Tag Archives: fly fishing

STREAM Girls 2015 + Fishing With Mike

STREAM Girls: one of the coolest programs that TU does. Of course, I’m totally biased, since it was an idea that I came up with after having a good long talk with my momma about how to get more girls and women involved in conservation and fly fishing.

The second annual STREAM Girls event was held on June 19th and 20th, in Wisconsin’s Jordan Park, along the Plover River. It is a collaborative event between Trout Unlimited and the Girl Scouts of America, and we were very excited to get our girls involved and learning about water once again!

STREAM is an acronym that is based on the STEM education emphasis: S for science, T for technology, R for recreation, E for engineering, A for arts, and M for math.

The STREAM Girls curriculum covers many topics: everything from the science behind water flow, streamside vegetation, fish habitat and water quality to fly tying and casting.

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Entomology is always a BIG HIT!

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We made a direct connection from the bugs in the stream to the flies that we tie, and ushered the girls to stations to tie some flies, with a fabulous 1:1 ratio of volunteers to girls. They followed a wooly bugger recipe, then were given a little creative license to make their own!

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We wrapped up the first day with fly casting basics and casting games, then practicing casting into water. It really does have a totally different feel than learning on grass, so we tried to create as authentic a learning environment as we could.

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TU national staff and volunteers designed and provided specialized handbooks to the scouts, outlining their activities for the program. The program is about 75% science-based and 25% angling, and it includes an at-home checklist to share with their families, evaluating their familial impact on their watershed.

We had Junior Girl Scouts for the full day of learning on Friday, and Brownies joined us on Saturday morning. The older girls took the younger girls on a streamwalk, stopping at volunteer-manned stations, sharing what they’ve learned about the stream, and answering questions along the way. Each stop earned them a charm or bead for a bracelet that they assembled at the end of the stream walk.

Channel 7 news even came out to cover the event!

It was raining on us for the majority of Saturday, but we wrapped those girls in ponchos and we braved the rain for a little shore fishing on Jordan Pond.

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We had 18 graduates of the STREAM Girls program, each earning a patch for the back of their vest or sash, a certificate of completion, and a water bottle with the STREAM Girls logo.

As the girls packed up their gear, excitedly showing their parents their new patch, I found peace in my heart knowing we’d helped to create a new generation of educated observers and nature lovers.

TU volunteers came from all corners of Wisconsin to share their passion and knowledge about water, and I’m incredibly thankful for the kindness and generosity of everyone who contributed.

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One of those dedicated volunteers was my friend, Mike Kuhr. We went out fishing on my home water (the Tomorrow River) Friday evening, and had a lot of fun!

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Fishing in the dark is every bit as difficult as you would think it would be, but catching fish is even more rewarding, if that’s possible. It was a great time, and I caught my biggest nighttime fish yet! 🙂

After that whirlwind of a weekend, I was so thankful to get home to my pup and Mr. Mustache. I need a vacation!

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Thanks for reading! 🙂

Miles this year: 296.1

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Fly Fishing School 2015 + CWERB Presentation

Hey, guys! I’m excited to share a few photos from our Fly Fishing School this year. My TU chapter, Frank Hornberg, hosts an annual fly fishing school, and we share our love for the sport and conservation.

We teach knot tying…

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…and fly casting…

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…we have hands-on reading the stream sessions…

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…and last, but not least, we serve really delicious food.

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I wasn’t planning on wet wading during lunch, but when the fish are rising, well…

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My chapter president and I took out four of our students after the school was over. We swung by a pub for dinner, then headed out on our beloved Tomorrow River. I was so proud of the women that came out with me- they did a great job, and we had lots of laughs while doing it. 🙂

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Thanks, everyone! I hope you end up loving our streams as much as we do.

Shortly after the school, I ended up spending my meeting in a seemingly polar opposite way- at a meeting in a dark country club room, with a PowerPoint presentation. It was like the collision of my two worlds- I attended a CWERB (Central Wisconsin Economic Resource Bureau) presentation about entrepreneurship in America.

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I learned a lot of material- it was incredibly interesting! I’m thankful that I secured an invite. I wasn’t sure if I would know anyone there, but I ended up sitting next to our mayor, and he introduced me to several folks that I should know in the community. Those connections will come in handy with my newest project… more information to come!

I’ll leave you with a photo from my lilac bush after a little dew.

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Thanks for reading, friends!

Up next? A memorial day up north and my launch into local politics.

Miles this year: 286.1

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I can’t believe I left my keys on the hood.

Yes, you read that right. Apparently, I was unloading the car when I got home, and I put my keys on the hood of the car. Later that evening, Brian and I hopped in my car to drive to hang out with some of our friends, and he used his car keys. We were several miles from home when he looked down on the hood and noticed my keys were sitting there.

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They’re not magnetized or anything- I don’t know how they stayed! I urged Brian to pull over, but he said, “If they haven’t come off yet, they’ll be okay until we get there.” We drove the last few miles with baited breath, but they didn’t budge. I’m so lucky!

I paid forward my good karma by donating a photo shoot for the absolutely precious little Bennett.

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His momma and daddy tried for many years to have this little peanut, and we all eagerly awaited his arrival!

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Congratulations, Kostuhoski family! ❤

I spent several days doing headshots for a couple different companies, including my physical therapist’s office, Point Forward. Look at these friendly PTs! 🙂

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I also had the opportunity to do headshots for the Festival foods company.

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I did about 130 of them, and they all look pretty much like this. 🙂

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After my first day shooting for Festival at their Green Bay support office, I swung by my favorite fly shop, Tight Lines. They were prepping their gear for the busy guide season.

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I dropped off a couple beers (share the love with your fly shop, people!), had a few laughs, then headed home to celebrate Cinco de Mayo with Brian. Margaritas, fajitas, and eating on the porch. I love summer in Wisconsin.

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I had a bunch of other shoots, but made time for a little community race that raises money for CAP services. Our friend, Jenny, also ran the race! A little warm weather 5K was perfect for a weeknight.

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I finished off the week with my last TU chapter board meeting at Shooters in Plover. We’ve switched our meeting location to the new community room in SentryWorld. It’s an incredible facility.

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Our weekend included a shoot with all of the individual students at Heywood Music Studios. Here’s the group shot from their spring piano recital!

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Always a busy girl, and always running around. More adventures to come.

As always, thanks for reading!

Miles this year: 282.1

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Hannah’s Haircut + Kris and Shane, engaged!

My TU friend, Hannah, is a rockstar. She’s a badass farmer and triathlete who lives in the northern Wisconsin country. She also has been growing out her waist-length hair for years, and she volunteered to shave her head and donate all of her hair. What a champ!   
 The stylist is my beautiful friend, Stef, at Kasha Salon, and she volunteered her time and services. Thanks, girl!
 Hannah, your hair is going to make a child very happy! Thanks for being awesome. Enjoy your newfound scalp freedom!

The next day, I went to help out at a Friends of the Little Plover River event- the fourth graders from the Stevens Point district all come out on an afternoon field trip and learn about their local stream. I was at the fly casting station with Stu, a member of my TU chapter.  I left the FOTR event early to head down to Madison for a very special photo shoot- a lifestyle shoot with Kris and Shane… turned surprise proposal! Kris had been planning this day for months, and I was in on the surprise. It’s hard to plan a photo shoot for “no reason” with someone less-than-thrilled to ham it up for the camera without giving it away, but Kris’ masterfully laid plans worked perfectly. He convinced Shane to play along, and we ended up having a lot of fun!

We started taking photos at Kris’ mentor’s piano, then headed downtown at the Capitol (to drink wine on the lawn, of course!), around the square, then over to the Monona Terrace.Right after this picture was taken, a woman walking by asked if we were taking engagement pictures.

Kris and I looked at each other with a look of panic, and we all mumbled, “Oh, no… these are just for fun,” or something equally awkward. Shane turned away and I looked at Kris with a face of shock as I mouthed, “OH MY GOD.”

I thought the jig was up! Luckily, Shane didn’t suspect a thing… so we moved on.

The tulips on the capital lawn were in full bloom and proving to be bright and beautiful. I hoped my giant smile wasn’t giving me away, and blamed my positive mood on the beautiful weather and these pretty flowers. 🙂We set up so I was facing the capital…and then, on my cue, when the lighting was right, Kris got down on one knee, said something (I’d imagine to be) very sweet, and Shane said, “YES!”

It is difficult to be a part of a moment without intruding, but I did my best…Congratulations, guys! I’m so happy for you. Thank you for letting me be a part of this big moment! I still get goosebumps when I look through this gallery. ❤

As were walking back to the parking ramp, I heard someone call my name. I looked up, and saw all my Madison friends from WLCV! They convinced me to stay for a drink (I love edible orchids!) and to catch up. Twist my arm…  I made it home late and tired, but charged my camera batteries and swapped out memory cards, getting set up for the weekend’s photo shoots. More on those later!

Thanks for reading, friends. 🙂

Miles this year: 269.1

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Early season fly fishing in the Driftless, a.k.a. my love affair with pink polka dots

I love fly fishing early trout season. Yeah, it’s cold. And sometimes snowy, sometimes rainy. On last year’s trip, we fished all day in the ice-cold pouring rain. Bundling up is a necessity… but after a long winter inside, it feels good to breathe some fresh air and splash around.

I often head down to the driftless, here in Southwestern Wisconsin. It’s hilly, and there are tons of little creeks full of beautiful trout.

Viroqua is usually my first stop.

 Matt and Geri, a couple friends that I met through Trout Unlimited, own the fly shop down there- The Driftless Angler. It’s right on the main drag. Look for the fish sign!   

 They have a beautiful shop and even better guides! and I have had lots of fabulous days of adventure that started  here.

 Meet Pete and Teak. He’s a friend of mine, a super busy guide, and she is the best fishing dog I’ve ever met.

 Let the games begin!

He took me out to several unnamed locations. It was snowing, and windy, and definitely a challenge! The high temp was in the low 40s. I love hiring guides, even though I’m an independent angler, because they always teach me something new- either a new type of fly, or a casting technique, or they take me to new places and show me how to read different water.

Plus, when my fingers are frozen, they tie on for me. 🙂  Pete can demonstrate any kind of cast that I want to see. I love fishing with and learning from talented fly anglers- they make everything look effortless and they are just plain fun to watch. There are a couple distinguishing features of the driftless region– it’s only a couple hours from my house, in the Central Sands, but I never see geography like this…  The driftless area is called such because it escaped glaciation. The sediment in glaciers is called drift, thus… drift-less. Of course, when I think of sediment, I think of silt and and sand, though drift can contain boulders, and large rocks. The driftless region has carved river valleys for miles- there are hundreds of trout streams!

Before I knew it, I was laying into gently hooking some beauties. Pictures of me fishing, courtesy of Pete. He’s a photographer, too!

  I’m in love. My first fish on a fly rod was a brook trout, and I’ve been head-over-heels for those pink polka dots ever since.

Seriously.

I. Love. Brook. Trout.

I handle them with care and always put them back. 🙂         I took a break to warm up in the shelter of Pete’s van (curly hair, don’t care)…

…then headed out for more. Trout are my favorite, but they weren’t the only fish out there…


 As always, it was a fabulous trip. I hung out with Pete and Teak at their fabulous wooden fishing cabin, warmed up, dried off, studied the tools of the trade… …drank a good Wisconsin beer, and eventually made my way back home.

 I use this barn to mark my “halfway point” between Viroqua and my warm cozy bed.
 Thanks for the stream adventures, Pete! I’ll be back soon.

I lead a charmed life. Until next time… ❤️

Miles this year: 264

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How did I get into conservation and fly fishing, anyway?

It’s a pretty simple story, and a perfect example of the butterfly effect. A couple years after I graduated from college, our photography business was growing and we were making a name for ourselves in our small college town. I was very close with my professors in our department as a student, and our department chair’s husband is an active Trout Unlimited (TU) volunteer. He knew of our photography, so he contacted me and asked if we could meet for coffee- he had a request for me.

To be honest, I kind of put it off. I didn’t know what TU was, and I was busy! Thankfully, he was persistent, and we eventually met at my favorite local coffee shop. He talked to me a little bit about what Trout Unlimited does in conservation, and asked me if I’d be willing to donate my time and take before, during, and after photos of their local stream restoration projects. 

Of course, I thought this was really interesting. I didn’t fish, and I didn’t spend much time in small streams. As a sea kayaker, I’ve spent lots of time on the water in a very non-intrusive way, but this was something totally new. I immediately agreed to help them out, and before I knew it, I was out on their streams with my camera. 

 

  

  

I brought the photos to their board, and asked them what their plans were for these images. I thought they were very powerful, and wanted to see how big their reach is. As it turns out, they had an outdated and not-maintained website, so I offered to build them a new one and run it. Shortly after, they created a position for me on their board, and I started learning more about what Trout Unlimited does in our community.

On those stream outings, the guys were always picking up rocks to look for bugs. They talked to me about the bugs that trout eat, and what different bugs indicate about the ecosystem below the water surface. In fly fishing, the “bait” is called flies. Some of the guys tie their own flies, out of special feathers, thread, and various materials. Some of the guys had flies with them, so they showed me which bugs the flies are supposed to imitate. I used to make a lot of jewelry, and I’m a crafty person, so I was quickly interested in fly tying, and went to several TU-hosted workshops.

  

In the winter, my chapter gets together to build lunker structures that we install when the weather is warmer. They even let me help! I kind of think of building lunker structures as Habitat for Humanity for trout. The structures go into a stream bank (or we create a new one) and give the fish a place to hide and safe places to hang out.  I have met some awesome people through my work with TU. Our university has an incredibly intelligent and approachable hydrologist, who worked diligently with me to help me understand groundwater in a more accurate way. It’s a pretty complicated system! The university even sent me out with them when they tested water flow on some of our local streams, and explained to me the different variables that make a difference in the health of a stream. That led to me being invited along with the DNR on some of their fish shocking outings. Fish shocking is the casual way to refer to their fish survey techniques. They basically put an electrified probe in the water, and the current causes a little muscle spasm on the side of the fish that is the closest to the probe. It causes them to swim toward the probe, and the fisheries guys net them up, measure them, then let them go.  

  

  

  

 They’re so efficient- the fish are hardly out of the water, and they seem to be totally unharmed. It’s not like a tazer kind of shock! Being such a soft-hearted girl, I was worried about hurting the fish, but they reassured me that the fish continue on their merry way. These surveys help the DNR learn the diversity of fish in a stream, the age of the fish, and the health of the stream… if there aren’t any young fish present, it probably means that the fish can’t naturally reproduce in that section of stream. It’s so interesting, and I got to see some of the prettiest (and tiniest!) fish in some of my home water. 

I learned more about the threats to water in my area, and in the Central Sands area of Wisconsin, where I live, high-capacity well pumping is the problem. Well, specifically, over-pumping. A lack of DNR’s ability to effectively judge cumulative impact in the past has caused major problems. I became active with the Central Sands Water Action Coalition and met many folks from river and lake associations who are watching their streams and lakes dry up, quite literally. 

 I’ve found it a good challenge to raise awareness of groundwater problems since we can’t see the problem until it’s too late, and it manifests itself on our surface water, or in dried up streams like in the photo above.

After a couple years of volunteering, my local TU chapter gave me a fly rod and reel at their banquet, as a gift for helping to bring them more up to date with media. Here’s a very cute picture of me holding the rod awkwardly after the presentation, because I’d never held one before!  

They also gave me a scholarship to their Fly Fishing School, so I could learn how to use it. I waited anxiously for a few months until the school, then I learned about casting, the gear for fly fishing, the knots we use, some of the bugs, and how to read a stream. 

  

  

Those TU guys in my chapter really know their stuff! Most of them have been playing in the water since before I was born, and they were surprisingly eager to share their knowledge and passion for fly fishing with me. We went fishing after the school, and I caught my first trout, a beautiful little brookie.

 

The hot pink spots just blew my mind. I didn’t touch her, I was afraid I was going to hurt her! That’s when I knew that I wanted to spend my time helping to protect these gorgeous creatures and the bigger environment that they represent. Our beautiful “canary in the coal mine,” if you will… 

TU isn’t necessarily a fishing organization, but there is a strong connection between trout and stream health. Trout are a very delicate fish, and they can’t survive in warm water. When the water becomes warmer for a variety of reasons (erosion, less cold water coming in, warming air temperatures, etc…) trout cannot thrive. Our only native local fish, the brook trout, is the most sensitive of all trout. A perfect example of this is on the Tomorrow River in Amherst. It’s about a 15 minute drive East of my house, in a tiny little town. In Amherst, there is a dam on the river, and a big mill pond above the dam. On the river upstream of the dam and the pond, brook trout are living happily and healthily in nice, clean, cold water. When the river widens for the pond, it is stagnant, and wide, and shallow, and the water warms up several degrees. There is also poisonous blue-green algae thriving in the pond. Don’t kayak in there! Below the dam, there are no brook trout. The water is too warm for them to survive! The pond has totally changed the ecosystem of that stream, and fish are no longer able to swim up and down that river naturally. It’s a manmade problem. 😦 Fly anglers, due to the nature of the sport, often spend time in their waders (waterproof pants), standing in the water. They go back to the same places again and again, and can see changes over time. That’s why there are so many fly anglers concerned about the health of our streams! 

So, I learned what TU does, and I learned to fly fish, and I learned more about the environment and cold water conservation, then I learned the key players in water in our area. The Wisconsin State Council of TU asked me if I would be willing to help them get more women involved in TU and get more of our current female members engaged at the state level. I jumped at that chance, and I became the first women’s initiative chair on the state council. I started learning more about the challenges to water in our state, rather than just my region, and I started connecting with lots more like-minded women. One of the big challenges to healthy water in our state was the Penokee Hills and the impending Gogebic Taconite mine. Our Wisconsin NLC rep (leadership within national TU), Bill Heart, took me up on a tour of the proposed mine site, took me through the Native American camp on the land, and showed me first-hand the beauty of that area.  After a couple years of being the Wisconsin Women’s Initiative chair, I found myself working as a contractor for national TU, continuing to further the women’s initiative- getting women involved, engaged, and helping to encourage and lift women up into leadership. Those of you who have known me for a while know that I’m a big advocate for empowering women and diversifying leadership in our country. I grew up with an incredibly awesome and strong single mother, and I’m a girl from the “Girl Power” generation. 

I’ve even gotten a couple photography gigs from the folks that I’ve met through TU. A couple guide companies and a few articles, and I’ve gotten to travel and hang out with some very cool people.

   

             I have gotten more and more involved with politics, as well. I didn’t realize, until spending time volunteering for TU, that there are a lot of politics in conservation! I wanted my opinions known, so I’ve taken advocacy trainings from the River Alliance and befriended folks at the Wisconsin League of Conservation voters, and I’m working to make sure that my legislators know that I’m here, and I’m speaking for the fish. It’s not just the fish, though… healthy, cold water for the fish means healthy, cold water for us. For our kids. For our drinking water. The water is all the same, and someone needs to look out for it. 😀

So… that’s my story. How a girly-girl turned into a serious conservationist, fly angler, and educated advocate for water. My involvement with Trout Unlimited has changed my life, and I wouldn’t have it any other way! 🙂

Thanks for reading and following me on my adventures!

Miles this year: 217.45

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Tulips + Stewardship + Lemongrass Noodle House

Hello, spring!

  

The first few warm days always seem to draw attention to the salt that is caked on to my car. It amazes me that cars can survive multiple winters and humid summers and sun beating down and layers of ice. I planned to get out to fish early season, but wanted to swing by the car wash first. Of course, every other person in Wisconsin had the same idea, so the lines were long. Luckily for me, I had my briefcase in the car, so I pulled out my laptop and spent my 45 minute wait writing my column for Wisconsin Trout. Before I knew it, I was enjoying the abstract art on my windshield. A short drive later, and I was out on the river. 

That’s my home water, the Tomorrow River. There’s something so special about going out for the first time after a long winter… I love watching the changes that happened while I was “gone.” I didn’t catch anything, but to be totally honest, I was mostly just checking things out. 🙂

That healing time on the water was good for my soul, and my next photo shoot was good for my tummy! I headed over to the new Thai restaurant in town, Lemon Grass Noodle House. They’re known for their egg rolls, but all the food was delicious. They were so sweet to me, and they packed up all the food after the shoot for me to take home for dinner. They even included a bottle of that orange-y drink… I think it’s called Thai tea. It was kind of like a spiced iced tea with milk and sugar.

   

  

   Thank you for your hospitality, Lemon Grass Noodle House! We’re happy to have you join the downtown businesses. 🙂

I burned off those extra calories by meeting Carmel up in Wausau and running up and back down Rib Mountain. With Wisconsin’s governor’s budget, stewardship funding is drastically cut. Being a lover of the outdoors, I take advantage of many benefits from stewardship, and the trail up the mountain is one of them. It breaks my heart to watch our governor attack so many things I care deeply about. I’ll post soon about the politically-motivated actions that I’ve taken this spring. 

Thanks for the miles and smiles, Carmel! Running that path makes me feel like a badass. 🙂

 

Up next? Baby K, my 16 miler, a going away party, and St. Patrick’s day shenanigans in Chicago.

Miles this year: 161.35

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