Lake Trout.  They are literally in Laker Valhalla in this majestic body of water, and they do get big.

The crew starts out by retrieving the net.  I never quite figured out if the net was stationary and we were moving or vise versa, but either way, we were in for the surprise of our lives when the catch started revealing itself.

There are some fish that get caught in the net, but most are still alive when the crew started hoisting it aboard.  But the big show was the huge net enclosure that held numbers of biblical proportions.  The sheer number of big fish was astounding.  To compare what we were seeing to the 167,000 plus that had been retrieved up to that point just blows your mind.  I caught myself looking out at the lake an just trying to grasp just how many leviathans were swimming in those waters.

In the picture below you see a tub full of dead Lake Trout.  To get an idea of how large these fish were, the box they are in was about two and a half feet by twenty inches by two feet.  Just about every fish we brought to the boat would be grip and grin status.

 There were several tubs stationed at the rear of the boat.  By the time our work was done.  Every tub would be full.  It bears mentioning again that this operation is taking place, every day for at least ten hours per day.

Tracking devices are placed in some of the Lakers.  The use of these trackers is to identify movement of the fish throughout the lake.  Listening stations placed in various locations in the lake will monitor movement of the fish as they go about their day.  The hope is to positively identify spawning locations so that they can begin the arduous task of killing eggs.  There is still an ongoing discussion as to how they could best accomplish this.  Everything from UV rays to a vacuum system has been brought to the table.  The Park Service, Trout Unlimited, and The Yellowstone Park Foundation are actively pursuing their options with a hope to tackle this next battlefield soon.  The telemetry study was started in August of last year.  141 tags and 40 receivers were implemented.  As of this writing, there are 221 tags and 55 recievers on and in Yellowstone Lake.  This is not a cheap undertaking either.  Trout Unlimited purchased 153 tags at a cost of 85,000 dollars and the National Park Service purchased 68 tags at a cost of 25,000 dollars.

And yes, some of the Cutthroat are caught.  Here is the statistics as best as I can recall.  In a day when we caught probably close to 1,000 trout.  I only saw two Cutthroat dead at the gill net boat, and I think there were maybe five live Cutties on the live net boat.

The large holding net is brought to the side of the boat and there are literally hundreds of fish swimming around.  A long net is used, and you simply lean over and scoop up a net full of fish.  It is really quite amazing.  And keep in mind that you are scooping netfulls of 20″-30″ fish.  Exhilarating to say the least.  There were a couple that were to big to fit into the net.  You would scoop through the holding net, get the bruisers head in it, and that would be all that would fit.  That is when the crew stepped in and gilled them to the boat.

After the fish are caught.  They are cut, identified as male of female, and the air bladder is ruptured.  A lot were full of eggs.  Thousands of eggs.  This is the point when it all started coming together for me.  We caught and killed a multitude of these fish, but if you also take into consideration how many eggs we removed form the life cycle of the species in this lake, the numbers were staggering.  I really felt like I had done something that was good, worthwhile, and important.  Important to more than just the Cutthroat.  It was important to the total ecosystem of the park.  And that is a very good thing.

Though Lake Trout are a very good food source, and plentiful, these fish are not put into the food market.  My thought was that they could be used to feed the homeless, needy, mobile meals, but the logistics and cost of doing this are just not feasible at this time.  So much would be involved in trying to get this idea off the ground, and the amount of money it would require prohibit it.

So we left that afternoon feeling very good about what we had done.  The conversation among us was like that of a team after winning the big game.  We recounted the events, smiled, shook our heads in disbelief, and made our way north to the Lamar Valley.

 *Photos by Rebecca Garlock, Chris Hunt, Steve Zakur, and Marc Payne