We Have To Go…

It was a Rubik’s cube of calendars; a six-sided complex puzzle and I’d become a major part of the scramble.  Matt Jennings from Fishing BC was trying to organize a fishing trip between me, Katy Watson of Northern Outback Adventures, photographer Jeremy Koreski, videographer Brandon Kelly, a helicopter pilot and, of course, the fish themselves.  At the rate we were heading, we’d all be in alignment by 2019.

Matt’s pitch was almost impossible to decline.  In short, Katy had contacted Matt about a northern B.C. bull trout fishery she’d heard about that had little to no foot access in its upper stretches.  She’d received her information from a biologist who’d flown in to do some studies on the species (via catch and release methods with spoons).  More specifically, “large, up to 40 inches, and unlikely to have seen a fly before”, is how it was presented to her.

“We have to go”, was the response.

Koreski Vokey 13

Katy was looking to further explore the myth of the large untouched bulls and she was looking for some angler friends to join her.  I was six months pregnant, rapidly approaching steelhead season, and unaware (at the time) that Katy was the enquiring outfitter.  As soon as Matt dropped her name, I dropped my conflicting schedule and before long, the pieces fell together until we were on our way to meet her in Prince George.  The plan was to stay the night at Northern Outback Adventures (the Watson’s family lodge), where we’d be picked up by the helicopter and then depart for an exploratory trip the following morning.

Koreski Vokey 6

We only had the helicopter booked for one day, so the pressure was on.  The pilot, who’d flown in once or twice before, hadn’t done so in several years, and he was quick to let us know that the river was more than likely different than it was when he was there last. But the uncertainty only fuelled our curiosity and as we made the flight over steep terrain, glaciers, canyons and forested drops, we speculated about other rivers, fish migration, old logging roads, and how to best utilize the helicopter.

Koreski Vokey 9

I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t used a helicopter to fly into remote locations before, but it’d almost always been for a week’s worth of fishing or, at the very least, for a ride out after a full day’s hard trekking and wading.  My pregnant belly and excess weight pulled at my energy level, so I counted my blessings that we had the bird… until it occurred to me that we’d need to walk back up to it after fishing down through each stretch.

Eventually the cracks widened and the gullies opened until we were looking down into the headwaters of our destination.  We hadn’t seen any photos before and had no idea what to expect.  The water ran as clear as a New Zealand stream, yellow reflecting in the current from the rocks and rays of sun.  The river looked shallow, wadeable in almost every spot, impossible to hold any sizeable fish.  I’d fished rivers like this before… optical illusions where a two-foot depth turned to five without the eye ever picking up the difference.  My heart raced at the thought of large fish lurking behind boulders; gin-clear slots holding fish where I’d never seen bull trout before.  Rainbows and browns certainly, but not the infamous logjam dwelling bulls.

koreski Vokey 2

As excited as we were to land the helicopter as soon as we could, the tight access and broken water encouraged us to continue downstream to the safest landing spot and pool.  We found a spot decorated with several shadowy corners where the river hugged the bank, creating a trough of green water.  There was a decent sized landing area and we all held our breath as the pilot landed, picked up, repositioned, landed again, and then powered down.

Bull trout are notorious for taking large streamers suitable for pike.  I battled with my New Zealand nymph and dry fly experience, and I questioned what the best approach would be for a more aggressive species holding in the same water.

Should I swing?  Strip?  Use sink tips?  Approach the fish from behind?  Duck down to hide my skyline?  Time was limited… Perhaps sight fishing was our smartest option here?

My brain ran wild with techniques, appropriate gear, and a constant conflict of my past experience versus what I was presented with here.  So Katy and I decided to compromise.  I would fish stealthily with a single hand rod, floating line, and weighted, bunny streamer.  She would fish a two-hander, a tip, and similar “bitch of a fly” to cast.

koreski Vokey 1

We headed up to the deep corner, immediately pleased by the water’s depth and our inability to see the river bottom.  While Katy cast, I cut a wide birth through the treeline and headed down to the run’s tail-out.  Peering into the water, I slowly stalked my way upstream, searching for wagging tails, white mouths, and dark shapes.  Apart from rocks, I saw nothing.

We held a group meeting where we strategized our best bet moving forward.  So far, the only thing that had been eaten in this fishless run was our time, and we’d quickly come to realize that venturing downstream meant needing to take the time to hike back up — time we didn’t have.

And so the ideas flew:

But the biologists were using spoons, so maybe we need deeper, more “classic” bull trout water?”

“But he said it was gin clear.  Did he mean where they were fishing, or just the river in general?”

“What time of year were they in here?  Was there run-off from snow or rain?”

“Do these fish migrate?  If so, where would they have gone?”
Then, to the pilot, “is there a tributary or anywhere we can find some bigger, slightly murkier, water?”

Of all the above questions, we only found one answer.  “Yes”, he said, “there’s a tributary down a ways”.  

We made the decision to head downstream.

The river began to widen, its colour changing more to the glacial grey so often associated with productive bull trout habitat.  But as the river changed, so too did its access, and we started to wonder if we’d made a mistake.

The biologist had indeed said that there was no access where he’d been fishing.  Had he made a mistake?  Because as far as I could tell, I was looking at an outhouse and a fellow angler’s truck.  A truck?  Had this been a “city-biologist” who perceived no access as meaning logging roads and 4×4 terrain?  But it was too late to question any further.  The water looked great, we saw no one else fishing, and there was a convenient spot for the helicopter to land.  We were committed.

koreski Vokey 3

As the day ticked on, Katy and I hooked into some small bull trout — just enough to encourage us that we’d made the right move.  In the back of our heads we remembered that it’d been a spoon that lured in the big boys, and so we played with our depth, fly size, and, eventually, asked the pilot to fish the spoon rod behind us.  Where were these fish?  The pieces weren’t aligning, and I concluded that the August weather and river levels were to blame.  The fish must have pushed elsewhere.

Tick, tick, tick, the hand on my watch taunted.  Tick, tick, tick, my temper teetered on snapping with every backcast that hooked into the tight over-hanging brush behind me.  Tick, tick, tick, my pregnant belly reminded me to take it steady and try to ration just how much river we covered.  We were running out of time and I was running out of patience.  Reeling in, we asked if we could try one more spot upstream in the clear water that, admittedly, we didn’t have enough faith in at the day’s start.

Hesitation crossed our pilot’s face, his eyes glancing at the clock.  “Ten casts,” we promised.  Trying to sound believable.  But he was an outdoorsman himself.  He knew the “ten casts” schtick.  His eyebrows raised.  “OK, ten minutes… seriously, no more than ten minutes.”  He agreed and we loaded up.

Koreski Vokey 10

The pressure was intense.  We had one spot to choose.  If we chose too soon, we risked flying over what could have been “the one.”  If we chose too late, we might pass up on water that haunted us over dinner that night.  Now that we had a better understanding of the river’s specs from both air and ground, we opted to pass on the structured bouldery runs, focusing instead on clear troughs hugging tight against ledge rock; a perfect compromise of the river’s upper and lower stretches.

The helicopter blades had hardly finished their rotation before the four of us were geared up and racing upstream to the head of the run.  First cast, perfect swing, two steps down, nothing.  I cast again.  The line went tight and my reel broke the silence, quickly replacing it with the heavy pressure of “do not mess this up.”

Koreski Vokey 15

As with all fishing, a balance of focus and tension brought the fish to hand, its wide tail and vibrant spots magnificent against the clear blue water.  We captured a photo, watched quietly as it swam back to the comfort of the ledge rock, and then took a moment to congratulate each other for finally finding the large fish the biologist was talking about.  We had less than eight minutes left in the countdown and were hopeful we might get Katy into a fish as well.

Koreski Vokey 12

Koreski Vokey 11

Then the real excitement began.  As Katy cast, I walked slightly downstream to see what I could spot.  Sure enough, in the current behind a large submerged rock lay an absolute pig of a fish.  Its tail glowed red, bright red, a fiery beacon under cool water.  It was bigger than mine, undisturbed, swaying in the flow, thick sides rounded like a pregnant mare in the meadow.  “Oh my God…” I dropped low as if avoiding the helicopter rotors and tiptoed back up to Katy as if the fish might hear me.  Pointing out the part of the ledge rock from which the fish sat out from, I gave her a general idea of its whereabouts, then proceeded to go back downstream to give her feedback on the fish’s reaction to her fly.  But as I snuck back to watch the show, I noticed yet another enormous fish just a few inches back from the red-tail beast!  This one was silver and almost as large.  My stomach did a flip and my speech hastened to a bossy shout in all the excitement.

“More left!”

“Cast further upstream!”

“Yup!  Yup!  Yup!  He’s on it!  Wait for it!”

He followed her streamer aggressively, a submarine with an open mouth, out of his lie and close to the bank.  It was all too much to bear, and Katy couldn’t see the reaction.  The fly was pulled back for the next cast and Jeremy and I crumbled in “aghs!”  Red-tail fish wanted her fly and he wanted it bad.  She cast again, and again he showed interest.  We all knew what we had to do.  We had to sit down for 10 minutes, wait it out, change flies, and start over.  We also had to fish below him to see if we might tempt one of his other inhabitants.  I’d spotted at least three more large bulls and was certain one was a biter.  But our pilot was now standing across the river in front of us, out of the fish’s sight, yet clearly in ours.

“We have to go.”

I could have cried.  We were so close.  The entire day flooded back to me, laced with “what ifs” and regret.  I understood that all good things must come to an end, but weren’t they supposed to at least start first?  We all knew what we could have done differently, but we also realized why we made the decisions we did.  It didn’t remove the bitter from the sweet.

A sobered triumph hung over our heads as we loaded up for departure.  After all, we were appreciative to have found the fish, but the reality of our schedules lining up anytime soon again were slim to none.  Realistically it would be a year before any of us could get back in there and each of us knew it.  So while silence filled the aircraft and reflection filled our heads, the theme of the trip inched its way into our conversation until it was more clear than it’d ever been before.

We had to go … back.

~April Vokey

Here’s a short video of our day:

The post We Have To Go… appeared first on April Vokey.

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We Have To Go…

It was a Rubik’s cube of calendars; a six-sided complex puzzle and I’d become a major part of the scramble.  Matt Jennings from Fishing BC was trying to organize a fishing trip between me, Katy Watson of Northern Outback Adventures, photographer Jeremy Koreski, videographer Brandon Kelly, a helicopter pilot and, of course, the fish themselves.  At the rate we were heading, we’d all be in alignment by 2019.

Matt’s pitch was almost impossible to decline.  In short, Katy had contacted Matt about a northern B.C. bull trout fishery she’d heard about that had little to no foot access in its upper stretches.  She’d received her information from a biologist who’d flown in to do some studies on the species (via catch and release methods with spoons).  More specifically, “large, up to 40 inches, and unlikely to have seen a fly before”, is how it was presented to her.

“We have to go”, was the response.

Koreski Vokey 13

Katy was looking to further explore the myth of the large untouched bulls and she was looking for some angler friends to join her.  I was six months pregnant, rapidly approaching steelhead season, and unaware (at the time) that Katy was the enquiring outfitter.  As soon as Matt dropped her name, I dropped my conflicting schedule and before long, the pieces fell together until we were on our way to meet her in Prince George.  The plan was to stay the night at Northern Outback Adventures (the Watson’s family lodge), where we’d be picked up by the helicopter and then depart for an exploratory trip the following morning.

Koreski Vokey 6

We only had the helicopter booked for one day, so the pressure was on.  The pilot, who’d flown in once or twice before, hadn’t done so in several years, and he was quick to let us know that the river was more than likely different than it was when he was there last. But the uncertainty only fuelled our curiosity and as we made the flight over steep terrain, glaciers, canyons and forested drops, we speculated about other rivers, fish migration, old logging roads, and how to best utilize the helicopter.

Koreski Vokey 9

I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t used a helicopter to fly into remote locations before, but it’d almost always been for a week’s worth of fishing or, at the very least, for a ride out after a full day’s hard trekking and wading.  My pregnant belly and excess weight pulled at my energy level, so I counted my blessings that we had the bird… until it occurred to me that we’d need to walk back up to it after fishing down through each stretch.

Eventually the cracks widened and the gullies opened until we were looking down into the headwaters of our destination.  We hadn’t seen any photos before and had no idea what to expect.  The water ran as clear as a New Zealand stream, yellow reflecting in the current from the rocks and rays of sun.  The river looked shallow, wadeable in almost every spot, impossible to hold any sizeable fish.  I’d fished rivers like this before… optical illusions where a two-foot depth turned to five without the eye ever picking up the difference.  My heart raced at the thought of large fish lurking behind boulders; gin-clear slots holding fish where I’d never seen bull trout before.  Rainbows and browns certainly, but not the infamous logjam dwelling bulls.

koreski Vokey 2

As excited as we were to land the helicopter as soon as we could, the tight access and broken water encouraged us to continue downstream to the safest landing spot and pool.  We found a spot decorated with several shadowy corners where the river hugged the bank, creating a trough of green water.  There was a decent sized landing area and we all held our breath as the pilot landed, picked up, repositioned, landed again, and then powered down.

Bull trout are notorious for taking large streamers suitable for pike.  I battled with my New Zealand nymph and dry fly experience, and I questioned what the best approach would be for a more aggressive species holding in the same water.

Should I swing?  Strip?  Use sink tips?  Approach the fish from behind?  Duck down to hide my skyline?  Time was limited… Perhaps sight fishing was our smartest option here?

My brain ran wild with techniques, appropriate gear, and a constant conflict of my past experience versus what I was presented with here.  So Katy and I decided to compromise.  I would fish stealthily with a single hand rod, floating line, and weighted, bunny streamer.  She would fish a two-hander, a tip, and similar “bitch of a fly” to cast.

koreski Vokey 1

We headed up to the deep corner, immediately pleased by the water’s depth and our inability to see the river bottom.  While Katy cast, I cut a wide birth through the treeline and headed down to the run’s tail-out.  Peering into the water, I slowly stalked my way upstream, searching for wagging tails, white mouths, and dark shapes.  Apart from rocks, I saw nothing.

We held a group meeting where we strategized our best bet moving forward.  So far, the only thing that had been eaten in this fishless run was our time, and we’d quickly come to realize that venturing downstream meant needing to take the time to hike back up — time we didn’t have.

And so the ideas flew:

But the biologists were using spoons, so maybe we need deeper, more “classic” bull trout water?”

“But he said it was gin clear.  Did he mean where they were fishing, or just the river in general?”

“What time of year were they in here?  Was there run-off from snow or rain?”

“Do these fish migrate?  If so, where would they have gone?”
Then, to the pilot, “is there a tributary or anywhere we can find some bigger, slightly murkier, water?”

Of all the above questions, we only found one answer.  “Yes”, he said, “there’s a tributary down a ways”.  

We made the decision to head downstream.

The river began to widen, its colour changing more to the glacial grey so often associated with productive bull trout habitat.  But as the river changed, so too did its access, and we started to wonder if we’d made a mistake.

The biologist had indeed said that there was no access where he’d been fishing.  Had he made a mistake?  Because as far as I could tell, I was looking at an outhouse and a fellow angler’s truck.  A truck?  Had this been a “city-biologist” who perceived no access as meaning logging roads and 4×4 terrain?  But it was too late to question any further.  The water looked great, we saw no one else fishing, and there was a convenient spot for the helicopter to land.  We were committed.

koreski Vokey 3

As the day ticked on, Katy and I hooked into some small bull trout — just enough to encourage us that we’d made the right move.  In the back of our heads we remembered that it’d been a spoon that lured in the big boys, and so we played with our depth, fly size, and, eventually, asked the pilot to fish the spoon rod behind us.  Where were these fish?  The pieces weren’t aligning, and I concluded that the August weather and river levels were to blame.  The fish must have pushed elsewhere.

Tick, tick, tick, the hand on my watch taunted.  Tick, tick, tick, my temper teetered on snapping with every backcast that hooked into the tight over-hanging brush behind me.  Tick, tick, tick, my pregnant belly reminded me to take it steady and try to ration just how much river we covered.  We were running out of time and I was running out of patience.  Reeling in, we asked if we could try one more spot upstream in the clear water that, admittedly, we didn’t have enough faith in at the day’s start.

Hesitation crossed our pilot’s face, his eyes glancing at the clock.  “Ten casts,” we promised.  Trying to sound believable.  But he was an outdoorsman himself.  He knew the “ten casts” schtick.  His eyebrows raised.  “OK, ten minutes… seriously, no more than ten minutes.”  He agreed and we loaded up.

Koreski Vokey 10

The pressure was intense.  We had one spot to choose.  If we chose too soon, we risked flying over what could have been “the one.”  If we chose too late, we might pass up on water that haunted us over dinner that night.  Now that we had a better understanding of the river’s specs from both air and ground, we opted to pass on the structured bouldery runs, focusing instead on clear troughs hugging tight against ledge rock; a perfect compromise of the river’s upper and lower stretches.

The helicopter blades had hardly finished their rotation before the four of us were geared up and racing upstream to the head of the run.  First cast, perfect swing, two steps down, nothing.  I cast again.  The line went tight and my reel broke the silence, quickly replacing it with the heavy pressure of “do not mess this up.”

Koreski Vokey 15

As with all fishing, a balance of focus and tension brought the fish to hand, its wide tail and vibrant spots magnificent against the clear blue water.  We captured a photo, watched quietly as it swam back to the comfort of the ledge rock, and then took a moment to congratulate each other for finally finding the large fish the biologist was talking about.  We had less than eight minutes left in the countdown and were hopeful we might get Katy into a fish as well.

Koreski Vokey 12

Koreski Vokey 11

Then the real excitement began.  As Katy cast, I walked slightly downstream to see what I could spot.  Sure enough, in the current behind a large submerged rock lay an absolute pig of a fish.  Its tail glowed red, bright red, a fiery beacon under cool water.  It was bigger than mine, undisturbed, swaying in the flow, thick sides rounded like a pregnant mare in the meadow.  “Oh my God…” I dropped low as if avoiding the helicopter rotors and tiptoed back up to Katy as if the fish might hear me.  Pointing out the part of the ledge rock from which the fish sat out from, I gave her a general idea of its whereabouts, then proceeded to go back downstream to give her feedback on the fish’s reaction to her fly.  But as I snuck back to watch the show, I noticed yet another enormous fish just a few inches back from the red-tail beast!  This one was silver and almost as large.  My stomach did a flip and my speech hastened to a bossy shout in all the excitement.

“More left!”

“Cast further upstream!”

“Yup!  Yup!  Yup!  He’s on it!  Wait for it!”

He followed her streamer aggressively, a submarine with an open mouth, out of his lie and close to the bank.  It was all too much to bear, and Katy couldn’t see the reaction.  The fly was pulled back for the next cast and Jeremy and I crumbled in “aghs!”  Red-tail fish wanted her fly and he wanted it bad.  She cast again, and again he showed interest.  We all knew what we had to do.  We had to sit down for 10 minutes, wait it out, change flies, and start over.  We also had to fish below him to see if we might tempt one of his other inhabitants.  I’d spotted at least three more large bulls and was certain one was a biter.  But our pilot was now standing across the river in front of us, out of the fish’s sight, yet clearly in ours.

“We have to go.”

I could have cried.  We were so close.  The entire day flooded back to me, laced with “what ifs” and regret.  I understood that all good things must come to an end, but weren’t they supposed to at least start first?  We all knew what we could have done differently, but we also realized why we made the decisions we did.  It didn’t remove the bitter from the sweet.

A sobered triumph hung over our heads as we loaded up for departure.  After all, we were appreciative to have found the fish, but the reality of our schedules lining up anytime soon again were slim to none.  Realistically it would be a year before any of us could get back in there and each of us knew it.  So while silence filled the aircraft and reflection filled our heads, the theme of the trip inched its way into our conversation until it was more clear than it’d ever been before.

We had to go … back.

~April Vokey

Here’s a short video of our day:

The post We Have To Go… appeared first on April Vokey.

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Queens of the Desert

As previously published in Fly Fusion magazine.  Photos by Andrew Burr.

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I don’t know why I was so surprised to hear Dubai has good fishing.  For years I assumed the city to be a major dustbowl of wealth, high-rises, restrictions, and layovers — a pretty ignorant depiction coming from a girl who’d only ever experienced Dubai’s international airport (which is, admittedly, rather impressive).

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I’d flown through Dubai several times on my way through to the Seychelles and similar highly regarded fishing destinations, but I’d never thought to break up the travel by exploring the fishery there.  Looking at it now, it shouldn’t have been such a foreign concept.  The map clearly shows Dubai, one of seven emirates which makes up the country of United Arab Emirates (UAE), sitting on a perky piece of land situated on the Persian Gulf.  Blue water meets the yellow sand of the beaches; it laps up the reflection of the looming metallic architecture.

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Word had it that South African Dubai resident, Nick Bowles of Ocean Active, was the man to speak to about fly-fishing opportunity in the area.  Luckily, the previous year he and I’d had the chance to meet at a fishing trade show.  I’d been impressed by his knowledge about Dubai’s culture and fish species, and so confirmed several days with him the following April.

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Exhaustion ate any memories I had of my first night in the big city, but the 5:00am start time came easy with the jet lag.  I packed my gear and prepared to raid the hotel’s 24 hour cafe — as though leaving for the world’s most remote desert excursion.  Unbeknownst to me, our travel time from hotel to fishing spot was only twenty minutes, overfilling me with as much relief as my cooler was with food.  Then the concern kicked in: what sort of big city had decent fishing merely minutes from its docks?  And not just any docks.  Dubai docks with access via the mall.

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Dubai has a tendency to add flair to just about anything it decides to commit to.  Aerial views of the city showcase a most genius layout (I strongly advise Googling this), its hotels are like none other I’ve ever seen, their indoor activities are next-level, and even the most simple of desert excursions have that “one step further” vibe.  I was certain I’d be disappointed with their fishing.  How could I not be when it’s the one thing beyond their control?

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As we motored through the landscaped marina, small queenfish busted bait around us, yet I was under strict instruction to wait until we were beyond the marina walls before starting to cast.  As promised, a two minute ride with the boat on plane had us immediately on top of a larger school of bait and an even larger school of queenfish.  First cast, second cast, third cast… one after the other, fish couldn’t seem to leave my Klouser (spelling?) alone.  We quickly made the switch to poppers, and my arms shook until they could hardly land another fish.  Both morning sickness and exhaustion, likely a combination of the two, eventually had me admit defeat, so the boys joined in on the royal chaos.  I rested atop the Yeti and hoped no one would notice my grey, sweaty face.

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Fortunately for everyone, the Dubai fishing days are short.  After around 11:00am the heat takes no pity on participating fools.  We waited until we couldn’t take it anymore, and then turned in for a midday nap before boarding a flight later that evening.  I was able to sit down with operator Nick Bowles to hear more about the fishery.  You can find that conversation here:  www.aprilvokey.com/podcasts or https://itunes.apple.com/ca/podcast/nick-bowles-destination-dubai/id951475911?i=1000386157567&mt=2

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~April

The post Queens of the Desert appeared first on April Vokey.

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The Keep ‘Em Wet Study (and an Update)

You can find my Anchored episode with Andy here.

Name: Andy Danylchuk

Age: 49

Where were you born and where do you live now?

I was born in Toronto, and did my undergraduate and Masters at Trent University in Ontario, and my PhD at the University of Alberta in Edmonton.  After getting a lot of work experience in Canada and abroad, I secured a faculty position in the Department of Environmental Conservation at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

When did you start working on recreational fisheries and catch-and-release?

I’ve been fishing since I was a kid, and picked up fly fishing in 2000 when I was living in the Turks & Caicos Islands.  Catching a bonefish on fly was an eye opening experience for me, not only because of the experience itself, but also afterwards when I started digging into the scientific literature to discover that there was little evidence of the best ways to handle and release bonefish, not to mention a lack of information on catch-and-release for many other fish species we target as anglers.  At that point, I began moving my scientific career towards assessing how fish respond to catch-and-release, all with the intentions of contributing to best practices that anglers and managers can use to take care of the fish we love.

Tell me about your study…

What is the general idea of the study?

This study is focused on evaluating how steelhead on the Bulkley River response to being caught and released in the recreational fishery.

How did the study come to be (whose idea, etc.)?

A few years back I was chatting with a friend about the type of science my colleagues and I do, and he asked whether catch-and-release research had been done on steelhead.  I started digging into the literature and found that most of the work on steelhead had been done on hatchery fish, and at that point nobody had combined the detailed quantification of the angling event with stress physiology and post-release tracking.  Right about that time I was pulled into a healthy debate on social media about air exposure for steelhead, and quickly immersed in the often-polarized community when it comes to ‘chrome’.  Seeing that there were so many people that clearly care about steelhead and that there was no solid scientific backing to any guidelines specific for steelhead catch-and-release, I felt compelled to help.

When did you really start planning, and when was it put into play?

It was in early 2015 that a few folks suggested that if I wanted to do a catch-and-release study, then I should try to do it on the Bulkley.  I started looking closely at the fishery and was pleased to see that it was all native fish.  I also started to notice how the Bulkley is really a global mecca for steelhead, meaning that if we could generate best practices for steelhead here, the conservation message would potentially be shepherded by a lot of individuals and groups.  I then got invited to visit the Bulkley R and give a presentation at Oscar’s about the type of catch-and-release research my colleagues and I do.  The presentation was super well received and attended by folks from a number of NGOs, like the Steelhead Society of BC Northern Branch and SkeenaWild.  During this trip I also met with the Wet’suwet’en First Nation and BC Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resources Operations, who both liked the idea of a study focused on the catch-and-release of steelhead.  It was at that point that I started planning the details of the study and looking for funding.

What do you mean, looking for funding?  Doesn’t the university pay for you and your research?

UMass Amherst is my academic home and they pay my salary mostly for teaching, while all research projects I do are externally funded.  This is pretty standard for most university scientists.  For this particular project, I relied on support from a number of different non-government organizations that expressed interest in the research, and that were familiar with some of my other work on catch-and-release.  Direct support came from the Freshwater Fisheries Society of British Columbia, Wild Steelhead Coalition, Native Fish Society, and the Steelhead Society of BC Northern Branch, while many individuals and companies provided in-kind support.  Really, it is a collective effort, which is great since it means that there was a lot of buy-in for the science.

What is the ultimate purpose of it?

The ultimate purpose is to contribute to scientifically-validated best practices for the catch-and-release of steelhead.

Has a study like this been done in the past?  Don’t we already know how to handle fish?

Combining detailed measurements of the angling event with stress physiology and post release tracking has been done for several other species, but not for wild steelhead.  What is also interesting is that a lot of earlier research on catch-and-release has been done on hatchery fish (particularly for steelhead and other species of trout), and the jury is still out as to whether this data can be extrapolated to wild fish.  As for already knowing how to handle fish, if we really knew right from wrong for each and every species, then why do we continue to see such bad handling practices in photos, in fishing shows, on social media, and in company advertisements?  Sure there are generalities, like those posted by KeepEmWet Fishing, and these are a great starting point, but we catch and handle so many different species of fish, as well as the same species in so many different settings/seasons, we are really only getting started with developing a solid understanding of the short and long term implications of different handling practices on fish.  Let’s face it, just saying “I practice catch-and-release” is too general since there is a lot of variation in how a fish can be treated and how different species respond to angling.

What about the grumblings that this sort of study has already been in the likes of Washington, etc.?

It seems like some people just like to grumble!   Yes, there have been some studies on steelhead, but many of these were using hatchery fish, and some did not examine the potential causes of impairment or mortality.  If we are to develop best practices for catch-and-release, rigorous studies need to look closely to discover which elements of the angling event are having the greatest effect, not just in the short term, but also longer after release.

How did you come up with the experimental treatments for the Bulkley River steelhead study?

We spent a lot of time and effort listening to guides and anglers, as well as following social media posts and blogs for various steelhead organizations.  We essentially wanted our experimental treatments to reflect concerns of stakeholders.  Quite a number of folks said that they just really wanted to know whether the way they handled steelhead was having an impact.  Based on input from the angling community, it was also pretty easy to quickly narrow down treatments based on air exposure and handling (net versus tail grab).  Some folks also brought up the idea that water temperature could have an impact on how fish respond to catch-and-release, so we made sure to conduct our study throughout nearly the entire season.  All of these variables will ultimately be included in our analyses.

Do you have any science that shows if air exposure makes a difference to the fish’s health?  Or nets versus tail grabs?

We are certainly addressing air exposure in the Bulkley R steelhead study, but the data is still being analyzed.  What I can say is that there are a number of studies on other fish species that demonstrate that air exposure can contribute to impairment and post-release mortality, however there are species-specific differences in susceptibility and extrapolating from these studies to steelhead on the Bulkley can be dangerous.  When it comes to handling, we’ll also soon have some insights as to whether there are differences in the way steelhead respond to being netted or tail grabbed.

Is there a negative consequence to the experimental treatments of these fish (ex. blood sampling, time/handling while taking fish measurements, tagging, etc.)

Great question!  There is no way to do a catch-and-release study without any sort of testing/poking/tagging.  It would be like going to the doctor for an infection and them just looking you up and down and making a diagnosis.  What we do try to do is minimize the stresses the science imposes, plus also use different groups of fish to test different aspects of the catch-and-release event.  For instance, we try not to do the blood physiology (non-lethal blood draw) on the fish we tag and track since the extra handling may decrease our ability to detect an effect on movements post-release.  We also look at relative differences between handling treatments, and we try to make sure the minimal effects of the science are the same among groups.

Did you personally catch a lot of steelhead for the study?

For as much as I love to fish, I didn’t hold a fly rod the entire time.  It is more important that my team and me work side-by-side with anglers as they catch the fish we use in our research.

You mention in your podcast to me that it’s important scientists don’t publicly announce data until they know enough to relay a consistent and persistent message.  Is there any science you think you may have, but are being quiet about?  I’ll understand if you can’t share specifics.

Let’s just say that I’ve had people take preliminary data or even the final results of studies out of context and run with it in a public forum.  For as much as I believe in public engagement and sharing information, I’ve also seen how the wrong words or sentiments can lead to unnecessary battles in a community that is really all in it for the same thing – the fish.  Nevertheless, because so many people are indeed interested in the outcome of our research, we recently put together a short summary of the preliminary results, sent it to our partners and supporters, and hope that they feel comfortable disseminating the information (link included below).

Why isn’t your study addressing the impacts of handling/tagging that happens at the Moricetown Falls?  Surely, that is having an impact on the steelhead.

Virtually all the stakeholders we spoke to for the year prior to the study happening didn’t bring this up.  If this is something folks are interested in addressing, then we’d be happy to add it to the study design if the research continues and if the necessary funding is available.

Who is going to share the results once they are all in?

In addition to scientific conferences and journal articles, we’ll be putting together a summary of the results that we want all partners in this project to freely share.  Our group will also be putting some articles together for popular fishing magazines and other angler forums.  The results of our study will do little good for the fish and fishery if we don’t take the time and effort to get the information into the hands of the guides, anglers, and non-government and government organizations.

Summary here:  Bulkley R Steelhead CR Project Update May 2017

~April Vokey

The post The Keep ‘Em Wet Study (and an Update) appeared first on April Vokey.

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Mongolia – A Photo Essay

All photos by Andrew Burr.

“Exactly how many kilometres from the Russian border?”

The road spat our Cruiser into another slop of mud, my head narrowly missing the window.  Not necessarily the sort of fishtail I was looking for.

Mongolia had been on my list of fishing destinations for as long as I could remember.  Several plane rides, two overnight stays, countless permits, a twelve hour truck slosh…  The tricky travel only added to the appeal; clearly a sickness prone to the adventure seeker.

History laced the lush hillsides: crumbling shrines, tattered cloth, faded bones.  Nomads in yurts looked at us with mild curiosity.  We just stared back at them in awe.  While it was their fishery that had drawn me there, it was their way of living that intrigued me the most.  Few places on earth make me feel as though I’ve been swallowed by time — there are fewer still whose mountains take my breath away.  My BC pride took a seat to my admiration and I felt like Mary Poppins; spinning in circles, arms outstretched, cheeks rosy, smile warm.

The trip was unique in its own right.  We were to float downstream in the serenity of quiet rafts, casting enormous flies for gigantic taimen, drinking wine at lunch, and settling into a new scenic camp every evening.  Though this arrangement guaranteed minimal pressure on the fish, we were also the first group of the season and our sense of adventure was brewing.

Every stretch of water was different from the last.  Vast and open, wooded and green, rocky and cracked.  Untouched tombs poked up from the shoreline’s horizon, haunting silence funnelled through the canyon walls.  A cave decorated with the wise script of a hiding monk, and a pacing wild camel who dared us to visit him on the bank.  Goats and small children played in fields.  They ran towards us as we floated by.

The taimen were as I’d hoped: large, tricky, healthy, and aggressive.  I had no idea they jumped as they do, and I quickly became familiar with my backing.  They made me work for them — a quick casting tutorial on how to cast half of a drowned squirrel.  At times the frustration overwhelmed the enjoyment, but it was nothing a little patience, slow(er) stroke, and half a bottle of vino couldn’t fix.

Mongolia has rooted itself into my memories as an inspiration.  A species of fish that has lasted the tests of time, a landscape largely untouched, and a people content with life’s simplicity.  While I felt like Father Time had swallowed me whole, I couldn’t have been happier in the depths of his stomach.  In fact, I couldn’t wait to bring some of the leftovers home.

www.aprilvokey.com/podcasts or on iTunes to hear the podcast I did while in Mongolia with Mark Johnstad from www.mongoliarivers.com

Mongolia River Outfitters

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The post Mongolia – A Photo Essay appeared first on April Vokey.

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The Incredible Murray Cod

As previously published in Fly Fusion magazine.  Photos by Josh Hutchins.

When I decided to move my winters to Australia, part of me knew that I was sacrificing my love for one of the most special fisheries in the world.  British Columbia’s winter steelhead migration was more than just recreation for me — it was a way of life.  For as long as I could remember, I’d planned my work, free time, living arrangements, conservation efforts, even my relationships, around when and where the fish would be.  It seemed unfathomable to miss a week of the season, let alone all of it.

I found comfort knowing that I still had summer steelhead available to me for the other six months of the year, but for so long I had defined myself by the persistence and patience it took to pursue their cold-weather counterparts, that fishing for summer-fish almost seemed like cheating; no suffering in snow-drenched gloves, no sink-tip loop-to-looping, no purple lips waiting to be thawed by a steaming dark roast.  But I knew it was either sacrifice or divorce, so winter steelhead took a backseat to my vows, with the compromise that I would visit them every second Christmas.

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The first three years of the trade-off ran smoothly.  A passionate saltwater angler, I was content chasing Australia’s indigenous marlin, permit, kingfish, giant trevally, and others on a long list of respectable species.  The ocean’s mystery and vastness fed my soul with the humility and adventure I desired in all my fishing excursions, but something was still amiss.  I craved the overwhelming presence of the North American west-coast’s looming mountains and the veiny rivers that surged through them – rivers throbbing with pulsating waterfalls and promising back-eddies.  So I fed and somewhat satisfied that craving with time on New Zealand’s and Australia’s trout waters.

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But non-native fish didn’t excite me enough, even those that had been introduced generations ago, and regularly stocked fisheries interested me even less.  So I did my best to compromise by deciding that as long as a species was introduced over one hundred years ago, I would try to turn a blind eye to how it got there. The southern hemisphere’s breathtaking rivers and unique ecosystems hushed my prejudice and helped me focus on the experience as a whole, rather than on the just the fisheries themselves.  Lush greenery lined the riverbanks, and steep cliffs held wild birds, kangaroos, wombats and other fascinating animals.  As though composed of words from a fairytale, the freestone streams ran endlessly over red rock and green foliage, their pools such a deep sapphire-blue it seemed almost sacrilege that no wild trout or steelhead had ever naturally found their way there. As perfect as the browns and rainbows were, I still longed for the connection with a species that was indigenous to the waters I had such profound respect for.

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As I began to accept the fact that my options were limited, I heard tales of an indigenous freshwater monster that lurked in the depths of several Australian waterways.  It was at a presentation I made to fly club near Melbourne that my passion for indigenous species must have revealed itself through my photographs.  A bearded man with tattooed arms pulled me aside to see if he might interest me in Australia’s prized freshwater fishery: the cod.

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His iPhone screen quickly displayed many photos of Murray cod that had fallen for flies.  As other members of the club walked past us the lure of our whispers and the look on my face gathered a small crowd, but there was mainly disinterest from the trout enthusiasts.  I smiled to myself at how widespread this attitude is, that trout and only trout are the world’s best fly-rod fish.  It pained me to admit that I am likely just as biased towards steelhead.  But they are, after all, an anadromous rainbow trout.

The Murray cod, rumoured to live up to 70 years, is able to reach 250 pounds in weight and almost five feet in length.  It received its Australian name by way of a distant relative of the grouper/groper/cod family.

The Murray cod is a large, carnivorous, predatory fish found only in Australia.  More specifically, it’s found in the Murray-Darling basin, a river system that drains three states in southeastern Australia.  In Australia it’s the largest fish to spend its entire life in fresh water, and it has played a role in the mythology of Aboriginal tribes.  Though the cod’s diet is primarily other fish, they are also known to eat birds, reptiles, crustaceans, and rodents.  Already excessively territorial, Murray cod show increased aggression when protecting their eggs, which is a main reason the angling season is closed during their spawning period.

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These fish may travel a substantial distance to spawn, but often return to the exact spot from which they left.  Even more unusual, the female lays her eggs and departs, leaving the male to guard and oxygenate the eggs for several weeks during her absence.  Murray cod are the only freshwater fish known to establish and defend a territory, then migrate upstream to establish and defend another territory specifically for spawning purposes.

The conversation at the fly club toyed with my head for a year.  Big fish in small, beautiful rivers, serenity disturbed by thrashing gills and topwater frenzies?  I put the word out that I was looking for someone reputable to go cod fishing with and was promptly put in touch with Cam McGregor.  Cam and his fiance, Katie Doyle, own River Escapes, a guiding operation based in northern Victoria.  They met in the field while studying Murray cod, and it seemed fitting that two biologists would fall in love while Katie was working on the thesis for her PhD, the focal point of which was the diet of the Murray cod.  Spending time with not only one, but two experts had me giddy.

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I promptly arranged to podcast the couple about the biology of the fish (visit www.aprilvokey.com/podcast to catch the conversation), and scheduled several days of fishing with Cam.  I stayed with them at their home in northern Victoria, a beautiful property surrounded by pink sunsets and rural farmland, with a small stream trickling through it.  As Cam walked me through the meadow he described what I might expect during our time fishing together: sore arms from casting huge flies, but shots at a fish that would make every second of the torture worth the effort.

We were to spend one day fishing from a raft on a nearby river, one day on foot on a smaller river system, and one day boating in a large lake with many deadheads.  Cam is a fly-tier extraordinaire and I marveled at his feathery creations.  His topwater patterns sliced through the air with ease, their “plooping” frequently the only sound as we cast in the low light.  Cod hold tight to logs and other structure, making casting entertaining, strategic and, of course tricky.  As the sun set, activity picked up and the sound of crashing cod echoed through the hollow night.  Without daylight, knowing when to set the hook became difficult, and I missed more fish than I care to admit by setting the hook at the wrong time.

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The entire experience was surreal.  There were no other anglers on the river, leaving us to concentrate on every isolated bend of river. We held our breaths so as not to disturb the silence; our anticipation occasionally broken by the loud boof of a feeding cod.

The angling is similar to the bass fishing I’ve done over the years.  The flies were cast towards structure near the bank.  Topwater patterns had to make plenty of noise, but be left still on the surface long enough between retrieve-strips to allow the fish to engulf them.  Wet flies needed a few seconds to sink to submerged logs and structure.   Cam rowed slowly to allow me a fair shot at each section of habitat and I concentrated on keeping the fly from lodging itself in my body.

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On our day on the stream we were the only anglers in evidence. On the day of our stillwater fishing we spotted a handful of spin-fishermen targeting cod for harvest.  Cam explained that the majority of anglers in the area (including his guiding clientele) are trout fishermen seeking dry-fly action.  I wondered if the less-than-overwhelming number of cod anglers about signified a shortage of people willing to fight for the species’ survival.

The question encouraged me to look further into cod conservation efforts.  Cod populations have declined severely over the last couple of hundred years, a result of overfishing, habitat degradation, pollution, and mining.  I thought of all the effort that could be poured into the species if only more people were passionate about the uniqueness of the fishery.  I searched high and low for a support organization and, apart from government management, found next to nothing.

Cam’s face said it all as we toured through one of Victoria’s heritage towns on our way to the stream.  “Holy hell,” he said.  “Australia really is the only place you can find these fish isn’t it?  It just hit me now that there is nowhere else on earth they can be found.”

His eyes sparkled a little brighter, the creases around them scrunching in thought as he realized what losing these fish would mean.  He held his breath as though it might interfere with his thinking.  I knew what this look meant. There was a fire kindling inside of him.

That night as I sat with Cam and Katie for the podcast, Katie shared the studies from her thesis.  Much of it was about the cod’s diet –  one of the missing links to establishing a conservation plan. I decided to throw gas on the fire, “We could always start a cod-specific foundation,” I said.  Her eyes sparkled, she looked at Cam and back at me.

We sat until the early hours of the morning, strategizing on how to put the pieces together.  Strangely and suddenly I felt at home, fighting again for something I believed in, for something that belonged and deserved to be where it was, for something that needed us as much as we needed it.  I felt the familiar spark of a connection to an indigenous species, and it didn’t even have to be a steelhead to make it feel right.

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Thank you Josh for the incredible photos!  http://aussieflyfisher.com

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Cam’s Recipe:
Thread: Danville’s flat waxed nylon 210 Denier, black.
Hooks: Rear 3/0 Gamakatsu spinnerbait hook, Front 4/0 Gamakatsu spinnerbait hook
Tail: Zonker strip, white barred
Tail wing: Olive select marabou plumes
Body: UV polar chenille olive/brown, topped with three strands of pearl crystal flash, fluoro olive.
Front wing: White and Olive marebou plumes
Hook join 80lb nylon coated 7 strand wire, two red round rigging beads, bound to hook and covered with super glue.
Tail: Olive and white marebou plumes
Body: UV polar chenille olive/brown.
Lateral line: Two matching peacock hearls tied in either side
Legs: Spinnerbait skirt, two white and two olive either side.
Top wing: Olive craft fur
Front Head: Under body chenille, over wrapped with 2 inch camo coloured streamer brush.
Eyes: 7/32 stick on eyes, gold.
Vertical barring, black sharpie, Gill slash, red sharpie
Front half of head coated with Loon UV clear fly finish thick, final coat sally Hansen’s hard as nails.
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The post The Incredible Murray Cod appeared first on April Vokey.

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The King of the Ocean

As published in Fly Fusion magazine.

I steadfastly refused to troll for gamefish. An avid steelheader, the idea of casually lounging in a gas-guzzling mini-yacht, trusting deckhands to help me catch fish, all while sitting in a chair that I suspect my dentist designed… I was beyond disinterested.

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In my mind, bill-fishing was for one of two sorts of people:  the fat, rich kind who need their egos stroked, and IGFA record-chasers desperate to see their names in print. I felt about as much connection to either party as a magnet does to plastic. So, in my travels to saltwater destinations, I instead chose to stalk permit, bonefish, and other species on the flats. Flats fishing seemed to be the saltwater equivalent of steelhead fishing. The patience of a hunter is a necessity. You need an awareness of subtle movement and a willingness to work tirelessly for a single shot at success. Loud engines and a team of people relying on my coordination just didn’t seem to fit the bill.
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My conversion kind of happened by mistake, starting three years ago when I made the decision to exchange my Canadian winters for Australian summers. Australia’s attractions are enormous marlin, Indo-Pacific permit, giant trevally, and short plane rides to New Zealand. It seemed my new part-time home was a playground of relatively unexplored terrain — opportunity perfect for a fly fisher. While I was eager to get to the glowing, yellow permit that live north of my home in Sydney, it is the infamous billfish that are most accessible to me. Found only a short ride from the boat-launch near my house are warm currents and bait balls large enough to sustain a plethora of predators.

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It was actually my husband’s enthusiasm for fly fishing for billfish that piqued my interest. Neither fat nor egotistical, and with no interest in chasing records, his entire world still seemed to revolve around the mystical deepwater beast he called marlin. I was amused by his endless excitement for the subject and so agreed to give the fish a try.

Because our boat is only eighteen feet long, it required some unique rigging. The shortage of space meant that our crew would consist of just the two of us. Unlike the charter boats, there would be no long off-shore distances travelled, and we would be the only people shouting orders at one another (nothing new there). My perception of marlin fishing was starting to change.

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It was when he sat me down and drew a diagram of “how the fly-fishing for marlin game is supposed to be played” that I felt myself panic. The realization that marlin fishing is the epitome of a team effort hit me like the sickening slap of a slimy mackerel dropped on a boat deck. I realized that to do this right, I was going to have to listen.

Since that lesson three years ago I have spent countless days searching for marlin, working to tease one of these mighty animals to the surface, only to then find a new creative way to mess it all up. It would appear ol’ Murphy and the marlin had a secret meeting some years ago. So, while my success rate hasn’t necessarily been on an upward trajectory, it seems that the public’s understanding of fly-fishing for these gamefish hasn’t either.

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Australia is home to the striped, black, and blue marlin.  While foolish dreams of landing a blue grander (a fish over a thousand pounds) often play through my head, it is the smaller black and striped marlin that are a more reasonable pairing for my fly gear and my five-foot, five-inch frame. But the truth is that all three of them absolutely terrify me.

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It doesn’t take much beyond a quick YouTube search to see how billfish anglers get themselves into trouble. Poor boat-handling aside, often it is simply the sheer panic of a leaping marlin that sends anglers into damage-control mode as the fish’s sharp bill stabs at the sky, the boat, and anything that may be unfortunate enough to get in its way. I needed to learn the protocol before I could responsibly target one of them.

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In short, in a chartered situation there are two deckhands (deckies for short), a captain, and a fly fisher. The captain steers the boat through fishy territory while the deckhands rig and troll teaser baits which drag and “smoke” in the white frothy water that’s churned up by the boat. The goal is to create a disturbance in the water that imitates a school of tuna (or similar school of other feeder fish). This in turn “calls” a fish up from the depths of the ocean, where it then hopefully sets its sights on the trolled bait, mistaking it as a straggling, easy meal. This is always a hectic moment  — the water erupts, a bill spears the air, a dorsal fin slices the surface, and fluorescence lights up the entire backwash. When billfish get excited, their bodies turn magnificent shades of blue, green, and purple.

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If the deckhand is doing his job properly, the fluorescent flash of fury is headed straight for the stern of the boat and the rapidly retrieved teaser-bait. The fly fisher awaits the fish’s approach and when the chance comes, shouts for the deckhand to get the teaser out of the way. At this moment the captain must knock the boat out of gear, the deckhand must get the teaser-bait out of the water, and the fly fisher must make the appropriate presentation to have a reasonable chance at a hookup.

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And this is all just to make the cast. Granted, it’s a short cast, but what it lacks in glamour is made up for in pressure.

The angler needs to be aware of the direction the fish is swimming and try to drop the fly somewhere near the side of its head. A cast to the front of its bill results in a difficult hook-set, or an occasional lassoing. Depending on whether the angler is fishing a top-water pattern or a large streamer, the fly is either stripped or “blooped” near the infuriated fish. In the frustration of losing sight of the teaser-bait, it snaps at the nearby fly instead. Takes are almost always visible, as most of the time they happen either on or just beneath the surface.

If the angler has been able to manage all of the above steps and the fish is hooked, it either greyhounds (jumps repeatedly) or sounds (heads straight for the bottom). The angler then adjusts the drag on the reel accordingly, typically reducing it to accommodate the increasing resistance of the water on the long length of fly line and backing.10574448_969715989774486_5702661617194751058_n

When it comes to marlin, I can’t tell you what happens next, as I’ve never actually landed one on a fly (only on gear). If the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again while expecting a different result, am I insane?

I have, however, landed enough sailfish to know that they provide the best practice for anglers determined to land a marlin.

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For my husband and I, the routine goes like this: catch and rig baits the night before, launch the boat, run until the water turns to cobalt blue and the air temperature starts to rise, set out the teaser bait on the spinning rod, strip a bunch of fly line into a laundry basket so that one of us is ready to make the cast, bring the motor to trolling speed, stand in each corner of the stern in anticipation, stare at our bait until seabird wings look like marlin bills, and generally fall to pieces any time a fish shows up.

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As word of my marlin-obsession spread through the fly-fishing industry, I found that my initial negative misconceptions about trolling flies, chumming, and boredom were shared by other people who hadn’t tried it.

Such notions forced me to examine myself, looking for a reason for my new and endless determination. Excitement and adrenaline aside, there were two aspects of the sport that I kept returning to. After spending so many years as a solo angler whose mission was to escape other people who were equally eager to escape me, there was something refreshing about being part of a team. Sure, a day’s float with a buddy on a steelhead river is still technically “teamwork,” but marlin fishing requires people to sync and work together on a whole different level. While marlin can certainly be caught by way of a “one-man-operation,” the fine-tuned process is best (and most safely) undertaken by several people working together. The very thought of needing others was one of my initial deterrences, but after putting in so many hours with dear friends, I’ve learned to love the team-spirit that is so rarely found in fly-fishing.

While interaction was indeed a bonus, I knew there had to be more to my unshakable perseverance, so I dug deeper still for an answer. I found it when I asked myself why I was so drawn to my favourite species of fish: the steelhead. Steelhead rule when they enter the river systems. They make me work. They beat at my sanity, my body, and my patience. And when I land one, I’m reminded that I am simply a brief observer of its highly complex life-cycle. The marlin is very much the same. King of the ocean, there is no saltwater species more regal.

Fly fishing is a sport of growth and progression, and that’s a path many of us follow. For some, the path leads to the mountain tops, for others it’s a meandering trail through the valleys.  For me, it’s been a long trek over peaks and shorelines, and has landed me smack-dab in the middle of the ocean. So if you’ve been avoiding a certain type of fishing because you believe that it’s not for you, try it anyway. It might be the best chance you’ll ever take.

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For a great listen on marlin fishing, check out the Anchored podcast with Dean Butler http://www.aprilvokey.com/podcasts/ or at https://itunes.apple.com/ca/podcast/dean-butler-marlin-igfa/id951475911?i=1000369854966&mt=2

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