Chad Shmukler's blog

If you haven't already noticed, we've been on a bit of an Everglades kick this week. Owen Plair introduced us to fly fishing for snook in the glades and Chris Hunt detailed the opportunity to provide a major boon to Everglades restoration that Florida voters are hopefully about to seize. These two pieces provided compelling insight into of the issues that the Everglades have long been facing as well as their importance and value as a fishery. But the reasons to care about Everglades restoration don't end with its standing as one of the most spectacular saltwater angling destinations in the nation; the Everglades is the keystone of southern Florida's economy, is the source of drinking water for over 7 million people and is one of the most biologically diverse and beautiful wildernesses in the world.

A new book by Gainesville, Florida photographer Mac Stone aims to introduce a wide audience to the beauty, splendor and importance of the Everglades. The culmination of over 5 years, 1,000 hours in the field, and the culling of more than 70,000 images, Everglades: America's Wetland contains over 240 photographs and 15 essays.

David Yarnold, President of the National Audubon Society calls Stone's book, "Fervent and stirring. Stone's visual storytelling is breathtaking. Everyone who treasures the Everglades will want to revel in this book."

Spawning Bristol Bay sockeye salmon (photo: Pay Clayton).

It is possible that you are tired of hearing about Pebble Mine, tired of spreading the word about the importance of the world's greatest salmon fishery and asking others to do the same. It is also possible that you stopped paying attention back in July when the EPA proposed restrictions that would presumably block development of a large scale mine at the Pebble deposit. But the fight to protect Bristol Bay isn't over. Not yet.

The EPA proposed restrictions remain open for public comment until tomorrow (September 19) at 11:59 pm. The content of the almost 150,000 comments that have been received to date during this legally required comment period play an important role in whether the restrictions proposed by the EPA are ultimately approved and put in place.

While groups like Trout Unlimited, which has tirelessly advocated for Bristol Bay's protection, have repeatedly asked anglers and others to join the fight and make their voice heard, they're asking us all to do it one more time.

Almost a decade ago, I put my golf clubs down for good. I've never looked back. For many years prior, though, my free time was shared between fly fishing and golf. This split was never even. Considerably more of my time away from work and family went to fishing. But still, a couple evenings and weekend days each month were stolen by golf.

I took lessons. Went to the driving range. Sat with friends over a beer talking about swing issues and improving my putting. And then I'd hit the links, soak up the sun and fresh air, often making it through three, four or even five holes before the afternoon descended into a profanity-laden, club-throwing horror show.

The reality, which I eventually stepped back to perceive, was that golf made me miserable. It wasn't that golf was an inherently bad sport, it was that I wanted to enjoy golf more than I actually did. The occasional, slowly-climbing long drives straight down the fairway, those 80-yard wedge chips that land softly on the green, the graceful exits from nasty bunkers -- you know, the shots that everyone says are "all it takes to keep you coming back" -- just didn't do all that much for me.

Most anglers would prefer to imagine the company that builds the fly rods they buy as one run by fishing nerds, where days are spent talking technique, trading fish tales and theorizing about how to improve the tools they build for fishermen instead of analyzing market surveys and strategizing how to improve their bottom line. Sure, we all know that these companies are in the business of fishing, but we like to imagine that fishing comes first and business second, even when we know this most likely isn't so.

At this year's IFTD show in Orlando, Orvis introduced a new addition to its Helios 2 rod lineup, the Orvis Helios 2 one piece. As I sat and discussed the rod with Orvis' Tom Rosenbauer, it was clear that Tom and the other folks at Orvis were excited about the new addition, and seemingly with good reason. According to Tom, after many months of testing in the Florida Keys with some of the best flats guides in the US, Orvis had heard overwhelmingly positive feedback on the one piece version of the award-winning Helios 2.

We spend a lot of time talking about the value of wild places. We talk about how they inspire reverence and enrich our lives. In turn, we beat the drums of conservation and preservation, given the how much these places matter to us. As fishermen, we're most protective of the wild places where we go to chase fish. But, the qualities these places possess that inspire awe in the mind of the fishermen likewise do so in the hiker, the mountain biker, the rancher, the farmer and so on. Wild places don't only make for better fishing, they make for better living. So, it should come as no surprise to learn that the people that live amongst these wild places -- and their spectacular fishing -- are also the happiest with where they live.

Chances are, should you ask any fly fisherman in the country which states offer the best fishing, that places like Alaska, Montana and Wyoming will roll off their tongue without hesitation. As it turns out, these same states also have the country's happiest residents, according to a recent Gallup poll. The poll asked residents of different states whether their state was "the best or one of the best places to live." Residents of Montana and Alaska topped the list, with over three out of four residents (77 percent) answering yes. Residents of Utah and Wyoming weren't far behind, with 70 and 69 percent responding in favor, respectively.

Goes home when you do.

If you have never seen litter along the banks of the streams and rivers you fish, you are in a very small and select minority. Some streams and rivers are inundated with litter while others are relatively refuse-free, except for the occasional piece of human detritus here and there. Wherever garbage is found along our waters, it not only degrades and damages the resource, it taints the experience we traveled there to cultivate.

Certainly not all stream side trash is from fishemen. But, it seems likely that much of it is, especially that which you find as you stray from the areas where waterways intersect with roads. In these places where garbage found along the water is considerably unlikely to have been tossed from a car window, the suspect sources are those who recreate along its banks. Sure, there are hikers, kids chasing frogs and other fun seekers but mostly there are fishermen. Sometimes, there's little to dispute. Litter piles where discarded beer cans and cigarette butts co-mingle with Powerbait containers and empty bags of Water Gremlin split shot leave little to the imagination regarding their origin.

All of this leaves me wondering: what relationship does the littering fisherman have with his or her stream?

Simms Wet Wading Boots

Wading boots, as far as they've come over the years, are not hiking boots. Even if you pony up hundreds of dollars for some of the finest models on the market, you're still getting a dumbed down version of a hiking boot. They're a compromise created by the dual requirements of needing a wading boot to do the things a good hiking boot does, but also be suitable for sticking neoprene wader booties into and being submerged under water most of the time.

Quality hiking boots do many things: they feature good latitudinal and longitudinal stability, provide traction on varying terrain, offer good arch support, fit comfortably and so on. All of these aspects combine to allow the wearer to safely hike long hours, over long distances, in relative comfort. Quality wading boots strive to do all of these things as well, but the aforementioned requirement of also allowing the wearer to jam a foot wrapped in a bulky, neoprene sack comes along and essentially ruins the effort.

I don't design boots for a living, nor do I claim to really know anything about it, but the equation seems relatively simple: if a boot needs to fit a wadered foot, aspects of that boots design that make it fit well -- like a properly-sized toe box, well-sculpted mid-sole, etc -- go out the window. Wader booties are bulky and vary widely in size and density. A boot that fits a wadered foot doesn't fit the foot at all, it fits a swollen, disfigured version of a foot.

Native Cutthroat Trout. (photo: Chad Shmukler)

In his article listed below, writer Hal Herring notes that "it is often said that eternal vigilance is the price of freedom, and we seem to be falling asleep at the switch." He's right. There are no shortage of issues to learn about, to follow, to advocate for. But staying on top of it all can be cumbersome to say the least. Here are a few good reads to help keep you alert, informed and motivated.


Clean Water = Liberty

Despite our checkered past when it comes to protecting our water resources, passage of the Clean Air and Clean Water acts in the 1970s led us from an era when American rivers ran fouled by all manner of industrial pollution and even caught fire to an era where 100% of Americans have access to clean drinking water and our rivers are as free from point-source pollution as they have ever been.

What's more hardcore than fly fishing? Fly fishing + skiing + snowboarding. This stunning short film was made by Scumliner media for the recently completed Orvis Guide Rendezvous and Down the Hatch Film Festival. The film provides a heart-pounding look at two fishermen who mix winter sports with fly fishing on the might Missouri River.

Oh, wait. That's not what it does at all. What it does is remind us that we're out there in search of fun, not image. "When we set up the shot, we really didn't think that was going to slide. Of course, we didn't really talk about it either." Enjoy.

It's been a while since we've done the attributive journalism thing, so it seemed like a good time to pass along a few recommendations on some of the other good fishing junk out there that you should be reading. This lot sort of runs the gamut on topic matter and tone, but all are good reads.

Hunting and Fishing in America: “All Dollars, No Sense”

This excellent piece by Beau Beasley serves as a reminder to how hard hit outdoorsmen were by last year's government shutdown and gives an insightful look at how poorly natural resources are prioritized in our governmental budgets, despite how much they give back, not only in intangibles but in terms of huge injections of money into our economy.

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