On the day before the summer solstice, I find myself reflecting on my experiences from this past spring. If you follow us on social media, you likely noticed that the fishing has been incredible. We had a banner spring season – many clients and many fish. I’ll touch on that later. As awesome as the fishing was, the conversations with clients are what really stuck with me. There was a theme that kept popping up – making memories through life experiences is far more rewarding than accumulating material items.
What’s Your Thing?
If you scroll through all our blog posts, you’ll notice the idea of having a hobby keeps coming up. That’s not a sales gimmick to get you to go fishing with us, it’s a notion that comes from the heart. Fishing has been a passion of mine since I caught my first fish (a sunny) when I was four years old.
The overwhelming majority of my fondest memories involve fishing trips or just fishing in general. It’s what’s kept me centered through some of my toughest times and it keeps me looking forward to the future. Do you have something in your life that does the same?
No Thing = High Risk of Depression
The idea that experiences enrich one’s life far more than the accumulation of things isn’t new/original. Google it- there are thousands of research papers written on the topic. However, googling it isn’t necessary. Take a couple seconds and scroll through your news feed on social media. The evidence is right in front of you.
Not sold on the notion? Take the time and do some reading. In my opinion the best, most readable book that addresses this topic of experiences vs. materialism is, Lost Connections, by Johann Hari. That book contains numerous studies and personal anecdotes on the topic. The main idea being that if your means of personal enrichment is the accumulation of things, chances are, you’re also depressed, lonely, and unfortunately on some sort of antidepressant. Making personal connections, finding an activity you’re passionate about (or at minimum very interested in), and frequently breaking routine is the only effective “cure” for this plight.
Anecdotes from the Water
Perhaps more than most, I frequently evaluate my lifestyle by ensuring I create opportunities for personal enrichment. I schedule multiple personal and family vacations throughout the year. When on the water with clients, I cover as much ground as possible, so everyone gets a good dose of regional imagery. I also keep the conversation going with a little bit of teaching and a lot of sharing stories and life experiences. Fishing and catching fish is a given. Getting to know my clients is far more important to me.
I’m encouraged by what I see in the people that I take fishing. For example, last month I had clients visiting the area from Texas. A grandmother, grandfather, and grandson. I asked them what brought them to the area. They told me that they take all their grandchildren on a vacation as a gift for their thirteenth birthday. This grandchild wanted to visit Niagara Falls and go fishing. How awesome is that?!?
I had another client that booked me for 3 days to try fly fishing for musky on the inland lakes. I asked him why he wanted to torture himself with such a thing (kidding…only slightly). He told me that he worked extremely hard all his life and made very little time for himself and his family. When he retired, he didn’t know what to do with himself. He went on to tell me that many other people from the same company committed suicide or passed away within a couple of years of retirement because they felt lost. Shortly after retirement, his wife passed away from cancer. Instead of falling into a deep depression, he decided to travel and experience as many things as possible. Catching a musky on the fly was one of his bucket list items.
Another client that’s become more of a friend, is so passionate about walleye fishing that he was willing to give up a scheduled trip with me to accommodate 2 brothers from Wisconsin. He’s retired but is more engaged in life than he ever has been. He likes being on the water so much that he even joined us on the trip and worked as my first mate. Classic!
Hopes for the Future
One could say that the people who book fishing trips are already on the path I’m recommending so of course I’ve had these kinds of discussions. Correct – but someone/something nudged them in the right direction to get them walking down that trail. Lawyers, doctors, casino pit bosses, mechanics, engineers, landscapers, property managers, painters, mothers, fathers, grandparents, children, tourists, locals – all of them realized at some point that they needed enriching experiences more than things.
It’s my hope that someone not on that path comes to the same realization. If you think fishing might be a good first step – GREAT! Visit the Buffalo Niagara region – all my colleagues in the guide/charter business will echo these sentiments. Although we have different personalities and back stories, we share the same passion for giving people something that will prove more rewarding that buying any material item – experiences that will last a lifetime.
Spring End of Season Update
The pictures will say it all but here are a few notes. Compared to last year, we spent WAY more time fishing the Upper Niagara this past spring. Fishing on the Upper Niagara River for smallmouth bass has been and will continue to be incredible. This year, we’ve been dedicating more time to teaching clients new techniques.
Although a good number of our clients have fishing experience, many have very little. The moving water of the Upper Niagara provides ample opportunity to teach less experienced clients how to finesse fish, how to use crankbaits and jerkbaits, and how to float fish. All have been very effective, and our clients seemed to have enjoyed it more than fishing the harbor and Lake Erie. It didn’t hurt that the action was incredible, and the fish were big.
I’ve had the privilege of pursuing smallmouth bass on the fly in almost every state where they’re native as well as others where they are now wild. They are my favorite fish. One of my friends recently told me that smallmouth bass are my spirit animals. I provide this little slice of my background with smallmouth bass because Nate and I have been contemplating an idea that some might think would tarnish my love for the species or for angling in general. However – we’re confident that it won’t. Here it is: It’s our personal goal to set the fly tackle world record for smallmouth bass.
Take it Easy – Keep Reading
I’m not trying to make a case that I’m a talented smallmouth bass angler. I’m just a guy who happily pursues them on the fly, has had some pretty good success over the years, and am rarely, if ever, disappointed by this pursuit. However, I am disappointed about the lack of love our region receives for pursuing smallmouth bass on fly tackle.
The conventional tackle world has known about the quality of our smallmouth bass fishery for generations. More than half of our conventional tackle clients last year in May and June were NOT from New York. We want the same balance to emerge with fly fishing clients. How better to evoke this shift than appealing to the ego?
A World Record? Really?
Honestly, I’m ambivalent about setting the fly tackle world record for smallmouth bass. I’m not a record chaser but I understand those that pursue world records. Although ego plays some role in this pursuit, I’m willing to bet that most people who pursue records do so because they are goal oriented. Like my goal to fish 50 states on the fly before I turn 50, pursuing world records focuses travel plans, allows you to meet new people, and forces you to learn new techniques. Plus, there’s the added benefit of quantifying and cataloging your efforts in a captivating way.
Although I rarely count fish caught in a day or take measurements, I completely understand why people do. It’s that statistic, that figure, that one can toss into those inevitable conversations we have as anglers – the infamous “fishing stories.” This tendency to make comparisons is completely natural and if done so respectfully, can provoke thought and improve everyone’s game. Add “world record” to the conversation and things take on a tone that’s a little more serious and a lot more captivating.
Time for the Buffalo Niagara Region to Represent
Setting a fly tackle world record for smallmouth bass in the Buffalo Niagara region is VERY POSSIBLE. I personally broke the record last year and I know of quite a few more people that did as well. You may be asking yourself why nobody from the region claimed the title. I can only answer for myself but I’m willing to bet it’s the same answer for everyone else – we didn’t know what the record was.
Late last June, a friend and I were reflecting on a particularly insane day on the water when he asked what the fly tackle world record for smallmouth bass was. I didn’t know. So, I looked it up. Here’s the chart but you’re better off clicking here so you know it’s official:
6lbs 12oz – That’s the target. If one was so inclined to break any of the tippet class records – that’d be easy to accomplish if you put in the work.
Why Put this out There?
Some people reading this might be wondering why I’m introducing this idea to the masses vice quietly going for the record myself and showcasing it once accomplished. The answer to that question is simple: as I stated before, I’m not a record chaser. I want the Buffalo Niagara smallmouth fly-fishing scene to gain the fame it deserves. If one was to look at the IGFA as a source for information that people can use to pursue the biggest fish of the species – we’re not even registered!
I don’t care who earns the record – if the region gets the exposure it deserves – mission accomplished. So, I guess this is a call to arms for local fly anglers that have access to a boat and love to pursue smallmouth bass on the fly. Let’s all try to break the record.
If your name is currently on the IGFA record board, stand by – I’m very confident it won’t be there after this year. There are more than enough fly anglers with boats in the Buffalo Niagara region to break these records just fishing casually in early summer.
I’m not worried that a ton of people are going to read this and make plans to try to break the record – our following isn’t that big. Plus, this record would be very difficult (but doable) to break from shore. You really need a boat or access to a boat to move the odds in your favor. Those that have access to a boat, will be out there anyway. Those that don’t have access to a boat, book a trip with us – we’ll be out there daily as well – booked or not.
My primary concern in all of this is the safety/well-being of the fish. Read all the IGFA rules and regulations CAREFULLY (tap here). Watch this for proper handling procedures (tap here). A fish that breaks the fly fishing world record is a gem – a natural wonder – don’t shit all over it like humans often do. Admire it, handle it carefully, and let it go.
See you on the water!
Note: every bass pictured in this article could’ve broken a line class world fly fishing record. One of them – you know which one – would’ve beat it by 3/4 of a lb.
Women anglers – if you don’t break the record here this year, you didn’t put much time on the water. In other words, it’s yours for the taking.
I can only speak for myself, but March felt like the longest month ever here in Buffalo Niagara. Very high highs and very low lows. The following article is by no means a knock on our fishery. In fact, I challenge anyone to find a place in the U.S. that fishes better than the Buffalo Niagara region during the month of March. Considering that we are spoiled in that regard, I will tread lightly. However, I think it’s a fun exercise to relate to whomever wants to read this what the past 31 days has been like. It’s been an emotional journey that, because of the numerous challenges we experienced, ultimately made us better anglers.
You Know it’s March When…
To make this somewhat easy to read, I am going to divide my observations of the longest month ever into a few parts. Part 1 will address the weather. Part 2 will address the tactics. The emotional spectrum will comprise Part 3. Finally, Part 4 will be what we have to look forward to next month. Here it goes.
Part 1 – March Weather in Buffalo Niagara
You know it’s March when:
The Forecast is wrong/right 50% of the time.
You see the highs are supposed to be in the 50s so you go light on layers. That’s a mistake, as find out the hard way, because the water is still cold. Like below 32 degrees cold. Water that cold still produces a layer of cold air above it that causes you to freeze your ass off when on the water.
Once per week you think spring is here only to wake up and find snow on your driveway.
Bookings are lighter than normal – it’s even hard to get your friends to come out to endure the cold.
People start seeing the sun for the first time in months and decide to wear shorts around town. Ridiculous!
You fantasize about NOT wearing gloves. Actually, you try it a couple times just to remember what it feels like only to end up regretting it shortly thereafter.
The tributaries start locked up with ice, then flood, then get super clear. All in short order.
March weather in the Buffalo Niagara region is a roller coaster. Only the most resilient can endure. One would think that because we’ve been fishing for the past 4-5 months in frigid temperatures that we’d be used to it. We are used to it but this is the time when it becomes taxing. Being cold gets REALLY OLD. When conditions start to get to you, you’ll find that you keep telling yourself, “4 more weeks until good weather.” Well…one can only hope.
Part 2 – March Fishing Tactics
You know it’s March When:
You start thinking 6lb test might be too heavy for the big water.
Even if you’re running a 7ft leader, you still think it’s not long enough.
You start tying bags of every color and size imaginable in the hopes that one will be more productive than the other.
Minnows vs beads vs sacs becomes a heated debate among friends.
Weight size, rod length, line type, and reel type also become topics of debate.
You begin to believe, perhaps rightfully so, that a half digit on your trolling motor speed will make all the difference in the world.
You start experimenting with new tactics you never thought to use before.
March fishing tactics are somewhat different than the other, “easier,” times of year here in the Buffalo Niagara Region. Because Lake Erie is still frozen, it keeps the sediment levels down in the Niagara River. Low sediment = the clearest water of the year. Often there is close to 20ft of visibility in the Lower Niagara and more than that in the Upper Niagara. Stealth becomes key. Matching the hatch becomes extremely important. You find yourself constantly questioning everything. I believe this is an awesome opportunity – if you can do well in March, you’ll crush it the rest of the year.
Part 3 – The Emotions of March
You know it’s March when:
You have an awesome day on the water followed by an extremely slow day. Same conditions, same drifts, yet far less fish. You don’t know why. You find it hard to accept. You start questioning reality as a result.
You start wondering if March is the better month for your annual family vacation instead of January.
Although you are stoked to get on the water every day, somewhere around 10:00, with only a couple fish in the boat, your frustration levels start simmering.
When it’s sunny out, you tell yourself that it’s just great to be out there.
When your clients say, “That’s why it’s called fishing and not catching,” and you aren’t frustrated.
You begin to feel like all confidence is false confidence.
Maybe I’m showing too much of my hand in this section – but that’s just me. I wear it all on my sleeve and my friends, colleagues, and clients know that about me. I love this profession PRECISELY BECAUSE of the range of emotions we experience every day. It makes me stronger and it makes our clients appreciate the skill required to do this job well.
Of course, I prefer an easy-going day where we end up boating numerous fish. However, if it was like that every day, I probably wouldn’t enjoy it as much. If all days were “great days” none of them would really be great. People from the Buffalo Niagara Region pride themselves on embracing the idea of delayed gratification. We’re no different.
Part 4 – What we have to look forward to
You know it’s the END of March when:
The forecast has rain instead of snow and you are POSITIVE that the rain will produce a fresh run of fish.
You don’t care how cold it is, you don’t wear gloves just to make a statement to yourself.
Fresh runs of steelhead start showing up in the tributaries as well as the Upper and Lower Niagara River.
Big browns start feeding like crazy in the tributaries as well as along the mud lines in Lake Ontario.
Lakers, smalljaws, cohos, and kings start crushing baitfish on the Niagara Bar.
The removal of the ice boom on Lake Erie is coming REALLY SOON.
Hope/optimism shoots up.
Trees start budding.
Every hen steelhead you catch drops eggs.
The rest of the non-angling world finally thinks it’s safe to go outdoors and the charter business starts booming.
March is over and spring is here my friends. It’s time for you to re-embrace the outdoors. Give us a call if you want to get outside.
Yeah…so…I’m fighting off a potentially ravenous case of the shack nasties. My hope is that by exercising my brain a bit by writing this blog, I’ll continue to stave off what could be something truly horrendous. Over the past few years, we’ve discussed numerous strategies to help you avoid getting nasty when it gets wintery outside but I had an opportunity and I took it. That’s right – I tried to contract shack nasties over the past few days. I was going to be trapped inside to some extent – why not learn from it?
Why Even Try This?
Why would I intentionally place myself in a situation where I can catch a case of the winter’s number one killer of people who inhabit great lakes bordering areas? I’m talking about shack nasties of course. Why would I want to contract the nasties? For a couple of reasons:
1. To see how the other side lives
2. The weather was such that…well, it was almost unsafe to go outside. Schools shut down (my daughter was stuck at home with a bored mother and father), many businesses closed for a day or so, the roads were a mess, etc. – there was little incentive to leave the house. This is the ideal environment for a shack nasty epidemic by the way.
I’ll let you decide which reason had the greatest weight. Bottom line, it was a risky situation.
The following will describe, in a very fragmented way, what occurred during my bout with shack nasties. It’s choppy and bulleted because that’s basically what life was like when hunkering inside. For some, it’s a frantic quest for stimulation – to avoid feeling caged. High highs and low lows. For others, it’s a fast track to sedentary behavior – binge watching shows, savage “consumption” of social media, and eating garbage. Small pulses of consciousness to go to the bathroom, shove food into your face, or click “next” on our remote to keep the binge going is about all the stimulation you can muster.
Staying Sane by Getting Insane
The quest for stimulation when you’re stranded indoors can be a weird one. There are countless ways to stimulate oneself if left to one’s own devices. However, repetition or persistence of any one behavior/activity will eventually lead to adaptation/mindlessness/boredom. In other words, remaining stimulated over extended periods of time requires you to have numerous options for stimulation available. You also must have the mindfulness to know when enough is enough and it’s time to move on to the next thing.
Priming the environment with options for stimulation is relatively easy. For example, everyone has a “to do” list. It’s incredibly likely one can accomplish some of the items on that list while stranded inside. If you’re one of the rare few people that can’t work on something from your list, there are a ton of options to keep your mind and body engaged:
– Exercise – Reading – Watching a Documentary – Listening to Podcasts – Writing a blog (hahahaha) – Catching up with friends – To name only a few
All you need to prime your environment is your mobile device and some things around your house you can use for resistance training. Bottom line, you must see being trapped indoors as an opportunity to accomplish something meaningful to you.
The Sedentary Pattern – Shack Nasty Precursor
Think about this for a second – when you leave your house and engage with the outside world, you interact with things that are completely out of your control. I’m just talking about simple things…like weather or other people. These interactions are incredibly complex and even though they aren’t always conscious, a stimulation takes place. A stimulation that requires a decision and action. No matter how small that stimulation might be, it’s enormous compared to anything you’re experiencing when you’re locked inside during a winter storm.
When you’re inside, you have immense control over your environment. You can influence, with little to any interference from the outside world, what you experience across all senses in your home/dwelling.
– What you see: Paint, artwork, furniture, general cleanliness, etc. – What you smell: use of air fresheners, what’s in the trash, bathroom sanitation, cooking, cleaning products, etc. – What you hear: volume levels on TV/devices, conversations in other rooms, appliances, etc. – What you feel: clothing you wear around the house, choice of bedding, carpet vs. hardwood floors, etc. – What you taste: pretty obvious – you’re gonna eat what’s around you.
With that amount of control, it’s easy to set it and forget it. In your home, you can create an ideal operating environment/maximize comfort in such a way that the requirement for thought becomes rare. Enter the shack nasties.
The Route I Took
For those that know me, the route I took won’t come as a shock. For those that know me well, the details of what I ended up doing won’t come as a shock either. The goal – deeper self-awareness. It sounds heady and it kind of is but not in obvious ways.
When I returned from Guyana nearly 2 weeks ago, I had what was referred to as a “rude awakening” by a couple of my friends and clients. It was 90x colder here than it was there. Yeah – it was 90 when I departed Georgetown, Guyana and it was 1 when I landed in Toronto.
This shock, plus the fact that I was off the grid for nearly 3 weeks, gave me an excuse to hunker down and get caught up. However, I also knew I had to reacclimate to the cold while getting my body back into shape to endure the rest of the Buffalo Niagara winter on the water.
Getting Caught Up and Cleaned Up
Separating the wheat from the chaff in my inbox was relatively easy. The same goes for my social media notifications and trip requests so getting caught up with the rest of the world didn’t take much time. With that behind me, I moved on to consuming the dozens of pod casts and news articles I missed when I was in the jungle. However, I didn’t want to just sit on my ass and listen/read. What else could I do from my house at the same time?
My answer to this question aligns with my goal for this period of confinement – self-awareness. I saw an opportunity to experiment on myself with a couple things I believe have a direct impact on the way I act/feel/think. Maybe you can learn from it too. Maybe not. Worst case scenario – the morbidly curious will get some deep insight into my psyche.
I am not going to give you definitive conclusions or even half-baked theories about some of these experiments. In fact, I’m not sure if I’m really using the correct word, “experiments.” Here it goes:
I think I first heard about cryotherapy on the Joe Rogan Experience podcast and since figuring out how to get used to the cold after returning from the jungle was on the to-do list, I started doing some research. It’s a relatively new thing some people are claiming has benefits for your mind and body. In fact, there are cryotherapy clinics popping up all over the place so there seems to be a demand.
I’m NOT a scientist and I DON’T have the time to do extensive research on cryotherapy. I AM a fishing guide with limited disposable income, and I DO have access to some extremely cold conditions. Plus, I’m always down to learn and experience new things.
While laying on the floor of my attic in front of an open window, I had a ton of time to think. Oh yeah, my attic isn’t insulated so it’s the perfect cryochamber…right? One of my revelations while lying there was that for me, being cold was like being angry.
It was a negative feeling that I could negotiate through relaxation and breathing exercises. There were times I was in near zero temperatures for over 30 minutes with nothing but a pair of gym shorts on. Don’t believe me? Ask my wife and daughter – the past few days confirmed their suspicions that I am insane.
What does this mean/what’s the value of this information? Not much…I guess that how we “decide” to perceive the world has some bearing on our reaction to it. The laws of physics, whatever they are, I’m sure apply/create limitations. I’m just not all that confident that we have the slightest clue what those limitations are.
Prior to starting this, I believed I’d freeze my ass of. Having finished it, I guess I’m better acclimated to the cold. Plus – I now know what it feels like to go from warm to near hypothermic and how it affects my mind/thoughts/physical ability/etc.
As a species, we evolved in harsh conditions that tested our mental and physical limits. Maybe those tests enhanced our connection to the natural world. Maybe those tests released hormones in our body that stimulated a survival response – one that made us think of ways to avoid feeling that way again. I think testing your own physical and mental limits, somewhat regularly, is valuable for getting in touch with something a bit more primordial than what we experience in our daily lives. Consider the alternative – acquiescence to the shack nasties/stagnation.
I was a supply chain manager and fiscal officer in the Marine Corps many years ago. I mention this because for years I’ve managed budgets big and small, complicated and simple – this includes my own. It’s in my nature to be curious about numbers so managing budgets is fun and interesting to me.
You might think the charter business budget is the most interesting for me to track considering it’s my livelihood. However, it’s still a very new data set and therefore difficult to get deep into determining trends. I maintain strict accountability of all earnings and expenses but for now, I’m still gathering and analyzing data.
In contrast to the business expenditures, our household spending trends are well documented across numerous years. What bothers me most is how much money we spend on food. We eat pretty clean around the Shea household and unfortunately, it seems to be expensive to do so.
I’m not going to get into the numbers but eating clean puts our monthly expenditures on food at an uncomfortably high percentage of our monthly income. Monthly expenditures for food, rent/mortgage, vehicle payments, investments, and healthcare are all nearly equal. This has been our “normal” for quite a few years now so I felt compelled to shock the system by fasting and not buying food until the entire fridge was empty (not including condiments).
The decision to do this was sudden. I looked at the budget last week and said, “Damn, I spent a ton of money at Federal Meats and Whole Foods the last few months. Did we need all that food?” So, without looking, I made the decision that I’d live exclusively off of what was in our refrigerator/freezer…until it was all gone…before going food shopping.
We don’t typically store a ton of food in our refrigerator/freezer so it only took 3 days to consume it all. However, I stretched the timeline by skipping meals and reducing quantities. Honestly, I could’ve finished off our stores in about a day.
Even though I reduced caloric intake during this period, I maintained excellent energy levels. I also got hungrier than I’ve been in recent memory but for some reason felt awesome at the same time.
Like the thoughts I had on cryotherapy – I think there’s value in subjecting your body and mind to adversity for all the same reasons. Try fasting sometime. Pay attention to when you’re hungry. What do you crave? Something sugary or fatty or salty? Look in the mirror – you’re an addict. How do you act? Getting cranky, can’t compose thoughts, tired? That sounds eerily like withdrawal.
Just like being cold, something as simple as what you eat and when you eat it can influence your mood. That’s probably something worth paying attention to or at least having some self-awareness about before engaging other humans…any activity for that matter.
It was interesting how much energy I had when I got over the mental hurdle of being/feeling hungry. Again, like being cold, there was a huge mental aspect to it. Sure, there is a physical limit – before performance decreases and general health declines. However, I’m still not sure I’ve ever been to that limit. Have you? You would think that once you determine how far/long you can go without sustenance, all you need to do is consume slightly more than that to optimize performance. For some reason, this is insanely hard to do today unless you make a concerted effort to do so.
Finally – forget about food for a second – what monthly cost can you “shock” just to see what happens? If food isn’t it, what about recreation, booze, drugs, investments, etc.? A good shock always creates opportunities to learn.
More Shack Nasty Avoidance Ideas
If you made it this far – thank you for reading. Hopefully it was a quick way to alleviate the shack nasties. Here are a few more experiments I messed around with:
Getting 8 hours of sleep every night – awesome! Gotta make this a priority.
Staring out the window – sometimes, I had to marvel at what was going on out there with the wind, cold, and snow. It was beautiful. I was also monitoring my driveway and trying to decide how often to shovel.
Checking in on the river – that was a daily thing. It’s been a mess but cool to see as a natural phenomenon.
Gearing up for the spring/summer – stocking up on bass and walleye supplies, purchasing new clothing and recycling old clothing.
Hope is in the Forecast
This will have been the longest string of days in the past 2 years that we haven’t fished. I pick up the new boat this week and will be on the water getting her slimed up as soon as it’s clear enough. The forecast looks promising. Although I learned quite a few things during this “polar vortex,” none more important than the fact that shack nasties aren’t inevitable if you have a plan. Especially if your plan involves making it a point to get out of your comfort zone. Give us a call – we have the perfect way to help you out!
The 2019 Guyana Trip was a success! My colleagues couldn’t make it happen this year so I traveled alone. That allowed me to do a couple different things around the country before heading into the jungle to fish, which gave me a greater appreciation for the beauty of Guyana. Going without the companionship of my bros from back home also put me in the position of having to pair up with another angler, Jay Samm from the UK, who was also traveling solo for this journey. It worked out wonderfully and solidified the idea that angling adventures can enhance existing bonds between friends/colleagues and help to create new ones.
Getting into the Jungle for Guyana Trip 2019
I arrived a few days early compared to last year in order to take the trail up. What’s the trail? Long story short – to get to the jungle/where we fish, you have 2 ways to get in reach of the river. Flying or driving. Both will get you to where you can get on the water – then, it’s a boat ride to get you to camp.
Last year, Nate and I took the air route. Chuck and Mike were forced to go via ground due to flight delays getting into Guyana from JFK. Their account of the ground route – although somewhat horrific sounding – was a great story. In a weird way, I was somewhat envious of their experience and wanted to see if I could get a little slice of the same drama this go around.
The Trail – A Different Route for Guyana Trip 2019
The trail didn’t disappoint. We departed around 5:00PM and made the 11hour push – I’d provide pics but it was dark and I faded in and out of consciousness. All I can say is it’s kind of like what I imagine early trade routes looked like in the US.
There were small hamlets along the way offering everything a weary traveler could want. Well, if you’re easy to please in a primal, borderline lawless kind of way. The “road” was fraught with huge holes filled with water of unknown depths. The “bridges” seemingly held on by strands or a couple planks. As insane as using this trail as a major north/south line of communication sounds, the locals make it work. Throughout the drive we helped others in jams and saw many more receiving aid. It’s a community that uses it and there’s kind of a unity among its travelers. Bottom line – it was awesome. So cool I’m contemplating making that a part of my schedule on future trips.
Seeing the Savannas
After the sun came up on the trail and we finally made it to our staging area (Letham, Guyana) it was time to pull ourselves together and prepare for jungle life. Because I was a couple days early before the rest of the group arrived, I took the time to acclimate, rest, and see some of the mountains between running errands. My host and the outfitter of our excursion, Jules Fredricks, showed me around his family cattle ranches in the Savanna region of Guyana.
On par with the rest of the remote regions of Guyana, the “roads” are really trails so getting to these ranches was part of the journey. Careful navigation throughout these road networks came with a slow pace and a ton of time to take in the scenery. I had no idea there was this kind of beauty in Guyana.
Golden stretches of grassland surrounded by mountains and trees were in constant view. Native tribesmen dressed in traditional cowboy garb lassoed cattle and pulled them to the ground for branding. Subsistence farming was everywhere. People were always smiling and waving. The beauty and simplicity of it all was refreshing…soothing. I’m so happy Jules took me on that little voyage – it gave me a whole new picture of the country.
Into the Jungle
I’m not going to write much about the fishing. I did that last year – click here for details. Just like last year – we caught many fish and I finally landed an arowana – a fish only one of us (Mike) caught last time. We also landed a ton of catfish. What was different about this year is that I went exclusively native with my diet.
Back home in the U.S., most of us take much time to consider where your food is coming from. Often times, we go to the grocery store, restaurant, or fast food joint, grab food, cook it, eat it, and dispose of the scraps. That’s obviously not how things work in the jungle.
Going Native with the Diet
Going native means you have to harvest your food daily, prepare it for cooking, and cook it up. It’s a constant pressure that’s always there. Only you can fulfill your body’s need for sustenance and the only way to do so is either by hunting or fishing. Both these activities take time and skill – an efficiency that’s essential for survival.
The act of hunting and fishing costs calories so the payout has to be big or you’ll just end up hungrier than when you started. Your senses need to be dialed in to what’s going on around you in a kind of primordial way. It’s awesome because if you put yourself in this situation, getting primordial sort of just happens. If your mind has any clutter going into a trip like this, going native on your diet will clear it all out. Having fun while trying to fill your belly dominates your consciousness.
Becoming a hunter gatherer for a couple weeks is also interesting because it gets you in touch with your body. When you shed all the “drug like” dependencies us westerners have for processed foods – it can feel like withdrawal. Once you get passed that, everything you eat or consider trying to capture to eat comes with a calculus – how much energy will this yield and for how long? How much is enough? When am I really hungry or just bored? When should I pursue my quarry? How?
The Outcome of the 2019 Guyana Trip
I went into this trip very lean but still ended up shedding 5 lbs – probably from my gut (intestines) and some water. My new angling bro, Jay, and I both stayed relatively well fed. We put in time and were able to make it all work. Plus – Jules is an incredible camp cook who taught us some delicious game recipes we were delighted to stuff in our faces.
Another benefit of spending all this time hunting and gathering was how much I learned about my angling abilities. I fished on the fly and with conventional tackle. Casting for over 10 days really dials in ones skills. I learned to appreciate the subtle differences in medium heavy and medium light spinning rods. I learned my ideal leader sizes and strengths for certain flies. I improved my flipping game a bit. I got pretty damn good at walking the dog.
Why can’t we hairless apes avoid the negative aspects of tribalism? Acting superior without thought or basis, rushing to judge, haplessly tossing labels around, etc. All that counterproductive, generally negative behavior even manifests in our recreational pursuits. As a community of anglers, we need to consider how all this inter-tribal rivalry looks from the non-angling population. Especially to those that are considering getting into fishing. We owe it to ourselves to work with one another/try to understand one another in order to demonstrate the overall benefits of this primordial pursuit to would-be future anglers. For the sake of the sport…for the sake of our environment.
What am I Talking About?
Where is all of this coming from? I’m not going to waste my time providing examples tribalism within the angling community. Every angler reading this knows exactly what I’m talking about. There are what amounts to 3 large tribes in the angling community:
Within these 3 general groupings, there are thousands of sub-tribes with their own rivalries and distinct languages. Moreover, one could easily come up with a different, overall tribal grouping. An example could be catch-and-release anglers and harvesters. The names of the tribes and their associations don’t matter. The community of anglers is rife with tribalism. The argument that follows suits every level of inter- and intra- tribal behavior.
People get into fishing for many different reasons. Some enjoy it right away or at a minimum, find it interesting enough to decide to pursue the passion of angling as a personal endeavor. Maybe because their virgin angling experience involved great weather and a ton of fish. Maybe because that first time on the water opened their eyes to how fishing helps relieve stress. Whatever the reason, many people continue to fish for the rest of their life after that first time on the water.
Consider these budding anglers as a blank slate. Someone, or a small group of people, will form and shape that individual’s growth. Unfortunately, far too many beginning anglers start off with mentors that are deeply tribal, hell I’ll say it, radical and close minded in their beliefs. Perhaps a little naively, these new anglers adopt the ideals and beefs of the tribe with little to no thought.
Why Does this Happen?
Newcomers to a community want aid, encouragement, and mentorship at most and ambivalence at least from the other members. The act of associating with or considering oneself a part of a specific community/tribe implies a desire for some sort of acceptance. A pride of belonging. Such behavior is completely understandable. However, I am imploring all newcomers to think and ask questions before giving yourself a label.
Regardless of one’s reasons for deciding to get into angling, everyone wants to enjoy it. Tribal drama, both on and off the water, is an impediment to the enjoyment one should experience while fishing. If one engages in tribal drama, one will miss out on what should be an enriching and enjoyable activity.
Try to Rise Above the Fray
You can avoid tribalism and fishing, or be a casual observer of the behavior, by becoming a generalist. There is no “best” way to fish. There are hundreds of methods with hundreds of their own variations. All have advantages and disadvantages, and all have radical, tribal instigators.
Ignore anyone who claims, “it only counts if you catch a fish _____.” I’ve seen that statement many times on Instagram. Every time I do, I want to throw up. ONLY COUNTS TOWARDS WHAT?!?!? Here’s my message to anyone who uses a line like this:
Is your ego so frail that you have to make up some bullshit competition that only you can win because the other competitors don’t even know you’re playing a game? OR are you just copying a hashtag someone you admire used and now you’re doing it because you think it makes you “cool?”
New anglers should also avoid anyone who claims superiority of method. As I mentioned above – there is no best way to fish. The word best is completely subjective. What’s the definition of the word, “best?” Does best mean most effective? Most effective toward what end? Catching the most fish? Catching the biggest fish? Providing the greatest amount of fulfillment? Only the participant can answer that question and that question is best answered through exposure to a multitude of experiences.
There is a ton to learn in the pursuit of our quarry. Why not exchange best practices instead of putting someone down who does things differently? If you think this idea is too soft and sensitive, then just don’t engage. If your ego is so frail that you really need to hype yourself up, please try doing it in a way that doesn’t claim superiority. It’s easy – just set an exemplary example.
Where Does Brookdog Fishing Company Fall?
We started as generalists and remain generalists. A hunger to continue learning and developing relationships with fishy people keeps us motivated. We’re disgusted by tribal superiority complexes. We’re disturbed by hapless judgements and the casting of labels.
We just want to fish and have a good time. Sometimes we use fly tackle. Other times we use spinning tackle. We put casting gear to use. We troll. Every once in a blue moon we’ll bust out the Tenkara rods. We’ve also been known to fish under floats. It’s all fun. It all works. Sometimes one works better than the other. Sometimes they all work the same. Every time it’s a blast.
We don’t always, “keep ‘em wet” – we respect the hero shot for the memory of the experience it provides to our clients and friends. Besides, sometimes we eat the fish we catch so when we plan on doing so, why would we “keep-em-wet?” They are going right into the live well with severed gills moments after that photo and into the skillet a few hours after that. Sometimes, we’re voyeurs of nature that help people trick our quarry into eating what’s on the end of the line in order to experience a fight and/or connect to something wild.
Stay Drama Free
Label us and others however you want. It really doesn’t matter to us as we don’t pay too much attention to all the drama. However, occasionally, we feel compelled to offer our angling colleagues a different way of thinking when we notice a negative trend. So here is our take on tribalism and angling: avoid it…don’t align yourself with a tribe. Just be a person who wants to fish and enjoy drama free days on the water. Well…I guess that’s kind of a tribe of its own.
No…I am not going to go on another rant about avoiding the shack nasties. Hopefully, you understand our perspective on how remaining cooped up all winter is a recipe for a slow, yet assured, descent into depression…or worse. I would like to dedicate some time to challenging a few paradigms about charter fishing in the winter. I’m writing this in order to inform locals about a few natural wonders that go on in their back yard ONLY in winter. It’s also my hope that non-locals will read this and find it so interesting that they feel compelled to visit. Here we go…
That Initial Shock
In our previous blog, we discussed reasons why winter fishing is not crazy. In fact, we concluded that it’s completely sane. Here, I want to get to the root of why people seem to instinctually respond this way. Last week, a client remarked that he was surprised to see so many people fishing in the winter. The shoreline in Devils Hole and Art Park was lined with a strong number of anglers. The River was lined with numerous charter boats and recreational anglers.
To someone witnessing and participating in this for the first time, I can see why it seemed a little foreign. If I asked you to picture yourself skiing, even if you’ve never done it before, some image will likely pop into your mind. I think the popularity and presence in popular media make this possible. The same might be the case if I asked you to picture tailgating at a Bills game. Or ice fishing in a hut.
Winter sports and many other outdoor activities are popular in areas that experience freezing temperatures and snow. This is why it’s understandable that people can conjure images of these activities. However, if I asked you to picture yourself floating down the canyon of a river in a comfortable boat while catching big, beautiful, trout, you might start twitching. Your reaction would be like Harland Williams in There’s Something About Mary. You know – that scene when Ben Stiller shattered his and dreams during a discussion about the length of ab workout videos.
A Winter Fishing Charter is Completely Foreign…for Good Reason
I think the reason it’s so difficult to imagine something like this is because it’s only possible in a few places in the world. Think about this for a second. How many places can you think of where a massive strait is moving water from one inland/freshwater ocean to another? That’s an immense amount of water to consider. I had clients from Maine here last winter who were blown away and slightly frightened by the size of the Niagara. When there is that much water moving around, even though it gets incredibly cold, it keeps on flowing.
Water that cold takes on a greenish hue that’s difficult to describe. After Lake Erie freezes, it’ll run gin clear nearly every day. Sometimes, one can see steelhead, lake trout, and walleyes peeling away from the boat in over 20 ft of water. It’s kind of surreal.
It Makes Sense if You’re Concerned – but Get Over It
Aside from how foreign floating down a near frozen river in cold temperatures seems to one’s imagination, there is a rational fear or kind of a cringe in response to the idea. “Why would anyone in their right mind expose themselves to water when it’s cold outside?” I get it – but consider this:
Don’t Concern Yourself with the Thought of “Getting Wet”
One rarely, if ever, gets wet on a winter charter trip. The occasional light spray may occur but nothing that has any noticeable adverse effect. In other words – getting wet isn’t an issue. Think about it – when was the last time you heard about someone fishing from a boat in the winter that got hypothermia? If your charter captain knows what he/she is doing, the thought of getting wet passes within minutes of boarding the vessel and driving upstream.
It’s Likely You Already Have the Right Gear to Do This
Even though your chances of getting wet (in an uncomfortable way – hell, your hands better get wet after holding the fish you catch) are low, one still needs to respect Mother Nature and dress accordingly. Often times, this is the biggest obstacle. Many people believe they don’t have the clothing that will allow them to go fishing in the winter.
What you are really saying is that you don’t have clothing that will allow you to spend a few hours outdoors in the winter. Because that’s all it takes for you to go on a charter trip in the winter. If you don’t have that kind of clothing, well, that’s kind of crazy. If you live where freezing temperatures and snow storms are likely and you don’t have clothing that’ll allow you to spend a few hours outside, you need to rethink your situation. Any outfit you’d wear for a long walk outside will work. Warm socks, boots, layers for top and bottom, and a shell or coat that’ll shield you from the wind.
You may be imagining yourself, fully exposed, getting pelted with snow. Clear that image out. Generally, unless we have particularly hearty clients, we won’t fish when the snow is really coming down. Visibility becomes an issue as does deck safety. This is just another way of me saying that you’re likely more prepared to go on a charter fishing trip in the winter.
Consider this as well – the high yesterday was in the mid-20s. The “normal” reaction to that temperature is to think, “It’s too damn cold to go outside.” BUT…it was sunny, and snow was melting everywhere. If you bothered to walk around outside for a bit, you likely noticed that it was comfortable, even with minimal layering. In other words, you should challenge yourself to think differently about what weather conditions are pleasant and which ones are not this time of year.
You’ll Be Rewarded for Taking the Chance
If you overcome the mental obstacles to getting out there and you make a little wardrobe adjustment, you can reap an immense reward. You can experience catching large, beautiful trout, in spawning colors, in an incredibly beautiful setting. The upcoming cold-weather months are the only time of year you can see something like this.
From the perspective of most people who hire a charter captain for a trip, it’s just great to be out there, making memories with their friends. That’s the business my colleagues and I are in – creating an experience that will stay with you for a long time (we hope).
After all, winter is the season of the holidays. People tend to get together far more often and/or connect with family they haven’t seen in a long time. What are you going to do with your tribe? Sit around and watch TV? Eat some food? Go to a movie? Drink beer? Cool…I guess. For a couple days maybe. Even if that sounds incredible, break your days up a bit, get some fresh air, recharge the liver and fight some fish.
Consider a Winter Fishing Charter…That’s All We’re Asking
As residents of the region, we are aware that winter in Buffalo Niagara is rife with opportunities to have fun outdoors. If you already have a hobby/activity that eats up those few weekends where weather will allow you to get out there, you may not have time for a charter (although, we hope you can fit it in at some point).
If you don’t have a winter hobby but are considering getting into something instead of rotting indoors, I hope this article made you think about taking a charter fishing trip this winter. Let me rant really quick – I don’t care if you are hitting the gym daily throughout the winter, you’re still going to end up unhealthy if you don’t get outside – O.K., rant over.
I’m not going to bore you with numbers and statistics. I would like to encourage you to compare taking a few charter fishing trips this winter to some other options to get outside. I’m confident you’ll find that winter charter trips are an extremely economical, convenient, and extraordinarily enriching option. We hope you’ll give us a call or do some research to challenge or confirm this idea.
Every fall, after the leaves are gone and we start to see winter creeping up, we discuss the topic of shack nasties. See here for the definition. This year isn’t going to be any different. Consider it an annual public service announcement. If the shock of cold weather hasn’t hit you yet, it will soon. The forecast for the next week or so is looking somewhat grim for those that fear freezing weather. Use this shock and seasonal adaption period to kick you into action – start making plans to stay moving over the next few months.
Shack Nasties are Starting to Set In
I can already feel the crazy crawling up my spine. I went from fishing 20+ days per month for 6 months to suddenly…a couple days per week. The weather here in Buffalo Niagara has been a bit rough for a few weeks now and I wasn’t ready for the transition to frigid temps and numerous unfishable days.
Leading up to the start of November, it seemed like it rained nearly every day of salmon season yet almost every day had fishable conditions. Then, things got a bit more challenging. Big wind, rain, snow, ice, mud, and waves became the norm. The big water only had a 2-day window earlier this week where clarity was good enough to fish from the boat. Other than that, it’s been in rough shape for nearly 2 weeks. The tribs, both Ontario and Erie, have been hit or miss as well (unless you want to fish the shoulder-to-shoulder water).
Fighting them off the only way I Know How
Exercise and bowling are my cures for the shack nasties when fishing isn’t an option. Sure, I’ll get out to do some site seeing, take part in a seasonal Tonawanda pub crawl, go out to eat, see some movies, etc. but those aren’t routine activities. At best, most of these activities will encompass a few hours in any given month. What about all the rest of the time you aren’t sleeping, working, or on the water?
The best cure for shack nasties is an activity that forces you to move vigorously every day coupled with an activity that’s somewhat new for you. This new activity should be a challenge to learn and extraordinarily difficult to perfect. Exercise and bowling are my choices but there are countless options.
The next 4-6 months will present ample time for you to get in peak physical condition. When the weather is frigid or downright hostile, gyms or exercise clubs are a great place to spend an hour. I recently joined an Orange Theory gym near me. I’m not necessarily a devotee to their philosophy however, it’s something new and committing to classes is a way to hold myself accountable. Daily vigorous activity…check!
Get into a routine. Occupy that space once filled with after work fun in the sun during the summer months with something that taxes you physically. If a gym isn’t possible due to your location (don’t use budget as an excuse, there are countless gyms around that charge $10/month), train in your house/garage. You can build an ample gym in your garage for less than $200. Don’t believe me, shoot me a message and I’ll show you what I did.
I only bowl from November through April. I’m horrible but I enjoy it. By April I am OK but it all falls apart during the other 6 months. I particularly enjoy going by myself at 10:00AM on a weekday. I go at this hour for a couple of reasons. First and foremost, I’m nearly guaranteed to encounter a variety of interesting patrons. Second, the prices are usually cheap. Finally, because so few people will be there, you can get a lane for yourself…away from everyone.
Bowling is one of those activities that, if taken seriously, can be therapeutic. Something akin to target shooting. Yes…I just compared bowling to shooting weapons. Balance, proper mechanics, control, aim, poise, etc. all play a roll in these kinds of activities. One must engage the mind and the body to achieve maximum effect. Done in conjunction with an exercise routine, mind-body engaging activities will keep your mind sharp and your body limber. This is crucial for keeping the shack nasties at bay.
Whether it’s 25 or 95 – it’s Just Another Day, Dress Accordingly
In my opinion, getting outside for an extended period during the winter months is the best cure for shack nasties. After all, it’s the shack that’s making you nasty. During casual conversation with summer clients or friends of friends, etc. people frequently comment how crazy it must be to fish in the winter. The conversation usually goes like this:
Random “Non-Winter” Angler: “You fish in the winter around here? That’s crazy? Don’t you freeze?” Me: “Do you think it’s crazy to attend outdoor sporting events in the winter?” RNWA: “No.” Me: “So why is it crazy to go fishing?” RNWA: no response…but hopefully a ponderous look.
Understandably, people have a hard time associating outdoor winter fun with water-oriented activities. Sliding down snow- and ice-covered hills with a board or 2 sticks attached to your feet is somehow sane, but fishing isn’t. It’s also perfectly sane to consume alcohol (a body temperature lowering substance), in a snow-covered parking lot for a few hours followed by consuming more alcohol while sitting around an arena watching large humans move a ball up and down a field for a few more hours. Bottom line, if you dress accordingly and manipulate your environment to make it as comfortable as possible, it doesn’t matter what the temperature is outside (within reason – safety first), you can make a good time happen.
Winter Fishing in Buffalo Niagara
The winter solstice is officially a month away. That means the fall is 2/3s over. The temperatures lately have the feel of winter through and signs of the winter pattern are emerging. All the tributaries are already full of trout as is the Niagara River. Brown trout and lake trout are in spawn mode and are about to become ravenous. Steelhead are around in huge numbers in the lower Niagara River, starting to show up more and more on the Ontario tribs, and are flowing well into the Erie tribs.
Typically, winter fishing in Buffalo Niagara will yield the biggest and hardest fighting fish of the year. This winter will be no different. We’re very encouraged by what we’ve seen so far. If you want to experience it first hand instead of reading the fishing reports on a tiny screen, give us a call. Tight lines.
It’s late summer people. Even I have to kick myself in the butt to shake the late summer lull. If you’re a resident of the great lakes region, you do everything you can to maximize your summer. Why do we behave this way you westerners and southerners may ask? Because our winters are harsh and some of us hibernate. The problem with this way of life is that many of us take it too hard during the first few months of summer. So hard that by now, mid-August, many of us are worn out. Shake off that late summer lull my friends. There’s still a few weeks of fun remaining.
A Recent Revelation
A couple days ago, I was tying leaders on my boat in my driveway when I felt something. It was something I haven’t experienced in quite some time – a chill. The breeze blew, clouds shrouded the sun, and I got a little chill down my spine. I experienced something similar yesterday when I was fishing with my daughter. It was warmer in the river than outside. Today – I wore a hoody during the morning commute to Lake Erie.
The morning and evening temperatures seem a bit cooler. Days are getting a bit shorter. It’s late summer alright. Do you feel it? Although many of us have had incredible summers thus far, a sense of urgency should be on the creep. There are only a few weeks left until the kids go back to school and schedules start getting a bit more complex. Now is the time to get a second (or third or fourth) wind and get the most out of this last month of summer.
These emotional peaks and valleys us great lakes folks experience define our culture in a way. We take pride in the fact that we can cram a ton of fun into a short period. We work hard and party harder. Delayed gratification is THE ONLY WAY to truly enjoy something. Having something to look forward to fuels our work ethic – I just gotta grind a bit more and then all will be well. Personally, I wouldn’t have it any other way. Still – there’s one month left before we really start seeing some change and I want to maximize every bit of it.
It’s Late Summer – Steelhead…Really!?!
It’s been happening more and more lately. Although it’s late summer, social media has been simmering with TBTs and old pics of people gripping and grinning steelhead. There is a substantial faction of the angling community who are already thinking about the fall run. Unfortunately, these folks are missing out on some awesome, late summer angling, going on right now.
My friends, the stockers can wait. Don’t fret – the leaves will change, snow will fall, it’ll get cold, and steelhead will show up. They will also stay around for 7+months so you’ll be able to fill that emotional void and keep it full for quite some time. For now, get outside and enjoy our late summer action on the big water. Flip flops, a choice beverage, and a quick dip into the water to cool off every once in awhile. Don’t have a boat? Give us a call – we can help you out.
Observations from the Water
Smallmouth bass are starting to strap on the feedbags. Like us, they have been in a bit of a late summer lull but that’s changing. I’m guessing they sense that the days are getting shorter and that’s triggering them to pack on the pounds before the water gets cold and prey species become less available.
Higher water temperatures make them want to work a lot less for their food, so they are chowing down on easy meals around rocks and structure. Half-digested crawfish and gobys have been showing up on the deck of the boat – little donations from the stomachs of boated smalljaws.
We’ve also been doing a lot of walleye fishing. This is a new game for us but were getting it dialed in. From talking to my colleagues, this has been a banner year. Although I don’t have a frame of reference, it’s been fantastic. They are such an excellent eating fish. So much so that I’m going on a walleye only diet for a week. I’ll get ripped – watch!
I also went out with Matt Yablonski of Wet Net Charters for my first summer king trip. Those fish are incredibly strong – a different animal than the ones we’ll be catching in the lower river in about a month.
Plan for Next Week
Bookings are a bit light. That doesn’t matter though as we’ll be on the water anyway. Bass and walleye will continue to be the focus. The forecast looks excellent. Get out there and enjoy it while you still can. If you want to spend some of that time on the water – give us a call!
The adage that it is not about the destination it’s about the journey sounds cliché when you’re young. (Yeah – this is going to be another philosophical piece so if you want the fish porn, scroll to the bottom and check out the pics). Watch, someone will comment that I’m still young (I’m 40).
I may be young compared to many but I’m old in the eyes of my colleagues in their 20s and probably on the older side of the guide community. I digress…the point is that when I set goals when was in my 20s it was all about accomplishing them. As I’ve matured, I’m beginning to realize that the journey is much more important.
The Foundation vs the Journey
When I was in the military, I wore my accomplishments on my chest in the form of badges or medals. Few cared how I received them (I barely did) – it was typical male boastfulness on full display. Kind of like a male peacock spreading it’s feathers or a male brown trout with a huge kype jaw. The display was as much about impressing other dudes as it was to impress the opposite sex.
These days, it’s far less about boasting (I still have an ego – it’s just less dominating nowadays) and more about how I internalize the experiences the journey of life provides. In recent years, I’ve found that reflecting on the journey, living in the moment, makes life much more fulfilling.
The 50 before I Turn 50 Goal
Something like 15 years ago, when I first began fly fishing, I dove in head first. With typical male, testosterone laden thought, I wanted to prove to everyone I encountered that I wasn’t some chump. I wanted to prove that I could fish among the best anglers and make a name for myself.
Since I was in the military and I moved around a lot, the best way I could come up with to do this was to fish as many places as possible, learn as many techniques as possible, and catch as many species as possible. Admittedly, it was all about chalking states and bodies of water – something like earning medals in the military.
With chalking in mind, I began recording my endeavors in an excel spreadsheet – a brag sheet I could bust out like a resume if anyone challenged my abilities. Within a year or so, the idea of catching a fish on the fly in all 50 states before I turned 50 became a goal. It made sense – what better way to test my skills and learn a ton while doing so all while having a statement I could boast to people in conversation.
Goal Setting Isn’t Necessarily All Bad
This mindset had some benefits. It helped me plan trips every year. It kept me focused. It placed a timeline out there for which to hold myself accountable. All tenants of effective campaign planning in the military. However, it wasn’t until a couple years ago that I realized that I was too focused on the goal and not what was happening before my eyes.
Every journey exposed me to new and interesting people. Each journey took me to new and wonderful slices of nature – all distinct yet the same in some ways. As I made myself reflect on these experiences, I realized how lucky I am to have a passion and to have the opportunity to meet others on their own journey that share the same passion.
Oh – I’m still going to accomplish that goal. Partially for some of the same reasons I set out to accomplish it back in my 20s. However, the journey has become my focus nowadays. The travel. The people. The fish. The environment. Hell, if that wasn’t genuinely my focus, the journey could end up being a grueling endeavor.
Case in Point
I was in Martha’s Vineyard this past weekend with my wife fishing with Abbie Schuster of Kismet Outfitters. How did I end up in Martha’s Vineyard? I was trying to chalk Massachusetts, of course…and what better way to do so than with a striper on the MA coast? The problem with using weekend bangers to chalk new water is that Mother Nature can foil your plans pretty easily.
As Abbie, Justin, my wife, and I fought big wind and rough seas trying to find fish, I found myself smiling – almost laughing out loud at the hand Mother Nature dealt us. The conversation flowed. We laughed at the situation. We exchanged stories and had a genuinely great time – with few fish to show for it. The journey was the center of attention – landing a blue fish on the fly and chalking MA was icing on the cake. If we skunked – whatevs – we would just come back next year. But we didn’t skunk, and I’ll be back anyway.
Observations from the Water (20180715 – 20180721)
The bass bite has been awesome lately. I don’t really need to say much more than that. They have been where they are supposed to be – deep buckets near shoals and on sandy bottom with good rocks. Both the river and eastern Lake Erie have been fishing extremely well. The bass have been packing on all the weight they lost during the spawn. I’ll let the pictures tell it.
Plan for This Week (20180722 – 20180728)
We’re booked every day. We will continue to fish Lake Erie with a little bit of the river mixed in. Give us a call if you want to get on the water. The bass action will continue to be excellent for the months to come.