Tag Archives: Tiger Muskie

Here Comes the Ice Cream Truck!

When I was a kid, it was a bell, it was a child’s call to arms. These days it is bad digital music through a megaphone often precluded by a child’s voice saying “Hello!?”. A process that further complicated the simple world of the ice cream man. I do not wonder why hordes of kids carrying pitchforks are not chasing these big white box trucks around. They have gone too far trying to make the truck acceptable and cool. What ever happened to good ol’ bright colors? Unusual, bright color combinations that just attracted children. Blue ice cream and hot pink sprinkles!? Yes please! There is something otherworldly about the colors, as they are not commonly edible. Why do kids love them? The answer is ultra simple. Curiosity.

5oclocksomewhere

It is common in science to conclude that animals have minds equivalent to young humans. They can accomplish seemingly complex tasks in the wild, but when it comes to processing new information or training, animals seem to have trouble. We can teach them to speak sign language, yet it does not give us much insight into the way they think. We can only observe. Maybe observing a young child’s behavior when it comes to food can give us insight into highly educated fish. Which takes me right back to ice cream.

When I was young, chasing after the ice cream truck was a habit. If my parents did give me money, it might have been a dollar. Enough to get an ice cream cone, probably bubble gum. Yes, I wanted something more than bubble gum ice cream, the coveted “Rocket Pop”. It was $2.50 if I remember correctly. Never had enough to buy one. Something about it called to me and I can’t quite pinpoint why. It just looked like unending bliss, or maybe I would fly to the moon after eating one. Who knows?

Nothing has changed over the years. I was digging through my materials one day, looking for some that were rarely used. I saw it. A hot pink northern bucktail. Not something I would normally buy, but this one was perfect. I proceeded to tie some muskie flies. For some reason, I combined it with chartreuse and my brain exploded. Working with the hair took too long and I needed a quick and easy go-to pattern for the times when I’m in a hurry to go fishing (always). I bought up a handful of materials and began to tie. What I came up with was an articulating and suspending, not really fishy looking fly. It was the colors that looked delicious. The “Rocket Pop”.

rocketpops

I know, it doesn’t look like a fish, but it was never meant to. It was meant to tap into the brain of a child, to make things that looked delicious and unreal. It was the idea that maybe children also have the same primitive instinct and curiosity as a predatory fish. The same fish that spends his entire life hunting prey, knowing exactly which fish to eat. One with senses about as sharp as his teeth. One quick in his reflexes and right in his choices. One with a weakness, the ice cream truck.

splashdown

 

Lesson #20: Be a kid. You never know when it might come in handy.

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Seeing Red

The day started off quite well. I woke up early, took a shower, brushed my teeth and headed west. The brisk nature of high desert winter still loomed from the night before. The sunrise peeked assuredly from mountains slowly fading into the horizon. I felt as though I raced time herself, like the sun was setting again as I drove opposing the rotation of Earth. I was unknowingly driving back in time, back to the Miocene Epoch when ancestors of the modern Esox genus roamed the deep. Of course, this could have also been my imagination.

pano

These prehistoric critters have had a lot of time to become more and more efficient. If I was on the Earth for over five million years, I would be one hell of a fisherman too. Time after time, these fish remind you of how long their species has been smarter than ours. It only took us 20,000 years to develop the fly rod that we use today. Even after all of this time we have yet to develop polarized vision. They even have sensors on their bottom jaw that contain little tiny hairs that detect the signature of swimming fish. This is standard issue on these fish! We had to spend THOUSANDS of years just getting smart enough to figure out side scanning sonar! GAH! I digress…

These fish can present difficulties, they are even called the fish of 10,000 casts. There are intensely difficult days and I think I know exactly why. Have you ever brought a muskie up to your fly and it stares at it for a second, gives you a “Pfft” and a giggle as it meanders back off into the deep? Sucks, right? Let us say that someone drops a pink hat on the ground. Roughly 5% of humans would pick it up and wear it. The other 95% would look, but scoff at it instead. Due to the individuality among groups of muskie, they would also rather not wear a pink hat. At least not today. After all, it only took them five million years of being angry and territorial to become more individual. Although the group of fish has very common habits as a whole, each fish also has a set of personal tastes. Call me crazy…

tigereye

I looked over the partially frozen lake to find an ice free section of water that has been known to produce a handful of fish. I sat down to dig through my box for the weapon of choice. A green and blue double articulating streamer, deadly in the fall here. After one fish and a handful of follows, I gave up on the fly and fumbled through my box for other patterns. The idea here is common for me. Change flies, cast twenty times, count follows and takes, rinse and repeat. I tried many different patterns over the next few hours, ruling out common streamers and color combinations until one nearly punched me in the face. I felt stupid when I pulled it out of the box. Every other fly that day was weighted. This was not. Just simply a red and black articulating streamer. Armed with a sink tip line, this fly would suspend exactly where and when I  needed it too. Within ten casts, I was into two fish with no follows (follows are usually bad). This means the fish were taking the fly when they saw it. Red. It had to be red. Every other color did not produce results. I really think this was a sign. Muskies are, as usual, plotting against you.

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barred

If you have been reading this blog for the past few months, you will know that the muskies and I are at war. Allow me to paraphrase, the muskie took flies and snapped hooks, I vowed to go after their entire race and here we are today. I should have known they were out for blood when they chose red as their feeding color. The bad color. When landing fish, I noticed they would tightly close their mouth. Unusual for all of these fish to display this. They were telling me something. Getting them to open up requires a simple trick, just put the fish underwater until they become buoyant. Their mouth will open right up. This puts you in a rather precarious position when fishing from shore. Crouched and unstable next to the subject who is in it’s element almost entirely. Mano a fisho. The last fish of the day went well. Quick fight, hook removed, easy release. Until I looked down. A pool of blood was gathering at my feet and the line was sticking to my fingers. I hadn’t injured the fish, the fish injured me. I did not feel a thing. I have nicked my knuckles and other parts of my hand on teeth before, but apparently thumb wounds are like head wounds. It was just bleeding and I couldn’t stop it. For a couple minutes I fished on. I never realized how important your thumbs are while stripping fly line. I had to stop. Since there was no superglue in my Jeep, I went home with my tail between my legs. The muskie won the battle that day, but I learned a very powerful lesson. Never trust a muskie.

Lesson #18: Although they appear soft and cuddly, the muskie is a voracious predator and a reckless surgeon. Try to keep your hands out of it’s mouth full of tiny scalpels or lose your scruples. And by scruples, I mean your digits. And by digits, I don’t mean your phone number.

*Warning!!! Graphic image below!*

Much like bigfoot, the culprit is always fuzzy.

culprit

The aftermath

aftermath


More Video!!! Hooray!


From Birth to Change

My birth into fly fishing began at age ten. My father, brother and I combed the shores of Bluewater Lake for catfish twenty years ago. Instead of finding catfish, we found a trout. At the time, I had no idea exactly what it was, but I did know that it was cool looking. My head was then wrapped around this fish. My nose buried in untouched books and magazines. My mother probably thought it was a child’s addiction, a passing phase. We were all unaware that this was a precursor to a life made from that addiction. A life so infused with fly fishing, time away from the water seemed like an eternity. Fly fishing ruined my life and saved it at the same time. Relationships were lost, friendships destroyed, all for one goal. To fish. The Lake...

Naturally, after twenty years, I returned to this lake. The lake of my fly fishing birth. Things had changed wildly. Upon my departure in 2002, the lake was so low and temps so high that the goldfish and white sucker population exploded. Gold bands largely covered the lake. Around the same time, Ramah Lake turned over and died taking its huge largemouth bass population with it. For the time, fishing was dead. I took my leave to Florida to study the worthless career path of “Audio Engineering”. Just before I left, there was talk about introducing bass to the lake. Then, talk of tiger muskie. The operation had momentum in 2003 when I returned. It takes a few years to grow a muskie and as I hiked down to the shoreline, thoughts of age began to surface. The oldest fish in this lake is ten, and we broke the state record five times last year. If you dig around in the world of studies and boring graphs, you will find that on average, these fish should only be around fourty inches. Not here, records are already topping fifty inches. This place has become world-class and it will remain that way for the next ten years.

I sat down on the broken shoreline and stared out across the lake. I was looking for signs of muskie. Ducks dove down into the water catching my attention, tricking me into the thought of swirling fish. There were no signs of fish, just calm and very cold water. I began casting clousers and other small flies to no avail. After the first couple hours, the story was about missed hook-ups and failing gear. I even had one snap a hook in two. Something wasn’t right. I tied on an articulating streamer pattern, only about five or so inches and the only one I had tied. On the second cast, I hooked up and lost the fly.frayed

It wasn’t long ago that I was out here and it happened in the same way. I swore I would come after the entire race to retrieve my fly. That day, I tied a ten inch double articulating fly that looked strikingly similar to a parrot. This could have been fueled by my subconscious hatred of parrots, but it was created to be big and bold. I tied with revenge on my mind.

On day two, I threw caution to the wind and tied on the monster. Within the first few minutes I had a fish in hand. They continually came after it, the fly bombarded by swimming baseball bats with teeth. In the wake of each miss, the fly would shed some hair and feathers, floating debris after being struck center mass by a torpedo. The fish came abundantly, sometimes waiting in the dark three feet from shore to come screaming out of nowhere. It became a suspense movie. My little brother was reeling in his lure humming “Pop!  Goes The Weasel”. Automatically, when turning that crank, you know a scary clown will pop out of the Jack-in-the Box. The question was, when? The clowns who stood before me in this lake weren’t happily colored clowns with red noses and a chipper attitude. These were voracious predators. Imagine a hand crank on the side of a lions cage, that is about the level of fear that works through you when you are trying to entice a strike from an unseen monster with a mouthful of razorblades. You expect the clown to jump out of the box at the end of the song. It never happens that way. Ever. That isn’t even the worst part of it! When you look down at the water and your fly, you will see the shadow lurking behind it. Even when there isn’t a shadow, your mind will create one. You will dangle that fly in front of the shadow, then the shadow disappears. It isn’t over yet. It’s like a dog waiting for you to throw its ball. Before you know it, you are evacuating your bladder while this fish tries to rip your arm off. You thought you would be casting until your arm turned to jello, but it isn’t the casting that gets you. It is the huge takes. They even give you a warning twitch! As if to say, “Hey! Watch this!”the take

The excitement never really ends. If you aren’t a smoker, by the time you finish muskie fishing, you will be. Just one to calm the nerves, just one more to calm the nerves… I couldn’t tell if my hands were shaking from the cold or from me being on edge. I walked around the corner into the sun for warmth. A cast and an immediate take and set. I didn’t know I was on with the biggest muskie of my life. As it lifted it’s head, I realized this fish could potentially put me in the hospital. I couldn’t tell the difference between excitement and fear. My whole life lead up to this moment. My life of fly fishing started here. Events of my life had been changing, as did with this lake. We evolved together. Even though we had our times apart, maybe the beginnings will be our future endings.Monster


Apex Predators, Lack of Teeth and Renormalized Rationality

tigerHumans like to believe that we are top tier predators. For most, it is true even without the use of weapons. For others, fearsome spiders and snakes reduce the ability to be any kind of predator at all. It is just a part of the human condition. Take away all we have and it wont be long before animals find out that we are delicious and slow bags of meat. What makes us the most voracious predator that walks the Earth is our ability to reason and control the environment around us. All predators do it to some degree. The Orca whale is a great example of this. Thanks to opposable thumbs of humans, we now drive cars with vanity mirrors and cup holders. To me, vehicular travel seems to be one of the most irrational things that humans have done. Why do I mention this? Imagine that there is only one car in the world. How much money and manpower would it take to create and maintain that single vehicle? You need a metal foundry, mines for each alloy, oil wells, refineries, and factories to produce all parts of the car. In terms of human survival, it makes no sense at all. According to some scholars and theorists, the only rational thing in existence is a computer or general computation, simple machines, artificial intelligence. To some degree, fish are simple machines with instinctual, rational thought. At least, this is how I see it. Days of a certain length, water of a specific temperature, optimal flows or height of water, and fish behavior can produce specific results. Fish do not retain memory of the past day, trout do not remember the exact look of the pteronarcys californica. They do know they are hungry around the second week of June. With this being said, there must be a certain instinctual reaction to insects. Much like a moth to flame. They just have to. Machines reacting to the environment.

It was day 33 in a row of work when I noticed a very distinct pain in my mouth. A tooth decided that it wanted to go. The pain was intense. The road trip that ensued was to get to a dentist, 4 hours southwest. I picked a doctor where I had planned on fishing, closer to where I grew up. Why not fish for something toothy when I had lost a tooth? It makes perfect sense to me, to desire the unattainable. Little did I know, my wisdom had slipped away, forcefully pulled from my mouth by a man given a doctorate by peers. Ironically, my line was also dangling in front of fish who should also have a doctorate. The elusive yet prolific Tiger Muskie, a true top tier predator. Their Achilles heel? Anything moving. The catch? They manipulate the environment around them, if your fly doesn’t fall within that harvestable world, kiss your chances goodbye. I see these fish as more curious and apt to strike at a moments notice. Very much like when your brother or sister points at you in the back seat of a car on a long road trip and proclaims, “I’m not touching you! I’m not touching you!” Instead of slapping your sibling or telling on them, in the Tiger Muskie world, you would just simply eat them. That seems pretty rational to me. Rationality, by definition, is having the ability to reason. When a muskie looms a couple feet away from your legs, staring down your fly, you can see reason taking place. You can tell the fish is thinking. You know that it can see you, but can it also see you reason? This is the point where it becomes a game…workin

Fishing is a sport. Plain and simple. Fishing is not a means to attain food. I’ll go to the store and buy a fish to eat before I sit behind a vise for hours designing, thinking, redesigning, rethinking, and repeating. There are so many options of materials in the world of streamers. They begin as just options for coloration and become materials for the science that is swim. Back in the water, predators do not sit reading books of what it is that you will tie, but everyday they will see something new. Something you might already be working on. Everyday you are gone, they learn, they evolve. I can not help but to think the predator also sees you as sport. Like a dog with a towel, it just wants to see if it can beat you one time. Since I feel that these fish are involved with this game, I must play it. The game does not lie in the fight, it is enticing predator and predator into that fight. The acknowledgement of two warriors about to engage in battle, because the fish knows you are there and the acknowledgement is taking your fly.

Although game theory leans into mathematics to hypothesize the rational outcome of an event involving two competitors, one competitor always wins. To further dive into the theory, what happens when two rational players are involved? One would think the universe will fold in upon itself and we would end up in an eternal stalemate. Unfortunately, there will be no universal paradoxical conundrums here. 😦 The simple answer here is both players end up with zero loss or only gain, renormalized rationality. When fishing for predators, we are in competition. A game of evolutionary gain. They call the muskie “the fish of ten-thousand casts”. To me, on cast ten-thousand, you have just changed the game. You dropped your guard and became more like prey. Your actions of stripping became lazier and more erratic, your casts shorter, you sat down and became tired. You changed the environment by accident and by doing so, invoked the wrath of an apex predator that never drops its guard. Next time you are out there on the water with predators, rather than constantly changing flies, play the game and manipulate the environment around you. Change your game and attitude and you will find your huckleberry.photogenic


Death From Below

Throughout history man has created monsters in fable. Some of those monsters are personified in literary context based upon legends and such, while some are real genetically altered beasts. The thing we never see scare us the most. Seriously, if bigfoot was your neighbor, you would probably be exchanging apple pies and talking about the weather rather than allowing him to haunt your dreams. Unless your greatest fear is having bigfoot invite you to his BBQ. Even known species such as bears and cougars, while not being seen can still strike fear into you and keep you on guard.

Even though fishing takes up a third of my life I still have an irrational fear of the water. If the bottom can not be seen, Nessie could be lurking somewhere, without an apple pie. Maybe I saw Jaws when I was far too young. Toothy critters give me the heebie jeebies. Which lead my brother and I to a place which is known for it’s goldfish population until the arrival of the genetic mutant that is the E. masquinongy x lucius aka Tiger Muskie.

Even smaller tigers can tear you up.

These mutants are among the funnest creatures in the world to catch. Almost no fear of humans and don’t know when to stop, wildly flailing and thrashing while you try to bring them. Swinging their razor sharp teeth in all directions and rolling as you try to get your hands around it without winding up with your arteries sliced open. The first day, I hooked up with the dream fish and lost it just as quickly. I could’ve cried. It wasn’t long before “accidental master angler” Nate answered back with a few of his own fish to hand.

The smallest of Nate's fish, still a formidable foe.

I’m aware that these fish were small, but the monster fish didn’t seem as active or as plentiful as they used to be. I pressed on, searching for the monsters while Nate was catching fish 2-3′ from the shoreline. Nothing to hand for 2 days on my end. I know the tricks, but the grass hasn’t grown back yet. For me, I’ll just hold this fish and hope for the best next time.

I can pretend that I caught one.