What do dinosaurs and king salmon have in common? More than you might think. 66 million years ago an asteroid hit the Gulf of Mexico. The subsequent climatic changes eliminated all of the large-bodied dinosaurs. Today, the only remaining direct descendants are birds, though more distant relatives like snakes, lizards, and crocs are present. Regardless, bird or reptile, notice anything? They are all much smaller than the dinosaurs. During childhood I was awestruck by the concept of dinosaurs, but thanks to a damn meteor I never got to see one. Instead, I made do with illustrations and plastic toys. So, what does this have to do with kings? Parallels. The gal in the photo is around 40lbs, large for this day and age. But she’s small fry compared to the 70-100lb fish that once roamed the ocean. Why are those big specimens, the dinosaurs of the salmon-world, now so rare? Because in order to get huge, a fish has to live a long time – six to seven years. To do that a king must make 4-6 laps around the Alaskan Gyre without being caught by a troller or gill net. It is simply too difficult for many fish to make that many laps without being killed. As a result, maximum age and size has decreased. For example, in the Pacific North West 5-year olds are as common now as 7-year olds were in the 40s and 50s. The decrease in age helps explain why our fish are now so small, and has likely reduced their fitness. From an evolutionary standpoint, large size is the king’s calling card, just like abundance is for pinks and diversity is for steelhead. Larger kings carry more eggs, can dig deeper redds to avoid scour, and have more fat to help them make long freshwater migrations. Kings need to be large to be productive, without question. The saddest part is that some kid in 100 years may be fishing for 15” kings, thinking they are large. He will only have photographs and videos to remind him of what once was, just as I had to live vicariously through a toy T-rex. We are the meteor. The kings are the dinosaurs. Something has to change.
“I first met Steve in the Bahamas when he came down to visit the field lab where I worked. After a week on the flats and countless Kaliks, a group of us hashed out a plan for a multi-year project on bonefish. Steve quickly became a mentor and friend, and we have since spent many hours talking about fish, going fishing, doing science on fish, and taking our kids fishing. Steve not only has an amazing grasp on the science, but also the ability to apply his work – to get it out of the ivory tower and into the rivers, lakes, and oceans where it can do good.
Today, Steve is one of the world’s foremost experts on the science of recreational fisheries. His lab at Carleton University contains a 40’x20’ room called ‘the fishing cage’ which is full of fishing and research gear, including a baitcaster that no one but Steve is allowed to touch. It is an honor to have Steve as the first official Keepemwet Science Ambassador.”
-Sascha Clark Danylchuk
Keepemwet Science Liaison
Dr. Steven Cooke is the Canada Research Chair in Fish Ecology and Conservation Physiology at Carleton University, Ottawa, Canada. He is an integrative biologist, conducting fundamental and applied research on the ecology, physiology, and behavior of wild fish. Much of this work is focused on developing strategies to ensure the sustainability of recreational fisheries. His research covers freshwater and marine systems and spans the globe with active collaborations in over 15 countries. To date, Cooke has over 500 peer reviewed publications on topics such as environmental policy, human dimensions of fisheries, stress biology and natural resources management, among others. He co-authored the UN FAO technical guidelines for sustainable recreational fisheries. Cooke holds leadership positions such as Chair of the Sea Lamprey Research Board of the Great Lakes Fisheries Commission and Chair of the Science Advisory Committee of the Ocean Tracking Network. He is Past President of the Canadian Aquatic Resources Section of the American Fisheries Society and President Elect of the International Section of the American Fisheries Society. He is a Subject Editor for the Journal of Animal Biotelemetry, FACETS, Fisheries Research, Environmental Biology of Fishes, and Endangered Species Research, and is Editor-in-Chief of the Oxford University Press journal “Conservation Physiology”. Cooke has received a number of awards including the Award of Excellence in Fisheries Management from the American Fisheries Society, the Medal from the Fisheries Society of the British Isles, an Early Research Award from the Ontario Government and the NSERC E.W.R. Steacie Fellowship. Cooke was recently selected to be a member of the Royal Society of Canada’s College of New Scholars, Artists, and Scientists. Cooke is an avid angler who enjoys spending his money on fishing gear and his time chasing fish with his kiddos.
By April Vokey
Originally published in Fly Fusion Magazine Fall 2012
It’s another one of those nights; quiet, cold, late and lifeless. Angry rain releases its fury onto the tin roof of my small guide cabin and wind-strewn branches scrape the thin glass window that looks out towards the vast, dense forest bordering the Dean River.
To my left, Colby snores heavily into his blanket, his whisker-clad nose and thick-furred shoulders twitching furiously as he sleeps through the storm. I smile at him; yes, it seems these nights have the same effect on us all.
The welcome flicker of a dancing flame livens up even the most ordinary of glass jars and the yellow glow illuminates the paper rested on my lap, allowing my eager pen access to the crisp white paper. I gaze at the two; so unremarkable yet so capable. The irony doesn’t escape me, and I am reminded again of why at an early age I was drawn to the comfort of such tools. As pen and paper merge, a literary intimacy begins and a message is born.
In the past I have been confined by the simplicity and politics of strict editors and conservative publications. “April, perhaps a light-hearted piece is in order? Maybe one on gear, or presentation, or even seasons…? Perhaps you can let the pot settle for a little bit before stirring it again?”
The plea is fair, for many an angler thrives on such articles, so I succumb to the unpleasant thought of stifled opinion, lingering on the edges of boredom while differentiating between dead-drifted glo-bugs and current-swung streamers.
In truth, there are only so many ways that this twenty-nine year old mind can phrase what has already been so rigorously explored and defined by men nearly three times my age.
Respectfully, I try to leave the technique-jargoned “how-to’s” for the mechanically inclined professionals — those who thrive off the vagaries of weather data, hydrometric charts and the latest and greatest in gear technology.
While relatively versed in those things, I prefer the quiet satisfaction of reader’ contemplation and the occasional bout of reflection.
I have been well behaved in my last two columns and would like to redeem my “get out of jail free” card before commencing with my next dice roll in the columnist’s game of editorial monopoly.
Defining the Grip & Grin…
The eeriness of the night has always been a cruel friend of mine. It does to me what it does to Colby, and my brain ticks and twitches with overwhelming ideas, thoughts and dreams.
I frantically jot down my impulsive flashes and try to guide the ink across the page in the blindness of the black room. It was a night much like this nearly one year ago that was the impetus for this article. I had been lying in bed below the same tin roof, sore and satisfyingly fatigued from a long excursion upriver with fellow guide, Steve Morrow. It was the end of our season and the two of us had trekked into a long flow of water in the upper stretches of the fabled Dean River in pursuit of adventure. Steve and I had spent the last sixty consecutive days guiding other anglers and assisting them with the stalking, hooking, landing and releasing of hot steelhead that were making their migratory journey to the Dean’s tributaries.
Through wind, rain, heat and horseflies, the two of us had landed more fish than we could count and the mantra of the grip; cradle; lift; smile; click; “give her a drink;” release, made our personal fishing days all the more relaxed when it came time to land our own fish.
As an unspoken rule, if we were within talking distance we would assist each other with a speedy release, but the camera played shy, emerging only for the occasional fish thats girth extended our splayed fingers more than usual.
That night, as I lay listening to the soothing pattering of rain, I replayed the day’s events and closed my eyes to envision the metallic green and gold flecks that shone brightly around the fire in one of the wild hens’ eyes.
To do her justice there was simply no need for a camera. I saw her clear and vivid on the inner dark screen of my rested eyelids; she had made an impression on my mind and her beauty had set itself in the depths of my memory where I could visit whenever I so inclined.
I’m no stranger to participation in the classic “grip-and-grin” photo; I had the pose down to a science. Four of my fingers lightly cradle her slick, white belly while the other hand closes a firm grip around her sturdy, spotted tail. Together my hands lift on cue, allowing the light to accentuate her bright silver scales, the water droplets rolling and teetering on her soft edges before plunging back down into the river around my knees.
The fish, safe in my grasp, awaits the greedy click of the shutter, and I turn my face to the camera with a trophy smile, entranced by my jewel.
The paradox here may not be obvious at first. To be honest, I had always softly lingered on the minor contradiction that posed-photography raises. You see, for some, in that chaotic instance of camera-bag digging, electronic fumbling and verbal communication between photographer and subject, it is inevitable that a moment of pure intimacy between the angler and his prize is lost.
In a circumstance where 30 seconds is the appropriate amount of time to be shared between the “gripped” and the “grinned”, 28 of those seconds are often spent concentrating on the camera’s black dials and glass lenses, rather than on the fish.
It’s an ironic trade off; an unconscious sacrificial exchange between the moment of mental imagery and the moment of distracted, hectic poses. Both result in a stored image; one in remembrance and one in pixels.
While I most certainly will not speak for others, I eventually found myself dreading the sloshing footsteps of an encroaching photographer.
In the 30-second allotment that I had to spend with my surrendered beauty, even the smallest of distractions became an annoyance to me, and I longed to be left alone to indulge in the uninterrupted silence where my eyes could etch a permanent picture in my mind.
It might be wise for me to clarify myself further. Occasionally I wholeheartedly delight in having a remarkable steelhead documented for my photo collection. There are some photographs I desire for future reflection and gratification; an early season buck with extra-hefty shoulders, the flawless and perfectly slender doe, the dainty downturned eye above small, sharp teeth.
In such instances, whether captured by the shaky lens in my phone or by the calm fingers of a courteously hushed photographer, I’m granted my quiet moment, free of direction, poses or displaced attention. The result is ideal: mental imagery paired with captured digital images, both of which are romantic, relaxed, natural, and true.
Some of the resulting photographs focus on the most unique characteristics of the moment: the glint in an angler’s eye, the small grin of satisfaction, the blushed cheeks of both exhausted fisher and fish, the caring lift of a surrendered steelhead over a protruding rock, the splashing water from a flailing tail, each a natural marvel caught in time.
The grip-and-grin argument is not a new topic in the world of angling. In states such as Washington it is illegal to fully lift a wild steelhead out of the water before releasing it. I’m sure there are some who object to such limitations, but the argument that a fish is safer in the water weighed heavier on the conservation scale, and the law was implemented. While the science of such impacts is still controversial, it is an undeniable that if given one of two circumstances (in or out of the water), it is the circumstance of leaving the fish in the water that causes the least risk to its health.
By minimizing damage to the fish’s vital organs due to inexperienced, unpracticed handling of fish, the state of Washington justified their legislation in the eyes of many avid steelhead anglers and activists.
Whether or not I can support this regulation with scientific evidence is a moot point, but from a purely photographic perspective I find this prohibition of grip and grins quite refreshing, as some of my favourite streamside photographs are the subtle and organic shots of half submerged lateral lines, upstream-turned snouts and healthy flared gills steadied as a conscientious angler prepares a steelhead for release.
It was one year ago under that tin roof in the middle of the forest that I questioned my integrity and my reasons for striving for that perfectly-posed photo.
I asked myself with all honesty, was it really for my memory? If it was, surely there are better ways to remember a fish than with extended arms and a static smile. Was it for a new Facebook profile? For Internet marketing? For the cover of the next magazine? Why was I wasting my time in a state of vanity with this perfect steelhead?
While my guilt danced alongside the flickering candle, I made a decision that I am determined to keep. I’m blessed to have caught plenty of steelhead over the past decade, possess enough grip-and-grin photos, and certainly had more than enough desktop backgrounds to keep me enthusiastic during the slow seasons. So in the dim light of that cabin I made the choice that I was no longer going to personally contribute to the plethora of posed steelhead photos in this sport where industry standards have established the glorious grip-and-grin as the ultimate in fishing memorabilia.
Of course, my clients and friends are free to do as they wish. Many wait all year to bring home that trip-of-a-lifetime photo of them with an ear to ear smile, and rightfully so. My mission is not to judge others who don’t agree with my reasoning, but rather to judge myself and put forth a personal commitment to something I believe in.
Earlier this spring I took the plunge and made an announcement on the Internet of my promise to alter my ways. The response was unlike any that I could have predicted.
A large majority of responders were supportive, a few were confused, and while I pointed no fingers at anyone other than myself, some were downright offended.
There were more than a few people who assumed that giving up steelhead “hero shots” meant that I had given up steelhead fishing itself. This made me chuckle as the confusion simply fuelled the fire of my point. Is that truly what the ultimate goal has become to some anglers? A photograph? If I can’t showcase a photo, is it implied that I will no longer be fishing?
There were some who were genuinely concerned and even a few who kindly reached out to me to ensure that I was well and that I hadn’t been hurt by someone prior to my post.
The conclusion that sums up this contentious viewpoint is a simple “to each his own” shoulder shrug and a short reflection of one’s personal beliefs. For me, I now prefer to keep the majority of my steelhead images stored internally, yet still thrive off watching my friends glow behind the raised silver gleam of a strong and healthy fish.
I will continue to grip and grin my next few permit, tarpon, fifty-plus pound Chinook and twenty-five inch thickly spotted brown trout that I manage to land, and will do so proudly until I have caught enough of each that I can see them in the same light I see my beloved steelhead in.
I will be true to my beliefs, a fan of my integrity and a foe of my insincerities, a woman who relishes the moment, and an angler who sees more than just a fish. Come the day that my experience on the water holds less clout than how impressive my Facebook profile is, I will put away my rods, stow my reels, whiten my smile and seek the “best in show” award from a hobby more fixated on the brilliance of my teeth.
I can assure you; it won’t be any time soon.
Wow, long time without a post! Probably because it has been the heart of winter #steelheadseason and I have been doing field and office work. Trying to fish, keep the wife happy and work is not always an easy balance. Sometimes I get to combine things, which is great. Last weekend I went fishing with @jdarrfishing down in Tillamook. Josiah and I don't necessarily see eye-to-eye on all aspects of steelhead management. But, we both love fish. We both grew up in the PNW, him in Scapoose and myself in Washougal. So basically we are a couple of dudes who love to fish for steelhead and want to keep fishing for these magnificent fish until the day we die. Josiah invited me to share his boat with his girlfriend, who is smart and a kick ass angler. I couldn't turn it down. Now, I almost solely swing a fly for steelhead at this point in my life, though I still sometimes enjoy fishing a spoon. But, I have tried nearly all methods at some point in my life. That day we basically bobber-dogged our way down the river. It was fun. I managed a wild hen, the fish in this photo, while Josiah and Lindsey kicked my butt by hauling in 5 hatchery steelhead. All in all, great weather and a great day on the river. What struck me the most is while we may never agree on all points about steelhead management, inside we are both a couple of 12 year olds who love fishing for steelhead. Like Josiah, I see value in hatcheries too. I enjoy killing fish to eat and took home two of the hatchery fish to share with the family. But I also see value in having our best wild populations of steelhead remain wild. Somewhere there is a balance to be found for wild and hatchery. We didn't get into that very much. Instead, we soaked up the sun and caught some steelhead. I learned a new trick or two from Josiah and got to experience the broodstock program in the Wilson. All in all, a great day and a good time being on the water. Ultimately, all of us need to reach across and talk to one another. We all want to keep fishing. The more we find common ground, the better off our fish and fisheries will be. Thanks Josiah!
As a worshiper of sandy toes and mountain air, Sascha has spent most of her life seeking water in one form or another. Her obsession has led her to a career centered around the natural world. As a fisheries scientists Sascha has focused most of her work on recreational angling, specifically the science of catch-and-release. She has also worked for a handful of non-profit organizations putting conservation into practice.
It is the intersection between her work as a scientist and her passion as an angler that led Sascha to Keepemwet Fishing. With a belief that recreational anglers have something to learn from fisheries scientists and that scientists need to make their work accessible to a wider audience, Sascha endeavors to develop a space in which everyone can communicate more directly and in a language that can be understood by all.
With her commitment to bridging science and angling communities via the exclusive new series Finsights, we welcome Sascha to the Keepemwet team in the new position as Science Liaison.
John was raised along the banks of the Washougal River in Southwest Washington where he spent most of his youth fly fishing for trout, steelhead and salmon. His favorite fish were the summer steelhead, from the early June rains through the late Indian Summers. All other interests were set aside during this period. Only steelhead mattered.
His early interest to steelhead carried over to adulthood. He has lived much of the past twenty years on the west-side of the Olympic Peninsula, and for over a decade he fished an average of 340 days a year. He spent that time adapting a style of casting and fishing in isolation -- wading deep, casting far, and swimming the fly broadside rather than solely swinging -- to solve the unique challenges of catching large winter steelhead in the brawling rainforest rivers.
He also spent 100's of days snorkeling the rivers, not only to inform his angling but also because he is a fisheries scientist. He has published numerous peer-reviewed articles in scientific journals, the vast majority of which has focused on the biology and ecology of steelhead and rainbow trout. In addition, he has authored two books and several book chapters on steelhead and other topics, and his underwater photography and videography has been broadly published in books, magazines, newspapers, movies and television. His latest publication is the book May the Rivers Never Sleep, which was a collaboration with his father Bill McMillan and pays homage to the strong conservation influence of Roderick Haig-Brown.
He now works as the Science Director for Trout Unlimited's Wild Steelhead Initiative after spending the previous five years studying steelhead and salmon recolonization in the Elwha River. Much of his professional scientific study has focused on the biology, behavior and ecology of steelhead and rainbow trout, with a particular interest in the mechanisms influencing why individual fish adopt particular life history strategies -- such as anadromy and residency.
He also focuses on educating citizens about science and believes that every angler owes it to themselves – and the fish – to minimize their impacts by handling fish well. That is why he is so excited to be an Ambassador for the Keep-em-wet movement. Not only does the movement include some of the best scientists and advocates, but it also focuses on doing what we can as anglers to ensure that the fish swims away in the best shape possible. That is something he fully supports the movement by Bryan Huskey and others, because it is up to each generation to do what they can to ensure the next generation has a chance to fish for the incredible wild steelhead.
Ever thankful for his understanding and lovely wife, Laurel, and his sidekick Gordon Setter, Honey, much of his free time is spent casting Burkheimer spey rods, snorkeling and taking underwater photographs of juvenile and adult steelhead.
As we developed the Keepemwet logo featuring the silhouettes of three fish, we sought iconic shapes that were emblematic of major sport fishing categories. A bass shaped profile for warm water species, the iconic tarpon representing salt water game fish, and a salmonoid shape which could be interpreted as a trout, steelhead or salmon, representing cold water species. Another element of this selection was to feature species that are commonly caught and released- the paramount purpose of the existence of Keepemwet Fishing and reflected by the underwater port-hole.
These of course are just three of many categories, which is why we also have art and designs on hand for many many other popular C&R species such as permit, rooster fish, bonefish and pike. As we look into these generic shapes however, we can imagine individual fish we cherish as part of our passion for fishing, wild species and pristine habitats. We can imagine what those individual fish may look like, which is exactly what I asked a few of our artist friends to do with a special edition artist series featuring the stars of Keepemwet Fishing and our logo.
"Consider this black and white outline part of a coloring book." I said. "Fill these lines with the fish that you see when you close your eyes." The invitation sparked instant responses from our friends Ed Anderson, Josh Udesen and Travis Sylvester. The green flag waved and they each set forth in their own respective styles and mediums.
It's no surprise that Ed Anderson and his organic, up-tempo gestural style finished first. If you've ever seen Ed paint, it's impressive in his speed. He moves in quick reflex motions, almost like he's not really using his eyes, like the brush is guided by his entire arm and body with results that flow together quickly. Paint drips and splashes on the floor. It's really cool to watch!
As Ed explains "It's great to be working with Keepemwet Fishing on this project. Keeping our fish populations healthy for sport fishing plays an important role in creating all my pieces. This species is one of my favorites and hopefully this tarpon can help continue the mission."
With that we introduce the first fish in the Keepemwet Artist Series Silhouettes and "Baileys Tarpon".
April Vokey began fishing as a toddler. By the sixth grade, she was saving her allowance for weekend visits to the local tackle shop where she eventually stocked her ‘hand-me-down’ Plano box with every lure and bait she could afford.
After discovering a passion for fly fishing in her teens, April Vokey soon dedicated her entire life to the pursuit, eventually culminating in her founding Fly Gal Ventures in 2007 at age 24. The company was built on the basis of the promotion of both education and encouragement to those who looked to chase their dreams. She has since established herself as a respected authority in the sport and has traveled the globe in pursuit of gamefish on a fly rod.
Her writing has appeared in numerous industry leading publications including Fly Fisherman, Fly Rod & Reel, and Fly Fusion magazines. Also a popular TV personality, April has been featured on the Outdoor Channel’s Buccaneers and Bones series, 60 Minutes Sports, The Steve Harvey show, Discovery Channel’s Refined, Discovery’s/OLN’s Close Up Kings, and WFN’s Fly Nation TV.
Most recently, Vokey proudly wrote and hosted her own exclusive series, ShoreLines with April Vokey, as shown on the World Fishing Network. The series focuses on fly-fishing’s rich history and the people it consists of. Feeling limited by airtime, she has since branched out with her podcast, Anchored with April Vokey, a series dedicated to archiving the stories and personalities from some of fly-fishing’s most influential people. The show is one of the only fishing podcasts solely recorded in a face to face environment where April ensures to ask questions apart from the norm.
“I’ve been a fan of the 'fish in water' movement for quite some time now, so I was excited to learn more about Keepemwet Fishing. I absolutely drilled Bryan about the movement's mission and goals, and was delighted to find that his only motive is helping to promote responsible fish handling. I think we are constantly learning how to be better stewards of the sport, and I’m proud to be a part of this team of like-minded people."
Travis Sylvester is an artist out of the Salt Lake City area. His love and appreciation for the amazing colors and markings of trout can be seen in his artwork.
Colored pencils are his medium of choice, and have been since he was in high school. “I really enjoy the results that I get out of colored pencils, they allow me to create very vibrant images with hard sharp edges, while at the same time I can smoothly transition through all of the brilliant colors on a gill plate.”
Travis’s artwork and style has become widely recognizable in the fly fishing industry. It is often mistaken for oil or acrylic paintings. Although Travis has not attempted using paint of any kind, he does state that he can see himself “giving it a whirl” in the future.
“My favorite part about drawing trout is trying to capture that awesome shimmery wet look. I also like to exaggerate the tones and glossy reflections that can often be seen around their eye or down their backs. If my completed drawing looks wet, or if it appears that you could reach out and touch the fish, I am happy with it.”
Travis gets inspired to continue his artwork from either catching beautiful trout, viewing fantastic trout photography, as well as viewing great artwork from other fish and trout artists. He continuously strives to make each new piece even better than the previous while continuing to establish his own unique style. Travis also likes to create wild digitally manipulated images from his own original drawings in between projects.
“For the most part, I am as self-taught with my artwork as I am with fly fishing. I still have a ton to learn about fly fishing, I feel that trying to figure things out on the water is half the fun. Although I do enjoy wading a mountain creek or river, I tend to find myself in my float tube out on a small lake or pond when I get a chance to go out.”
Some of Travis’s work can be seen on Montana Fly Company’s “River Camo” product line, Patagonia Tech shirts, and Fincognito Apparel. His work has been published in several popular magazines such as; Fly Rod & Reel, American Angler, Fly Fusion and H20. Giclee fine art prints on treated loose canvas, gallery wrapped canvas or fine art paper can be purchased from his website.
It all started with Instagram. That's the place I first noticed hashtags taking off and their great potential to link topics. What drove me nuts was how many photos I was seeing of fish up on the dry bank and tagged #catchandrelease. I wondered how many people realized those fish were not likely to survive, and continued the practice to keep feeding their social media audience. I wondered how many people were drawn to fishing because of the stunning imagery they'd seen online, and viewed this kind of practice as the norm for how C&R works and what it looks like. With camera phones in every angler's pocket and the insatiable expansion of social media, it seemed like catch & release needed a voice. A way of nudging anglers to consider that how they handled & released fish made all the difference in whether it lived or died- despite what the hashtag said.
I recalled a trout photography presentation I'd given years back and one of my sub-titles "Keep 'em Wet". The phrase suggested a primary element of ideal C&R and packed together as a hashtag had a catchy spark to it. I wanted to communicate many things at once, and a fish that was kept wet in the first place would likely avoid many additional handling impacts. So I created a hashtag for my trout and steelhead photos- #keepemwet.
From that time in early 2013 the tag caught on with friends and colleges in fly fishing culture. A bit later a buddy pointed out quarrels breaking out on social media- conflict, name calling and spats over the use of the tag. People were leveling accusations at each other as hypocrites for using the hashtag while also posting photos of fish out of water. The tag was being used as a divisive insult and polarizing the fishing community. I was completely blow away at how out of context and confrontational it was becoming. With the help and encouragement from Paul Moinester, I decided to take ownership of the phrase and it's meaning- as I'd intended it.
We set out to define keepemwet as synonymous with the multitude of science-based principles of catch & release, and assembled a coalition to promote these examples in this new era of social media. We reached out to Dr. Andy Danylchuk, a leading fisheries scientist and professor at University of Massachusetts Amherst. Andy expressed support and enthusiasm for the keepemwet concept and joined the team. I reached out to the many friends at different companies within the fly fishing industry and explained the support we were seeking to promote better C&R practices. Companies, media outlets and conservation organizations joined us left & right. Keepemwet Fishing™ was born.
Looking ahead my hope is for Keepemwet Fishing to unite anglers of all kinds while promoting C&R practices that benefit everyone. In the future I think it can expand beyond fish handling to larger habitat and conservation topics, tying in relationships and becoming a bridge between science and angling communities. Despite the political leanings or stereotype profiles of the vast range of angler groups around the world, they all want to catch more fish, period. Science is revealing new variables that impact overall catch rates, and Keepemwet Fishing wants to share that understanding.
Thanks for coming along.
... then you'd have a pretty good grip on our impact to steelehad habitat if this is the one you'd watched. After first hearing about Pass Creek from veteran Umpqua guides years ago, I pull up this gem every few years and it moves me to the core each time with it's scratchy audio, flickering images and priceless narration. Only Running Down The Man and a few other Felt Soul films impress me this much.
Easily the most moving, well-connected piece I've ever seen on the topic, the kicker is that this film was made in 1968!!!
Give yourself time to watch this piece. It's about ten minutes long, and the first minute or so is silent so don't try to troubleshoot your speakers. Pour a drink, silence your phone & sit back for a bit of watching and thinking.
Long before Keep ‘em Wet entered the lexicon of hashtags and facebook posts I had a gut feeling there was a need to keep the fish where they should be. I won’t say I was militant or even on the forefront of some sort of conservation movement, I simply understood the impact of keeping a fish out of the water. As any rookie guide can probably attest to, learning to properly handle fish is acquired through a few hard lessons. It is not with great pride, I can admit I likely killed a fish or two to get a hero shot for a client.
At least one memorable incident had a lasting impact on my fishing psyche. It was probably two decades ago, in my first year of guiding southwest Alaska. Regulations allowed sport fisherman to harvest rainbows, but as per lodge policy, we always released them, regardless of the fish and game regulations. In this case, after a long struggle, a botched netting, a hand to hand passing of the fish with little rest, several drops in the mud and sand, and a multitude of photos with an array of cameras, this monster rainbow was back in the water to be “revived”. As I tried to get it going, I knew it was not going to turn out well. There are few things that feel worse as a fisherman than seeing a beautiful fish, worthy enough for a grip and grin shot, struggle to be revived and ultimately end up where it should not – belly up. It gave me a head shake, wiggled free and immediately twisted to it's side. As I chased the struggling beast of a rainbow down river, trying to grab it to resuscitate, I knew it was a lost cause. As it sunk into a pool, I was pissed. What a waste. I could not be too angry with the client, everyone wants the bragging rights to a huge a rainbow. Instead, I was mad I let it happen. I won’t go so far as to say I made a policy or changed radically, I just knew I had to work fast when a fish was landed. Get the fish in, keep it in the net until the photo is ready, snap a shot and get it back in.
With that said, over the next decade or two I had no benchmark or clear delineation of what was best for the fish while still getting a good photo for a client, a friend or myself. I have to admit, as a fisherman, the obvious implications of the keeping ‘em wet ethos seemed like common sense, but it was never really verbalized. I’ve always veered from the tail splitting green mesh nets, dragging fish on the beach or the finger in the gill hero shot as a guide, but I did not have a clear method or approach to handling fish. I never realized I have a ton of fish photos, but rarely is there a shot of me holding the fish. Other than a hatchery steelhead destined for the grill, rarely did the fish get my greasy mitts all over them. Ultimately, the fish was the focus on my photography not me with the fish.
It was not until I was introduced to Bryan Huskey’s photos, and subsequently, Bryan himself that I understood what Keep ‘em Wet really meant. His photos were remarkable with an element unlike anything I’d seen. The artist in me saw something very unique in a world of "fly fishing photographers". In one of our first meetings I asked him about how / why / what gives him the ability to portray something with such a unique perspective. His answer was simple, "I don’t like to take the fish out of the water.” He followed up by explaining how he was hardwired to keep the fish in the water, touch it minimally, and often did not have someone to hold the fish or land the fish and as a result, the camera angles were always foreshortened, cropped or combined water and an aspect of the fish. It was a brilliant accident. He told me how he sometimes had to lay down with his back on the bank, butt on the edge and his legs in the water in order to get the fish in the frame and keep it in the water. He explained the need for an exceptionally long handled net because you can wedge it between your legs, keep the bag in the water, deal with disengaging the hook and get a shot or two - all while the fish never left the water. His focus on keeping the fish in the water made his photos remarkable. I not only respected the craft and the outcome, but I understood how simple it was to respect the fish and get the shot.
As an artist, water and fish are intertwined. Although I paint lots of fish, most of my paintings are more than fish. Every person who as ever netted a fish in a clear, freestone creek knows how magical those trout look, but each fish is framed by the water. The best images of fish include water. Fish are amazing to paint and draw, but the water is what makes the image complete. I’ve always been drawn to reflective and refracted surfaces. Water has a way of multiplying and enhancing anything. Put a simple pencil in a clear glass of water and see what happens. It bends, cuts in half, expands, and ultimate it changes. Likewise, the colors of the fish are bent, twisted, more abstract and enhanced when combined with water. With water, you can use brushstrokes boldly and get away with it. You can add outrageous colors and make it work. It is fun to play with the water that surrounds fish. In other words, my art is a natural way of encouraging and promoting all of what Keepemwet Fishing embodies.
My fly fishing addiction started quite early for me. Since the early age of ten my father had been regularly taking me and my younger brother fly fishing on one of the best European chalk streams, the river Unica. There I have made my first casts and also have caught my first fish with a dry fly. Since then, fly fishing has always had a huge impact on my life. I cannot explain my feelings when I am standing by a river, pursuing trout, grayling or some other fish. Maybe it is something like visiting a church for some; it lets me connect with everything - from my life, my own thoughts to the nature. With years I got really involved with fly fishing and a few years back I also set my mind to it, that fly fishing is something that I really want to do “professionally” for the rest of my life.
As a big nature lover, conservationists and supporter of sustainable fishing I first got involved in my local angling club Vrhnika, where I am a member of the environmental group and also an angling warden. I was also collecting and inputting data for our biggest online database that is run by the Angling Association of Slovenia and has more than 10.000 entries on small polluters of our local rivers. In the more recent years I have also established my own guiding services Urko Fishing Adventures, where we offer and promote amazing opportunities for fly fishing on the best rivers in Slovenia, with some unique and rare fish species as the Marble trout and the Danube salmon (Hucho Hucho).
Being a guide also gives me the opportunity to promote and share my beliefs or let’s say my ethics on how a modern fly fisher should act on the river and how he handles his catch to minimize its stress as much as possible. This also means that the #keepemwet movement is something that I feel right at home with and also reflects my own stand on the matter. And did I forget to mention that I also love to take photos of my fishing adventures too? I am definitely not a professional with a camera, but I do manage to occasionally get some shots right! ;)
Tight lines to everyone and #keepemwet!
Born and raised in Oregon, Marty grew up on the banks of the Sandy River. With his dad as tutor and angling mentor, Marty landed his first steelhead at the age of five. During the 70s his dad continued to hone and shape [perhaps unknowingly] Marty’s future by taking him fishing, seemingly every day, and instilling in him the instincts and techniques for pursuing steelhead. Much of his fly-fishing inspiration came from devouring books, especially those written by such notable and insightful naturalists as Roderick Haig-Brown and Bill McMillan. While still a young strapling in the 1990s, Steve Kruse took Marty underwing and taught him the art of Spey casting. Perhaps it should come as no surprise that all these elements now manifest themselves as Marty’s unbounded enthusiasm for guiding—backed up by over a decade of professional experience in the “field”—and an almost missionary zeal for teaching others and sharing in the pure joy of rivers.
Let's roll into the new year with a fresh Instagram #keepemwetchallenge from our latest Keepemwet Fishing partner Ninja Suit by Airblaster. For this challenge "Gotta be crazy" show us the most brutal winter weather you brave out on the water fishing. Tag your Instagram photos #keepemwetchallenge and #ninjasuit this month and we will pick men's and women's winners at the end of January.
Our friends over at Gink & Gasoline have had a great run with thier Keep Em Wet photo contest. Folks are really taking note of this silly phrase and the impact it's having on how catch & release fishing is portrayed on social media. Our sincere thanks to all the individuals who share this awareness and the media outlets like G&G who really boost it's profile.
Our friends and partners at BTT are helping to promote wetter handling and photos of catch & release fish- including the all important salt species.