Sunday, March 28, 2010

The Good Life

The Good Life - Tall Tails from the East is a film by Carter Davidson that documents a wide range of fly fishing experiences East of the Mississippi. It's an ambitious piece of work that strings together a big swath of geography, Labrador down to the Keys, and a generous amount in between. The Good Life flows back and forth from freshwater to salt. It links pros and unknowns together in an attempt to convey the "determination and enthusiasm" of fly fishing. Here's a the 4 minute trailer.

I like what I've seen (and heard) from Gray Ghost Productions so far and I think you will too. You can catch this film at either of two Maine locations in April (Bangor 4/8 and Brunswick 4/15). These showings are being hosted by the dedicated team at Fly Fishing in Maine. Visit Fly Fishing in Maine for all location, date, time, and ticket details. Order a copy now.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Preserve the source

There is an often overlooked fish out there that is in need of attention. I have limited experience with this fish but have known at least a bit about its strange migrations for a long time. I never caught one but I have eaten them. The most I really knew was that this fish is considered by many to be the hands down best live striper bait if you want to catch big ones consistently. I also knew that it was very popular in sushi restaurants around the globe (especially of course in Japan) because its flesh is rich and savory. Other than that, I couldn't tell you much more than to give you a basic description; elongated and snake-like. That was until a dialog began between James Prosek and myself about eels.

Within a few days James began to lay out for me the life of this fascinating fish, to the extent that it is known, as well as the perils it faces. I received a manuscript of his upcoming book about eels, a link to Doug Watt's web site and a NY Times article talking about the precipitous decline of eel populations world wide due to hydropower dams, habitat degradation, pollution, and overfishing (no surprises). As I turned over the first few stones the picture became clear. I needed to join in helping to tell the story of the eel—and soon!—a fish that is as important to our local and regional waterways as our revered gamefish (trout, steelhead, etc.), hoping others would contribute to the discussion, and mobilize as a force to save the eel before its too late.

So for the remainder of this year, culminating with the release of James's book in September (and corresponding article in National Geographic) you will see occasional but hopefully regular eel content on Way Upstream. Neither James nor I know exactly where the path of this eel blog campaign will lead, but our goal is to raise awareness and contribute to the protection of an important component of the freshwater, estuarine and saltwater ecosystems.

James's words, adapted from our conversation:

"The freshwater eel of our campaign, though significant in itself, could come to represent all the species important to the ecosystem that are overlooked because they are not sexy (from a fundraising point of view) as the salmon or bluefin tuna or the whale (the eel is actually sexy, it is probably the most phallic fish on the planet).

I originally became fascinated by the eel because of its amazing life history. This is the only fish in the world that spawns in the middle of an ocean and spends its adult life in freshwater rivers lakes and streams. Most migratory fish like the salmon and shad are anadromous, spawning in freshwater and spending their adult lives in salt. The eel runs in the opposite direction and is called a catadromous fish.

The American freshwater eel, which historically ran up and down virtually every river on the east coast of North America, and the European eel, which occupies nearly every freshwater river that drains the Atlantic Ocean in Europe (including those that drain the Mediterranean; eels even go up the Nile!), spawn in the same general vicinity, in a region of the North Atlantic between Bermuda and the Azores called the Sargasso Sea. Populations of both species are in steep decline, and because the eels' life history in the ocean is still completely a mystery (no one has ever witnessed adult eels spawning in the ocean), we don't know exactly why. From my research over the eleven years I've worked on this book, my bet is that hydropower dams are the major issue (they keep juveniles from entering freshwater habitat, and damage adult eels on downstream migrations that get chopped up or maimed in electricity generating turbines). In Europe populations of eels have dropped nearly 95% (link to piece by Willem Dekker). Considering that this fish once collectively made up over 50% of the freshwater fish biomass of rivers and lakes within its vast range, this loss must be having a significant impact on the health of the ecosystems as a whole.

The freshwater eel (fishes of the genus Anguilla, of which there are fourteen species worldwide, that have unique spawning areas in other oceans), besides being important to the ecosystem, have been important culturally around the world, particularly in Japan and in the Pacific islands of Micronesia and Polynesia where the native eels (the largest in the world being in New Zealand) figure strongly in the mythology; playing the role of water guardian or monster seducer. It is a fish that inspires fear and reverence universally (not to mention having been an important source of food) and it would be a great shame to lose it. It is from Nature that we derive our creativity, our awe and inspiration. We could probably find inspiration in descriptions of the world's diverse creatures in books, from specimens in jars and skins and feathers in Natural History museums, but if we can why not preserve the source, so that we can continue to observe and be stirred by Nature's diversity in life? (This is also, by the way, the idea behind World Trout.)"

"Study Nature, not books."
-Louis Agassiz, famous nineteenth-century Swiss Naturalist

Photos by D. Watts and T. Hoyt Painting by James Prosek

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Freedom River

Concentrating on an area of obvious concern in any free society, the indifference that makes people blind to the injustices around them, this six and a half minute animated parable traces how the erosion of freedom, like the degradation of natural resources, can occur so gradually that both evade the attention of a busy and preoccupied nation. Freedom River was originally released in 1971 and is based on a parable by William H. Schmidt. Screenplay by Joseph Cavella. Directed by Sam Weiss. Produced by Nick Bosustow. Narrated by Orson Welles.

Thursday, March 18, 2010


Matt Boutet turned me on to this procedural drawing tool that was created by Ricardo Cabello (Mr. Doob) called Harmony. It's web based and contains a variety of "brushes". As soon as I moved my cursor I was hooked. The code is open source and if you develop a cool "brush" on your own you can submit it for inclusion into the program. I stuck to black and white with my initial trial sketches but color is an option. Take a look at this two and a half minute instructional video and give it a try for yourself.

Harmony fly illustrations by Steve Stracqualursi

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Arctic Fox Wiggler

I saw a new Jerry Darkes tube fly design that he's been testing and I asked him if he would pass on the fly tying instructions to the Way Upstream community. Jerry has been an occasional contributor so he was quick to oblige with detailed step-by-step photos and a list of materials needed for the Arctic Fox Wiggler.

Prepare the Ballhead tube by inserting the plastic liner tube and melting both ends to hold it in place. Now slide on the junction tube. Slip the tube onto the pin or mandrel to hold it in place so it will not rotate. Note that the Eumer Adapter is being used in this example (photo at far right). Start by wrapping the thread on the junction tube where it extends over the body.

Tie down a section of Arctic fox tail fur so that it extends several inches past the end of the junction tube. Trim any excess fur sticking forward. Take 3-4 strands of flash twice as long as the tail and tie down in the middle on top of the tail. Fold it back and tie it down to lock the flash in position. Krinkle Mirror Flash from Cascade Crest is ideal due of it's attractive look in the water.

Tie in a short length of Estaz and wind forward leaving some room behind the ball, then tie off and trim. Tie in a schlappen hackle by the butt end and wrap forward 4 times, making sure each wrap is in front of the previous one. Secure and trim when complete.

Tie in a short length of Palmer chenille and make 4 wraps forward. Make sure that each wrap is in front of the other and that the material does not twist. Tie off, trim, make a neat thread wrap, and whip finish the thread.

This fly really comes to life in the water. The Ballhead tube has a natural wiggle to it when stripped or swung in current. The Arctic fox tail breathes and the schlappen fibers pulsate from being held up by the Estaz. Jerry's original version uses a chartreuse tail, red Estaz body, red schlappen, and pearl Palmer chenille but a variety of color options could produce. Note that it's good to keep this fly moving fast when you strip it.

Run the tippet through the tube and through the eye of the hook (Daiichi 1640 #2 is shown). Tie an overhand loop. The size of the loop determines how far back the hook will ride. Pull the leader and seat the loop knot inside the liner tube. Depending on the tippet size used, you may need a double knot to seat it firmly inside the liner. Tippet lighter than 10 lb. test is not suggested.

Here’s a nice trout that hit the Arctic Fox Wiggler during test sessions. R & D on this pattern will continue in a wide range of colors for a variety of species. Visit Jerry's blog - ACS - the FISHDOG for more fly patterns and fly fishing information.

Photos by Jerry Darkes Fly illustration by El Pescador

Thursday, March 11, 2010


An angler and his pet prepare the flats skiff dangling from the mothership rig. As he readies the sled he checks the only five selections in his box and decides to go with green. He waits for a take and soon connects with a massive creature. Then the problems start in this 9 minute animated film from Blur Studio called ROCKFISH. There is a surface shattering leap at the end.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Elk Hair Caddis

I keep finding surprising stuff as I continue down the animation content wormhole. Here's a four and a half minute graduation film from The Animation Workshop (Viborg, Denmark) called Elk Hair Caddis. It's a movie about a "perfect day" and was created by Alice Holme, Anders Brogaard Jepsen, Magnus Igland Møller and Peter Smith. Visit for extra tid bits, additional links and more information about this story.

Elk Hair Caddis from Peter Smith on Vimeo.

Elk Hair Caddis illustration by El Pescador

Thursday, March 4, 2010

A Perfect Gift

Functional artistry from Yamazaki. This 5 piece "Gone Fishin" museum collection is made from stainless steel and claims to be designed with "perfect weight and balance." They also make a salad serving set and pastry server in the same style. This fish inspired flatware has angling wedding present written all over it.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Acid Test

This is a short 3 minute clip from "Acid Test: The Global Challenge of Ocean Acidification" that highlights the science behind ocean acidification. Watch "Acid Test" in full at

Acid Test: The Science of Ocean Acidification from EARTHNATIVE on Vimeo. A film produced by NRDC