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What Keepemwet Means to Josh Udesen

Josh Udesen at home, on the water.

Josh Udesen at home, on the water.

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.

Old school Alaska, hip waders and all.

Old school Alaska, hip waders and all.

 

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.

Just a few examples of the incredible ways fish can suspend in Josh's artwork, and our imaginations.

Just a few examples of the incredible ways fish can suspend in Josh's artwork, and our imaginations.


 
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 Keep ‘em Wet fishing embodies.

View more work from Josh Udesen here.

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Ambassador Profile: Uros Kristan

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!

Website. Instagram.

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Ambassador Profile: Marty Sheppard

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.

Website.

Instagram.

In addition to being a veteran steelhead guide, Marty is also a top notch photographer.

In addition to being a veteran steelhead guide, Marty is also a top notch photographer.

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New KEEPEMWET CHALLENGE Contest with Ninja Suit by Airblaster

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.

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Gink & Gasoline Keep Em Wet Winner

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.

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Bonefish & Tarpon Trust "Keep 'Em Wet" Photo Contest

Our friends and partners at BTT are helping to promote wetter handling and photos of catch & release fish- including the all important salt species.

BTT's KEEP 'EM WET®  contest runs through December 15, 2016! The contest is sponsored by Orvis in partnership with Keep 'Em Wet Fishing, YETI Coolers, ARC Fishing, Montauk Tackle and Fishpond.

Click above to visit BTT and learn details. Prizes are incredible so note this ends December 15th!

Click above to visit BTT and learn details. Prizes are incredible so note this ends December 15th!

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Ambassador Profile: Jeff Hickman

"Dating back to some of my earliest introductions in the fly fishing industry, Jeff Hickman has held a lofty reputation as fisheries advocate and NW steelehead Jedi. Over time we established many mutual friends, so the first chance I had to introduce myself (the 2009 IFTD Show in Denver) I grabbed him to bend his ear a bit. Just as described, Jeff was as friendly and approachable as an old pal. Ever since then it seemed each time I happened to be on an Oregon steelehad river, there was Hickman. Always on the water, always friendly and happy to pull to shore and chat. Jeff's high profile reputation is well-earned and deserved. Take a scroll through his social media content and you'll be amazed at the incredible fish and places he knows so well. Although he's devoted to exclusively swinging flies, Jeff is a true ambassador of sport fishing and game fish of all kinds."

-Bryan Huskey

Keepemwet Founder

Jeff taught himself to fly fish and tie flies when he was 10. Growing up in a lodge on Mt Hood that he helped his mom manage, he saved up his housekeeping wages to buy his first Spey rod at 12. Hitchhiking to the river before and after school, he was doomed to a life of fishing addiction. The strong addiction lead to fly shop employment, guiding in Oregon and Alaska and even management at a bonefishing lodge in the Bahamas. Jeff started Fish The Swing in '11 to show his commitment to "swing only" and now owns and operates three well respected and sought after fishing/guiding programs in Oregon as well as Kimsquit Bay Lodge on the Dean River in British Columbia. Website. INSTAGRAM

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Monkey see...

Keep the fish wet. Get your photos. It's a catch & release no-brainer.

For many of us, this whole #keepemwet thing is just a no-brainer. We've long had an awareness that the fish we plan to release need to be handled carefully and wet. We get it. We're familiar with the science about different species in different conditions and how the scale moves relative to those factors. Awesome.
 
Here's another take on why keepemwet matters, my take, and the largest root of the movement: It's all about how we represent fishing via the examples we set on social media. We all know that todays youngsters are born & raised by what they see on screens. They still latch on to certain activities- such as fishing, and consume the respective content we feed them. They follow social media of companies, groups or individuals they think are cool and want to emulate. You've seen the trendiness of certain poses with fish right? Those all start with one picture then multiply. Everyone copies everyone else, it's just the nature of things.

Since its inception, my sincere hope for #keepemwet is to set examples that others want to copy. It's great to share the science, encourage a moral obligation, promote stewardship of resources yada yada. But in the end, if we can just make better and wetter fish handling the standard practice, simply "the way to do it if you're anybody" and not try to force it- I think it will have the best chance of taking root and moving the needle of what fishing looks like on social media.

Activities all have their own culture that has developed over time by crusty old veterans leading up & comers. Processes and general etiquette's are formed then passed down. Think of popular boat ramps or surfers in the swell lining up for their turn. It feels to me like fly fishing is experiencing a merging of two generations- those who've been at it for decades and those who've picked it up in the last few years because of the juicy images they've seen on a screen. So in a way there has not been as much in-person mentoring taking place. I believe we have an opportunity to influence the "standard practice" of catch & release by keeping fish in the water or visibly dripping in practice and in photos. All I've intended with the keepemwet hashtag and subsequent movement is to promote that. It's not my nature to cruise social media commenting on posts of wild steelhead laying in the dry dirt and tagged #catchandrelease, so this has been my way to take action passively, to chill out a bit and just say "Hey it's all good, but this is how I like to take photos of fish".

The support from conservation organizations, companies and individuals have enabled this phrase to evolve into something of a movement, and an opportunity to go one step further in explaining and defining the keepemwet concept via Keepemwet Fishing and Keepemwet.org. In the big picture, this concept affects every person around the globe that tosses a line in the water. And in practice has the opportunity to benefit everyone without a single drawback. I think that's something worth promoting, and I hope you agree!

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Ambassador Profile: Mia Sheppard

"Mia's career and livelihood revolve around conservation. I first came to know Mia via her strong advocacy for wild runs of steelhead in Eastern Oregon, and her career as an accomplished steelhead angler and guide. A short time later our paths crossed again with various media collaboration projects for public land and wildlife habitat. A great friend on the river or in the field, Mia knows the ropes in a wide range of topics involving fishing, fisheries and habitat. She is a strong leader who walks the walk of Keepemwet Fishing."

-Bryan Huskey

Keepemwet Founder

Threetime world champion spey caster,  accomplished guide, conservationist,  upland bird hunter, skier and mother, Mia Sheppard, grew up in Tennessee, chasing trout and hiking the beautiful Great Smoky Mountains. Fly fishing caught her attention in 1996 and in 2001, Marty Sheppard, her husband, introduced her to spey casting, and connecting with steelhead.  In 2003 they purchased Little Creek Outfitters, a outfitter deep rooted in fly-fishing since the early 90’s, guiding anglers into steelhead, trout, and smallmouth bass on Oregon Rivers.
Committed to conservation, she works for the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, is a river steward for Native Fish Society, the conservation chair for IWFF and supporter of Deschutes River Alliance, Trout Unlimited, Casting For Recovery, Fly Fishing Collaborative and Keepemwet Fishing. Mia has contributed to the books; Wild Steelhead: the Lure and Lore of a Pacific Northwest Icon and 50 Best Places Fly Fishing the Northwest. She is an ambassador for Simms Fishing Products, Airflo Lines and Field Advisor for Winston Rods.  When she isn’t fishing she can be found chasing upland birds or skiing Mt Hood with family and friends. Website. INSTAGRAM

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Ambassador Profile: Josh Udesen

"One of the early standouts in a crop of incredible fly fishing artists, Josh Udesen and his work have captured the intangible elements of our admiration of fish. His work inspires sincere interest and respect for the variety of species he features. That connection sets examples for anglers to imagine their next catch as it swims, not flopping in the dirt or gasping in the wind."  

-Bryan Huskey

Keepemwet Founder

I never really considered the idea of art as a career, so my focus was always on the fun of art. In college I took as many art classes as I could, simply because I loved them, not because I ever imagined I would do something beyond a hobby. Even if I never considered an art major or thinking of a career in art, I continued my personal goal of educating myself in painting, drawing, ceramics and printmaking.

My "new" career as an artist was preceded by a long list of careers that have shaped both me personally and the art I do today. I've been teaching 11th and 12th grade History and Comparative Religions at Riverstone International School in Boise, Idaho, for the past nine years. Prior to moving to Boise I spent several years living and teaching in Tashkent, Uzbekistan (not a typo - I did live in Central Asia), eight years teaching in Central Oregon and a few years learning to teach in Alaska.

As I developed a teaching career I was a long time fly fishing guide on some of the greatest rivers on earth. I spend six summers as a guide on the Deschutes River in central Oregon working for the Flyfisher's Place out of Sisters, Oregon. Before guiding in Oregon I was a guide for Tikchik Narrows lodge in the Bristol Bay region of Southwest Alaska.

Website. INSTAGRAM

Other Posts from Josh

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Ambassador Profile: Dave McCoy

"An ardent advocate of conservation as a whole, Dave has never backed down from his strong conviction and devotion to fisheries and wild places. As a career photographer, angler and fly fishing business owner, Dave was one of the first people to take a firm stand early in the life of the Keepemwet movement. Since day 1 he has offered his support for the efforts of developing this website, relationships with others in the fly fishing industry and consistent media exposure with large audiences. Dave is the hard core of the Keepemwet hard core, his name and reputation bring world wide credibility to Keepemwet Fishing, and the fly fishing world is better off with his involvement."

-Bryan Huskey

Keepemwet Founder

At a young age, Dave’s father introduced him to fishing and sparked a lifelong passion to experience and enjoy life in the great outdoors.  Growing up in Eugene, Oregon, his stomping grounds were and remain legendary namesakes such as Crane Prairie and Hosmer Lakes as well as the Deschutes, McKenzie and Umpqua Rivers to name a few.  While Dave quickly discovered the thrill of having a fish on, it was the awe of his surroundings that instilled his deep passion for fishing and conservation.  Dave has dedicated his professional life to the fly fishing industry and has spent the last twenty-plus years relentlessly trying to surpass expectations as a guide, outfitter owner, conservationist, and fly fishing ambassador.  Dave is quick to note that he is nothing in his pursuits without his wife Natalie and daughter Nessa, who constantly remind him why he is so inspired without saying a word.  In addition to co-owning and operating Emerald Water Anglers, Dave is a Patagonia and Costa Ambassador, Winston, Airflo, Echo and Bauer pro staff member; IFFF Certified Casting Instructor; and widely published photographer. Website. INSTAGRAM

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Ambassador Profile: Arian Stevens

"I first met Arian swilling pub beer around a table of fish bums in my home town of Bend, Oregon. The Keepemwet "movement" was still fairly young, but as we began to chat about the hashtag, the phrase and it's potential, Arian (a renowned photographer who's work I'd long admired) was buzzing with enthusiasm, ideas and suggestions. Great ideas and suggestions I might add. When I told him that one day I hoped to establish a stable of Keepemwet Ambassadors, Arian insisted that he wanted in. I'm now proud to have him on board as part of the ground floor team." 

-Bryan Huskey

Keepemwet Founder

Growing up in the foothills between Yosemite and Tahoe I’ve always been spoiled by the awesomeness of the outdoors. Fresh out of high school having no clue what I wanted to do I happened to take a photography class and found not only my passion, but a way to share the beauty of my surroundings with others. Back then, every river I photographed I always imagined how much cooler it would be if there was someone fishing it. Combining the two, I added a fly rod and a few fishing buddies to my arsenal and decided to move where there was a bit more water to cover. I’m still more of a photographer than a fisherman, since I prefer a killer image to a killer fish. But… I’m still pretty stoked with a killer fish. Website. INSTAGRAM

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Keepemwet Video Tips

Founder of Keepemwet Fishing Bryan Huskey demonstrates a few considerations for catch & release fishing and photography. Footage by Will Bales. More tips and catch & release info at keepemwet.org
Keepemwet® is a registered trademark of Keepemwet Fishing™

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5 Tips for Releasing Fish from Keepemwet Fishing

This is the ultra condensed version of "5 Tips for Releasing Fish" from Keepemwet Fishing ™

Keepemwet™ is about releasing fish in the best condition possible. It’s a motto for minimizing air exposure, eliminating contact with dry surfaces, and reducing handling. It’s a movement to empower anglers to take small, simple steps to responsibly enjoy and share fishing experiences. Our goal is to reduce angling impact on fisheries by uniting conscientious companies, organizations, and anglers to promote science based practices for handling fish that are caught then released.
Keepemwet is the evolution of releasing fish. Our fish! Your Fish!

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Guest Blog "Baby Steelhead" Brian O'Keefe

Spent the day with ODFW and hiked into the lower Crooked, off of Crooked River Ranch and then into the Deschutes, above the mouth of Whychus Creek. One rattlesnake on the Crooked. Each load was 40 pounds and contained 3000 baby steelhead. We transplanted about 600,000 fish.

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Guest Blog "When Life and Luck Collide" - Brian O'Keefe

(I couldn’t resist not sharing this experience from yesterday)

After a little errand running around Bend, and spending a little time with my mother, I drove up into the Deschutes National Forest in search of some big bass.

I had my 8 weight and flies/poppers, a couple donuts and some lemonade. No boat, my destination had some decent access via just wading. Simple, mind clearing stuff. Catching a few bass would be a bonus. The weather was decent but a cold front was moving in.

It was too sunny for poppers when I got there, so I rigged a big, white, wool-head streamer (Kelly Galloup style). It kind of floated and kind of dove down a bit. The bass liked it. I got a couple nice ones and a couple mediums. I walked back to my truck, which was parked on a very remote un-named/numbered Forest Service road, and this was at least 10 miles from pavement. As I loaded up my rod and had a donut a wild eyed young man walked down the road and I could tell he was going to enlighten me on his situation, good or bad. He was about 25 years old, in shorts, tank top and flip flops. I was thinking, "Dang it, some yahoo lost his dog, or something…” In a couple minutes this young man tells me he has a flat tire and his wife and kids and dogs are waiting, etc, etc. He has a spare tire but no jack. There was a reason why he had no jack, but I forgot. I have him jump in and we drove 3 miles to where his truck was. On the drive I find out where he lives (LaPine - sometimes not a great town to put on your resume), and that at one time he lived in Gates, Oregon (North Santiam River -where I lived 2000 to 2004) and he had spent 6 years in the Marines. I noticed the assault rifle tattoo.

By some miracle he drove a Chevy Silverado, also. His was about 8 years older than mine, but at least we hoped the jack, spare tire lowering rod, lug wrench, etc would be compatible. They were to a degree, but it still took over an hour to get the spare tire lowered and the tires changed. I am usually the guy crawling under the truck, getting dirty, ‘jerry/jury-rigging’ stuff and busting a knuckle or two. I was in my waders, so Ben insisted I stay upright, read the owners manual (I think he had me do that to stay out of his way!). Ben was all Marine. Super fit and tough. Under the truck, banging on things, wedging logs, jacking, etc. He was head to toe dust and all the while kept calling me sir, and thanking me so profusely it was embarrassing. He has no idea how many times I was the guy with the flat tire (three times I’ve had two flat tires at the same time), or stuck in the mud/snow, or had lost keys (broke more windows than I’d like to admit). Finally, the tire was on. It took 90 minutes. His wife and kids were a mile away waiting. Ben had built them a big fire, as a cold front was bearing down. Ben shook my hand and I didn’t wince to loudly from the rock crusher grip.

While Ben was working, I noticed the ‘All Gave Some and Some Gave All’ Marines bumper sticker. I noticed several dog tags that hung from his mirror. I’m pretty sure they belonged to fellow Marines, lost in action. He said he had an older German Shepard, which I think was also a war vet. It’s funny, to Ben, I was a life saver, as the location of this mishap was not favorable to a good outcome, the luck of having the same rigs was improbable, him finding me (and me quitting fishing at just the right time), the weather getting cold and nasty, was almost too Hollywood. When I drove off, trying to recover from the death grip hand shake, I realized I was the lucky one. Ben was the real deal. He made my day.

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KEEPEMWETCHALLENGE WEEK 3 WINNER

As usual, a ton of great photos once again for Week 3 of #keepemwetchallenge. This shot from @knowmadic_fisherman came early on in the contest and just had staying power. The delicate wild fish, the incredible rippled glass like water and the work boot to boot! It's not even a fly caught fish, but all the better because we appreciate anglers of all kinds who handle the fish they release with care. Cheers to all of you who follow along and have fun with us wile sharing our love of fishing. Enjoy some fishing specific boots @knowmadic_fisherman from our friends at @simmsfishing

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