Blowing in the wind

Today’s writing prompt: Write about wind

Spring tends to be a bit windy. Whether we are out fishing or enjoying some grilling, the wind can change how we do things. The winds of change are called that, I suppose, for a reason.

This spring the winds of change blew quite strongly, not just here in Wisconsin, but across the world. The winds of change drove a deep divide between friends, family, and co-workers. With the coronavirus pandemic sweeping across the globe and national media doing what it could to create scary, horrible, and sensationalized headlines, these wedges were driven exponentially deep.

While the “feel good” catchphrase of the spring has been, “we’re all in this together,” nothing could be further from the truth. Everyone is dealing with the circumstances in their own ways. While some of us have others with which to weather this health storm, others are wondering when they will see family again. Not all of us have been torn asunder by this, but some have. But spring is a time for renewed life and a renewed spirit. And spring can teach us much about the world around us, and ourselves.

For those of us who have a deep love of the outdoors, we do not ask for much: water to enjoy and a deep wood to roam. There is nothing more therapeutic, in my estimation, than a long walk in the woods as it starts to green up and the natural world comes back to it’s bright spring green. There is no color quite like that new-growth green, and it is a color that I am not entirely sure can be captured by a camera.

Maybe the reason it cannot be captured it because it is more than a color. It is a feeling. It is a renewed hope. It is the sense that things really can be okay again. The first “peepers” come out and we hear them in the quiet evenings off in the distant wetlands and swamps. Soft shoots of hostas and other early perennials in our gardens start to show themselves, pushing up through leaf duff and other decomposing organic material. Everything feels new again.

And the wind softly blows through our hair to remind us life is coming back, renewed just as promised. Birds start to build their nests, ready to create another year’s young. Eventually we start to see hummingbirds at the feeders again, their tiny wings buzzing as they flit by.

If we are lucky, as we traverse those woods, we may spy some of springs other miracles in the way of baby animals learning the way of the world. I am reminded of one day as a young adult exploring in the woods, headed to a river near by Dad’s new home. I was not thinking about anything, but just enjoying being outdoors. That was the last time I was so careless in that neck of the woods.

I came through to a small clearing with two small black forms playing near its edge. It did not take me long to realize, although they were what I thought was a safe distance away, they were bear cubs. It also did not take long, when I heard an indignant “huff” from my other side, for me to realize I had done just about one of the dumbest things a 22-year-old kid could do in the Wisconsin woods. I had put myself between mama and her cubs.

I slowly, oh so painfully slowly, backed up from where I was, headed in the direction from which I came. Viewing the river would have to wait until another day. It felt like I backed up a mile before I felt like it was safe to turn around and walk out without looking over my shoulder.

“Did ya learn anything?” I could already hear my Dad say as I came out of the woods. It was one of his favorite expressions with me, and, yes, I did usually learn something when it came to a situation where he felt the need to ask. Lo and behold, when I relayed the story, those were his exact words. It was dangerous, to be sure, but it was also one of the coolest experiences, albeit an accidental one, that I have had with wildlife.

The joys of spring. The winds of change. The new life, as well as the need to be careful. I have spied birds learning to fly, fawns learning to walk, and even ducks learning to swim in my time in the outdoors. Trees budding and flowers opening to show themselves off to the world, all at the same time. So many animals rely on native flowers, trees and shrubs. Even the plant community relies on its neighbors to be healthy and strong. Animals creating the food web rely on each other as well, each of them with their own place.

All of these phenomenon remind me that everything truly is connected. So, while we are all experiencing this spring in our own ways, we are not as alone in our cocoon as we may sometimes feel. Somehow we are all connected, and learning to live in a connected way, rather than struggle against each other, is perhaps one of springs greatest lessons.

Batty about bats

Photo credit Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources

It seems like it’s always “National Something Day,” with most everything getting its turn in the lime light. For me, some of those days are more fun than others, and some I like to point out more than others.

April 17, 2020 was Bat Appreciation Day. In Wisconsin, we think more about bats as they are darting above our heads when we are sitting around the campfire than at most other times of the year. However, with White Nose Syndrome being found in New York in 2007, and moving steadily west, we started to think about them in the winter time as well. Since the detection of the disease, it has been found in 33 states and 7 Canadian provinces.

White Nose Syndrome, WNS as it is knows, is a fungus that affects cave-dwelling bats while they hibernate. It is characterized by a white fuzzy appearance of a bats’ nose and wings. Bats affected by WNS are often seen flying around outside their hibernacula in the winter long before they should emerge. They often come out, looking for water. They usually seem disoriented and can be unable to fly. They quickly succumb to the extreme temperatures, or starve to death, as no food sources are available and the cold temperatures cause them to use up food store much more quickly.

The Wisconsin Bat Program recently reported that approximately 6.7 million bats have died due to this disease since it has been found in the United States. Thirteen species in all have been confirmed to have the disease nationwide with eight more carrying the fungus without exhibiting signs of the disease.

The program’s recent report stated there were over 200 hibernacula in Wisconsin including natural caves, mines, abandoned rail tunnels and old beer cellars. The 2019-2020 winter survey done on these hibernacula showed the disease was still widespread and, even worse, was still decimating bat populations. Every site surveyed this past year showed signs of the fungus, which grows well in these damp, cool conditions, as one would expect. While some sites had decreased to no bats at all, in others a 72-79 percent decline was seen.

According to Bat program lead and DNR ecologist Paul White, there were some bats, however, that were surviving with the disease. He felt the bats had learned to adapt somehow, possibly choosing hibernating sites that were colder and less hospitable to the WNS fungus. It was found that, in some places, year-over-year survival was increasing, even though WNS was still present in the bat community. This was good news!

So, why should we care? That is a common question some ask. Those of us who study the outdoors understand that everything from opossums to penguins are related. For others, those connections are not as obvious. So, what is the deal with bats anyway?

Bats eat insects. Most of us know that. They dive bomb around us, swooping through and snatching insects out of midair as we finish our late picnics or sit around the campfire in the summer. But the impact they have on agriculture is much, much bigger.

Bats, is has been estimated, save billions of dollars per year in pesticides and other control measures for those in the field of ag. One recent estimate I saw was as high as $53 billion per year. Even the most conservative estimates are in the billions of dollars. This total, wherever it falls, takes into account only the direct impact of bats, and does not take into account the downstream effects, if you will, of harm done to other wildlife, native plants, and even humans, when increased pesticides are needed to control a variety of insects on crops.

In the big scheme of things, then, these little bats are big business. This makes their plight important. Of the eight bat species in Wisconsin, all four of the cave-dwelling species, little brown bats, big brown bats, long-eared bats, and the Eastern Pipistrelle, are all listed as as threatened.

The good news is, there are many ways people can help. As many have heard multiple times, I am a citizen science geek. I love learning about anything outdoors. The Wisconsin Bat Program, and, at least in Wisconsin, your local county Land and Water Conservation Department, are great resources to help people learn more about how they can help bats.

Bat houses are fairly simple to make and erect. There are directions on how to accomplish this on the Wisconsin Bat Program website. This is actually a section of a larger citizen science website, so feel free to look around if you happen to visit there. There are many opportunities to monitor bats, too. Summer surveys are done around the state, in an attempt to see which bats are where and how populations are surviving and adapting.

I agree, it seems creepy at first – little mice with wings, as some people say. But if you can get out on a lake with an eco-locator that can capture the sounds of bats that we cannot hear with our “naked ear”, and later get to hear those sounds – it really can change your mind about them.

I remember Joel Knutson, a young man with a passion for bats, coming to talk to a Master Gardeners group a few years back. He brought audio of bats he had been out monitoring. It was really a cool experience to hear them darting through the trees, using their sonar to not run into anything at a dizzying pace. There was one recording where the sound went quickly dead for not even a second, and then picked up again. It did not take much for the group to interpret the fact the bat had been chasing an insect, and had caught it in midair, causing the brief pause in the action as it swallowed it’s prey. It was a really interesting discussion overall, but I think the audio really made it stick for all of us.

Bat Appreciation Day. On the surface, it might sound about as important as National Pickle Day (although at one point in history, I am very sure those were more important than as a burger side or a stir stick for a Bloody Mary). But, in reality, bats provide a much-needed service in the food web. I encourage everyone to hit the link for the Wisconsin Bat Program above and check it out with the whole family. Bats really are an interesting and important species.

The top 5 reasons to buy your baits locally

Buying baits online is easy. Buying baits from a local manufacturer may seem more difficult – where do I find local guys? How do I know they will provide what they say they will? The answer is social media and word of mouth. All small bait manufacturers rely on those two avenues to gain customers.

We could all shop on Tackewarehouse…. and most of us get at least some of our products there. It is easy. It is a one-stop shop, if you will. But there are many reasons to shop local when it comes to artificial baits of any kind.

Color choice

Every angler has their favorite color. Many of us have an idea for a color, but it is not one we can get in a the type of bait in which we want it. While I have heard Gary Yamamoto is an awesome guy, I cannot believe I could call him on a Monday after a tournament:

“Hey Gary! Yeah, Beckie Gaskill from Fish Like A Girl in Wisconsin. Hey, I have this great idea for a color for your twin tail grub….” Not only will Mr. Yamamoto likely not answer his phone, but if he does, I would imagine he long ago tired of random people asking him for different colors. On the other hand, I can call one of the several local bait makers I have a relationship with, and likely get the bait and color that I want by next weekend’s tournament. I make soft plastic baits now, too, and have for a couple of years. But I know people who have molds for baits that I do not have, nor do I want. I will certainly rely on them when I am looking for a certain thing.

Turn around time

Expedited shipping from a major supplier can be bought, of course. But, for the most part, you and I are just a number – not that I would expect it to be any other way. At some point in a business’ growth, everyone needs to be treated equally. But, I cannot tell you how many times I have called a local soft plastic bait maker and, really, called in a favor. Can you get me # of X by Friday? Any chance? The answer is almost always yes.

Individual attention

In a world where your order number is your identity, most local bait makers will follow you back on social media. They will start to understand who you are, how you fish, and a million other things about you. While you will most definitely get individual attention when you call or text to place your order, occasionally you will get that text:

“Hey, I saw what you were fishing last week. I made this color I want you to try out.”

Input

Local bait makers get out on the water, too, but they may not be on the bodies of water we are on. They may have different experiences on the water. When they find people who are ambassadors of the sport, and who really put in the time and the effort, they often reach out to us – what is working, what is not working. Our input can help shape their business. For me, there is no bigger honor.

Networking

To me, there is never a harm in networking. I love to learn from everyone I meet. Occasionally I learn what not to do – as others learn from me what not to do! That is part of fishing and part of pitting yourself against any other animal on the planet. While we like to see ourselves as top predators, and we are, we can easily be tricked fairly easily by our prey, as any angler or hunter knows. There is a reason we celebrate our wins.

Networking allows us to meet people and get an insight into why they do the thing they do, why they fish the areas they do at certain times of the year, how they break down a lake, why they choose certain colors…when we order from a local bait maker, he or she wants us to be as successful as possible. They want us to talk to other anglers about what we caught on their baits and how it worked for us. Again, social media and word of mouth is the life blood of, really, any small business. The bait making business is no different.

I would highly recommend taking a look at what bait makers are near you. Find those who seem to have the same vision as you do, and place some orders. I do not say this only because I am making a few soft plastics myself. I am saying it because I love this industry and I would like to see people throw something created by their neighbor, or the guy down the street, across the county, etc.

Of course, we cannot discount the big tackle guys. Even though I make a lot of my own baits now, I will likely always have some Yamamoto, Strike King, and Reaction Innovations in my boat. But, for the rest of my tackle, I will rely on local people to get the big fish in the boat.

What are your favorite baits? Do you have a local bait manufacturer you love? Feel free to share that information here!

My traveling goals

Many bass anglers would look to fish Lake Fork or Okeechobee, El Salto or Smith Lake. But, for me, I do not have much desire to go far from home. I am not a world traveler by any means. And, with the current world today, and even before the health scare we are all subject to at this point, I do not have much desire to even leave the state, really. I feel like my second home is the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, so to me that is a great place to be. I spent a great deal of time there as a kid.

So, if I could travel anywhere, where would it be? I live in Wood County, Wisconsin now, but I came from Oneida County. In Vilas and Oneida County, there are more than 2,700 named lakes. Where would I travel? I think that is the answer.

No matter if a person wants to fish largemouth, smallmouth, walleye, panfish, musky, or nothern pike, there is the perfect lake for that. If it is windy, there are smaller lakes less susceptible to wind, making boat control a bit easier. If it is a heavy boat traffic day on one lake, there is sure to be another not as busy.

One bass club that I was in fished a set of two lakes on opening weekend of bass fishing every year. I was able to fish one of those tournaments with them (in central Wisconsin, not northern Wisconsin, actually), and hauled in my personal best largemouth, hitting the scales at 6.02 pounds. We were not far from home, less than two hours – this is when I lived up north – but it was an awesome day that I will never forget. It was a pair of lakes that had really no pressure, even on opening weekend. What a great time!

But, fishing isn’t everything, right? Well, to me, it’s pretty close really. Definitely number one on my list. But as far as other pursuits, I do not really feel leaving my two-state home is necessary, either.

I have found a love of gardening in later years. I think the reason I moved away from it for a while was the number of hours every summer I spent as a kid weeding, picking rocks, shelling peas and picking other vegetables from a garden bigger than our house. Of course, I always appreciated the fresh vegetables, but at some point, as a kid, you tire of that sort of thing, I think. I am happy to say I am back into it, and wishing my mom was still here to help me when I struggle. Luckily, my aunt Judy is still here and I lean on her for that type of advice.

Of course, hunting was a big part of my youth and most of my adult life. I have pretty much given up deer hunting since I have moved and do not have the access to the land I had up north, but should I undertake that again, I still do not have far to go. Turkey, grouse, rabbit (which is not as easy as it was when I was a kid and got my first .22 at an early age), squirrel… all of these are things I have hunted before. I have never had the opportunity to coyote hunt, but I know I could make a phone call or two and get that chance. Bear hunting is a different animal, but if I were to be lucky enough to draw a tag, I know I could find someone who would help me fill it, or at least get a chance.

Mushroom hunting? Wild asparagus or other wild edibles? I still never have to leave the state. Camping, hiking, snowshoeing, skiing, shed hunting, stream monitoring, fighting invasive species, bat monitoring, wolf tracking, other citizen science projects – all of these things I can do within the state of Wisconsin.

I totally understand people who want to travel the world and experience everything there is to see, do, feel, and love. I travel through the food I cook, much of which I learned while I was in school. But when it comes to planning a trip, I would much rather stay close to home.

For those of you who enjoy travel, know I love to see your pictures. I love to hear your stories. I hope you can soon again travel safely across the globe. For me, I will likely be close to home, just exploring every inch of the place in which I grew up, but still do not know everything about.

If you care to, drop me a comment about where you have been, a photo you could only have gotten on that trip, or a favorite memory. Why not relive some great memories while we are all at home hoping for better days ahead?

Admiration

Another topic from the 30-day challenge is admiration. Writing about one person I admire or look up to in the outdoor world is so difficult. There are so many of them in the outdoor world. So many.

One who comes to mind is a man I was lucky enough to meet, and even interview, when he was being inducted into the Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Fame. Greg Bohn, the innovator who brought us slip bobber fishing – I do not know what I can even say about him. I wrote a two-part series about him, the first of which was entitled, “Faith, Family and Fortitude, triangulating a fishing career.” Honestly, that is what he is all about. His faith is so strong, and his family bonds seem even stronger. I was able to meet his wife and daughters at his inauguration party. What a down-to-Earth and genuine bunch of people. I do not say that lightly.

My interview with Mr. Bohn was like sitting down with a good friend I had never met before. We talked about how guiding, and fishing, used to be, with him telling me more stories than I could ever remember. I will always cherish that time, and will likely never delete the recording of that interview.

Another who comes to mind is a very good friend of mine, who may not be too excited about me telling the world how great he is, but I will take my lumps for that. Again, he is a man with a great deal of faith and a super strong family. I first met Gregg Kizewski through my late husband. He struck me as a no-nonsense tournament director who was also such a genuine human being. He used to own Super K Jigs, and has since sold that business, but I learned so much about jig fishing from him while he owned the business. One thing about Gregg is he is always willing to help. I can text him with some random question whenever, and he always gets back to me with a real and helpful answer.

Gregg was also one of the most important people in my life when my late husband was sick. Rod was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, and we fought that for two years. During it all, Gregg took Rod fishing on the opposite week of his chemo treatments, at least as long as Rod was strong enough to get into a boat. When Rod got too sick to fish anymore, he wanted me to keep fishing and told me to find someone to fish with that we both trusted. I did that, but when Rod was home on hospice at the end of his illness, I was not sure if I should fish. Gregg came over and sat with Rod for the entire day. I was happy it was one of his last lucid days and the two could talk. Later Gregg brought me the last jig Rod ever asked him to make, a design the two came up with together. That jig has a prominent place in my fishing room right now and forever.

Later, Gregg came over to help me with the boat. I had several problems that he was right there to help me with. After my husband passed, once Gregg had become a concealed carry instructor, I took his class and, again, he helped me with weapon choice and made sure I knew what I was getting myself into and how to conduct myself in situations that we both hope I will never be in.

Gregg is first class all the way, and again this year, I am looking froward to fishing his newly revamped bass tournament series, The Upper Midwest Bass Challenge Series (UMBCS).

That would bring me to the reason I fish tournaments today, my late husband Rod Gaskill. He taught me a great deal, but also let me learn so much on my own. I remember when we were running a Thursday night league, he let me make the decisions on the water for the first time. It was on the lake that is now likely my favorite lake, Mohawksin, but at the time I knew little about it. I picked a bay that looked like perfect bass habitat. Rod pulled in there and put the trolling motor down. He fished what I thought was going to be super-productive water.

“So, are you ready to go somewhere with fish?” he asked about 45 minutes later. He knew the bay we were in, and had fished Mohawksin for many years. He knew we would not catch any fish there, but let me figure that out for myself. Of course I slapped him, well, backhanded him in the arm, really, but I doubt he felt it. He just grinned at me and idled out of the bay.

Over the course of almost 15 years, he taught me so much about bass fishing, and about owning a boat in general. We bought a boat for me several years before he died: a 1985 Tuffy Maurader with a 50 hp 1963 Mercury on it. Now that he is gone, I wish I knew or could remember every single thing he told me. But we all know that never happens. A certain amount of information dies with everyone who leaves us.

All of these men, and so many more, are those that I admire in the outdoor arena. One thing I have learned is that I can always learn, and I will always find more people that I admire. I will likely get in trouble for this one, too, but my boyfriend Chet Netzel is one of those that I have admired for his fishing skills, which was how we originally met. In fact, he was friends with both Rod and I, and we fished a lot of the same tournaments. When Rod told me to find someone to fish with that he could trust to not do anything crazy on the water, and I told him Chet had asked me to fish with him, Rod was happy. He knew Chet was a good guy. I did not know, for quite some time, that there would wind up to be more to the two of us than just fishing together, but he was another person who never let me be alone with everything I was going through with Rod’s illness. As a friend, he cared more than I expected anyone to. As a fishing partner, I learned a lot from him, as our ideas are much different. While it is sometimes great to have two people in a boat who fish very different strengths but can still be friends, to me, the most fun I have is when I am learning about how other people fish.

How many people do I admire in the outdoor world? As I said, there are really so many. Hunters in pursuit of all types of game, anglers, small business owners in the outdoor world, and other journalists and outdoor writers who bring the outdoor world to the page and electronic screen.

Who do you most admire? I would love to hear your comments…

Great things come in fours

This is another prompt in the 30-day challenge, which I decided to undertake for the month of April. We always say that bad things always come in threes. So, perhaps good things always come in fours! Four seasons, four elements (Earth, wind, fire, and water). Those were the two that stuck out to me. On a side note, yes there are WAY more than four littles in the geese photo, but it is a fun summer photo that I took that I wanted to share.

Four seasons. Every outdoors man has their favorite. Some of us cannot choose a specific one, as we find beauty and fun in each of them, but in much different ways. While I am not a fan of winter, and tend to dread some things that come along with it, I do have to say it can be quite beautiful. Crucnhing snow under my feet, pine trees heavy with a fresh few inches, animal tracks in the snow that give me an idea of “who” has traveled this path before me. I had the opportunity to do a bit of wolf tracking while I was up north, and that is something I may get into again, if for no other reason than to strap on some snowshoes and get out and do something in the winter.

Fall has been my favorite season for many years. Hunting season, and the beauty of the trees as they change and prepare to hibernate for the long, cold winter make that so. Those things have always been close to my heart. I enjoy getting together with other hunters to talk about what they do, how they do it, and how their most recent hunt turned out. I love all of the stories. I also enjoy the fall harvest and attending farmers’ markets to talk to growers about their season.

Summer, of course, is a favorite, too. It means fishing tournaments and bon fires, grilling out and gardening. There are so many reasons I can say that I love summer. And, I suppose, all four of the elements I mentioned above, are part of those reasons. When I became an outdoor reporter, it gave me a strong reason to learn more about photography, and summer allows for being out and doing a lot of that – and I am always learning. In fact, I have a Great Courses course on photography going in the background as I write this. Shooting storms as they come in is exciting and fun, really. I have yet to get the lightning strike I would love to add to my photos, but summer is the best time to get those. I am also a storm spotter for NOAA, so getting those shots is not only interesting, but important, so I can look back and see what I reported, and what I photographed.

Summer. How much is going on in the summer? I love to be out on the water. But I also love to dedicate my time to water quality and things such as aquatic invasive species (AIS) management. I am now also looking into monitoring a stream or two near where I live in central Wisconsin. This week I attended the Lakes and Rivers Convention online and learned about a stream monitoring program into which I fully intend to get involved. Those who know me know I will also dedicate my small balcony garden to pollinators. I had a bit of success last year, and I look to build on that this year.

It is interesting, too, how a person feels about season can change over time. Spring, when I was a child, meant picking rocks out of a garden that was bigger than the house in which our family of four lived. It was a job I would not want to do again – but then the year came that I decided I was going to try out for Little League. My sister had an old wooden bat, and I took it over. I batted rocks for hours per day, out of the garden and as deep into the swamp as I could get them. Suddenly, picking rocks was not so bad. On a side note, I did make the majors in Little League during tryouts, but my best friend did not make it, so I played in the minors that year.

Summer, too, felt different as a child. I used to have pretty harsh reactions to mosquito bites. My doctor told me mom I was allergic to mosquito bites, but I have no idea if that was the case. But I did have a bad reaction to them. A mosquito bite on my forearm, for instance, would soon become a three-inch welt at least an inch tall. If I were to get bit too many times, I would get a fever and start to feel pretty horrible. My mom would make me stay inside until I felt better, which could be days. I do not remember how many years this went on, but I know I did eventually outgrow it – thankfully! Imagine how different my life would be!

What is your favorite season? Can you pick one? Or do they all have their draw for you?

30 days of blogging

This month I signed up for a 30-day blogging challenge. First off, in an effort to get into the habit for using this blog more frequently, I thought this would be a great way to do so.

Second, with the “Safer at Home” in Wisconsin and many other states, and a future that seems a bit uncertain, I felt it might be a good time to talk about issues of the outdoors, and to give people something to read.

So, as we go through this month, I have no idea what the prompts will be for each day. I also have no idea how the prompts I will be given will relate to this particular blog. But no matter what the month brings, in prompts or in life, I intend to see everyone here, on this blog.

As we sit and start the month of April, many things are uncertain, obviously. One of those things is the tournament season itself. While we have not been told we cannnot hold our tournaments, we do all understand we cannot have more than 10 people in any one place and we need to stay at least 6 feet apart. I, and other tournament directors, have made plans to make that happen.

We are just hoping this will all lift before we have to go through more than our first tournament with these regulations in place. While that does not look super-likely, it seems like less is known rather than more, about what is actually happening in the world.

Thank you for starting this 30-day journey with me (and yes, I am starting a day late, so I will post twice today). I look forward to seeing your comments and starting a dialogue about the people and places of the outdoors.

A great spinning reel for a great price

Since learning to use a baitcaster effectively, I have not been a big fan of spinning reels.  I am not a big finesse fisherman, and maybe that’s why I stay away from spinning reels.  But, at the same time, I know I’m missing out on some fish because I don’t like to throw light stuff.  Sometimes you just need that.

I was recently introduced to a company called Piscifun, and had the opportunity to try out their Viper II spinning reel.  The 2000-series reel is smaller than what I am used to, and maybe that makes part of the difference.  I was always throwing at least a 3000-series spinning reel at the urging of my former fishing mentor and late husband (who is one and the same).This may have been part of the issue, but I don’t think it was all of it.

The Viper II is very well constructed, from what I have seen so far, and I’ve had the chance to use it several times.  It feels good in my hand.  Everything is tight and secure. It lets me get those long casts out there and is small enough for even a klutz like me to keep out of my own way with it.  I have thrown both braid and mono on the set up with solid results.

The construction of this quality-priced reel will get you right out of the package. It is super light, at just 9.6 ounces, but just feels tougher than most. It did not give me the feeling of having a fairy stick in my hand when paired with the same Denali rods I have been using for several years now. The reel has a 10+1 bearing set up, which makes it really smooth.  The line went on the reel well, and, like I said, I had no problems casting it as far as I wanted to.  Not only that, but because the reel is light, it works great for pitching and flipping, too.  That makes a difference to me, and it might not to some, but I don’t like a heavy, bulky reel when I’m pitching all day.

Also, when it comes to pitching, I tend to want to pitch into some pretty nasty stuff, which is not always the best idea with a spinning set up. But, the 6.2:1 gear ratio in the Viper II helped me get some good fish out of some nasty stuff.  I’m not saying I “couldn’t have” gotten those fish out with a lesser reel, but I am saying after the first time I felt completely confident that this one would not fail me when combining the speed with a really strong drag.

Lastly, the reel just looks good.  While that is probably one of the least important things an angler should consider, I think we can all kind of agree, it’s cool to have a cool-looking reel. This reel is black with green highlights that pop. It also have a comfortable handle grip that is not just stylish, but it keeps your hand from slipping off when reeling in those big fish, no matter the conditions. Even an all-day rain will not make the handle grip slippery and, unfortunately, I found that out one day.  Hey, a person only has so many days they can get on the water. You have to take the weather you’re dealt!

Overall, I have to say, especially for the price (you can get this one on Amazon for about $40), I would recommend this reel.  So far I haven’t found any drawbacks.  If you happen to see me on the water this summer, take a close look.  You might just see something weird – me with a spinning set up in my hand!  I’d love to hear what other people think of this reel, too, so leave a comment if you’ve tried it and let me know what you think.

RIO HOW TO: The Double Haul

Check out this incredibly informative video explaining the double-haul in fly fishing. Fly fishing techniques can be intimidating, but this video really breaks it down and makes it easy!

The Ozark Fly Fisher Journal

From RIO:

In this episode of RIO’s “How To” series, RIO brand manager Simon Gawesworth shows how easy it is to learn the double haul – a highly useful casting skill that will give you more distance, greater line control and more effect in a tough wind. The Double Haul is an essential skill to master for anyone who wants to fish in saltwater.

RIO’s “How To” videos are a series of short films that explain all you need to know to learn a particular way to fish, or cast. Where applicable, each film talks through the gear that you need, shows how to rig the gear, how to read the water, and how to fish that particular technique.

These invaluable lessons for the fly fisher are packed with information and top tips, and each one is bought to you by a RIO employee or a RIO brand ambassador.

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Awash in Microplastics: Great Lakes Studies Raise Questions

A very interesting article about micro plastics. It’s not just microbeads that are the problem for the Great Lakes and their tributaries. A very worthwhile read!

The Outdoor Journal

16807991226_08b707d645_o Schooner Inland Seas sails on  Grand Traverse Bay as students study microplastics in the Great Lakes. Photo courtesy of ISEA.

By Howard Meyerson

When the schooner Inland Seas slips her berth at Suttons Bay on June 24, her captain, crew and passengers will share in a voyage of discovery—a two-hour educational journey under sail to learn about microplastics, an emerging environmental problem that ills the Great Lakes.

The two-year-old program, called “Exploring Microplastics,” is offered by the Inland Seas Education Association (ISEA), a nonprofit that teaches Great Lakes science aboard the 61-foot schooner. Its passengers will examine what crew members find while conducting a fine-mesh trawl for plankton. They will learn how tiny plastic particles enter the food chain and a lot more about how microplastics foul Great Lakes waters.

Jeanie Williams, ISEA’s lead scientist and education specialist, says plastic pollution is common in Lake Michigan. She and the ship’s…

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