Sunday, November 28, 2010

1/18 of our mission accomplished!

As I mentioned in a previous post, one of the things on my outdoor "bucket list" is to complete the Bassmaster "Bass Slam" with a fly rod. Basically, you have to catch all of the species and subspecies of the Black Basses (genus Micropterus) in one year. There are 9 different fish that need to be caught to complete the "Bass Slam." Between Kelly and I... we need to catch a total of 18 qualifying fish.

Kelly and I are trying to be the first to complete the task with a fly rod. I actually only recently discovered the "Bass Slam" challenge when I picked up a copy of Bassmaster magazine at the grocery store, but I had basically come up with the concept on my own... thanks to a truck stop T-shirt.

A couple of years ago I bought a really cheap T-shirt at a truck stop somewhere along I-55 in Mississippi because I thought it was a bit funny... at least from the perspective of a fly fishing naturalist. The shirt reads "Bass of North America" and depicts the Largemouth, Smallmouth, Spotted, Shoal, Redeye, and Guadalupe Basses. What was funny to me was that this truck stop souvenir also had Mississippi printed across the bottom, and three of the six fish are not found in Mississippi. Additionally, Smallmouths can only realistically be caught "in Mississippi" from the waters of Pickwick Lake which forms the northeastern boundary of the state.

At some point while Kelly and I were out fishing and I was wearing this horrendous garment, I got the idea to try and catch all of the species on the shirt and photograph them while wearing it. The official "Bass Slam" challenge also includes the Suwanee Bass and splits the Largemouth and Spotted each into two distinct subspecies, so it definitely adds a bit more fun to the adventure.

Wearing "the shirt" with a Redeye Bass:

The "Bass of North America Mississippi" T-shirt

(I know... I know... I should have been fishing with a 5 wt... please ignore the overkill 7 wt. I really had no idea what I was getting into fishing for Redeyes for the first time.)

The Redeye Bass seemed to give the first round of "Bass Slam" anglers the toughest time. This is probably because chunking a big spinnerbait at a fish that has been called the "Brook Trout of warmwater game fish" isn't the best approach. The fly rod on the other hand...

Initially the length requirement for the Redeye was 12", but it was cut back to 8" after no one could land a foot long "lunker." Most of the Redeyes submitted by the first round of Bass Slammers were barely the required length. Kelly and I have caught "monster" fish of around 10" in Alabama... catching qualifying Redeyes shouldn't be an issue for us.

To get to the point of this post, Kelly once again showed me up with her fishing prowess. We managed to squeeze in a day of kayaking and fishing for Spotted Bass last week during our Thanksgiving visit to south Mississippi. We floated down the Bowie River near Hattiesburg, and Kelly landed a very nice qualifying fish of 14.5" (the minimum for the Spotted is 12"). I caught a few fish... the biggest was around 10"... why does she keep making me look like such an amateur?

Kelly's "Bass Slam" 14.5" Spotted Bass, November 23, 2010

Anyway, I was very proud of her. We are well on our way... I just need to get with the program.

For any of you overzealous bass fly fishers, please don't steal our thunder and try to beat us at our own little quest. To my knowledge no one has accomplished this feat with a fly rod (at least if they have they didn't submit their application to Bassmaster), and we would like to be the first to do so.

After all, Bassmaster stole the idea from me and my shirt. I just want a little bit of my originality back.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

"D.I.Y." Fly Tying Bench

One of my minor accomplishments during the past year was building my own fly tying bench. I found an article about a year ago on the Global Fly Fisher website by Jan-Ole Willers entitled "Build a Flexible Fly Tying Bench" that served as my inspiration. I thought I would share my finished product so maybe someone else will be inspired as I was to build their own.

Just as the Global Fly Fisher article describes, I often found myself taking over the coffee table or dinner table with my vise clamped to the edge of the table and my materials spread out everywhere. I needed a work surface that I could pick up and move easily without having to actually put things away. I needed a portable fly tying bench.

I had been thinking about building one for a while, but didn't get my full inspiration until I began working at the Home Depot. I worked there for a little over six months in the lumber department. This second half of my inspiration came from the scrap pieces of lumber known as "stickers" in the lumber forklifting business. "Stickers" are the pieces of wood strapped to the bottom of a bunk of lumber that allow the forks of the lift truck to get under the load. These pieces of wood are often similar in size to a 2 x 4 or a 2 x 3 with a channel (or rabbet) cut into one side for a band to be strapped around the load of lumber. When I first noticed these scraps, and realized that they are just thrown away, the wheels in my head started turning. I finally found a pair of "stickers" that looked appropriate, and I had the frame for my bench.

The work surface was made from a nice scrap of 3/4" plywood I had leftover from a previous project. I used a few other small leftover pieces to trim out the front edge of the bench. The only things I bought were a small piece of oak (1/2" x 3" x 2'), a 1/4" x 36" aluminum rod that I used for spool pegs, and a roll of adhesive backed magnetic tape. The oak piece is attached under the front edge to provide a dense piece of wood to clamp down on with the vise. For those interested in seeing that detail, here it is:


The construction is very simple. First, I cut all of the pieces to fit together correctly... maybe that's easier said than done... depending on one's carpentry skills. I mitered the corners of the frame pieces for a nice finished look. Next, I drilled holes for tools and spool pegs using my drill press to ensure they were nice and straight. The holes drilled for the tools are 3/8" diameter. The holes (one at each corner) drilled for the swing arm lamp are 1/2" diameter (borrowed that idea from Oasis Fly Tying Benches). Holes are 1.25" deep. I cut the aluminum rod down into pegs... probably the most annoying part of the project. The holes I drilled for the pegs were 15/64" (1/64" less than 1/4") so they could be driven in tightly with no glue needed. I assembled all of the pieces using wood glue. The only fasteners I used were a few small nails (in addition to glue) on the front trim pieces that cover up the rough plywood edge. These trim pieces also hide the rabbeted frame that holds the plywood and the oak piece attached under the front edge. Then, I sanded and finished the bench with several coats of spar urethane. Last, but certainly not least, I attached the magnetic strips to the sides of the frame. The finished size is 27" x 12.75".

Click on photos to enlarge... please excuse my cheap vise.

I've found that the magnetic strips are very useful for holding hooks or finished flies while the head cement is drying. Unfortunately, they don't have enough strength to hold tools... not even the tiny hackle pliers that don't fit into a hole. I left one peg empty in the photograph so you can see it a little better. Please don't make too much fun of my hand tied cork popper that I put in the vise for the photo. I wanted something big and visible that I tied myself... and please... don't laugh too hard at my cheap vise. I've spent my fly fishing money elsewhere. One day I'll get a nice rotary pedestal vise... one day. I would be very grateful if anyone would like to get me one for Christmas....... I hear the sound of crickets chirping.

I managed to collect a good number of nice "stickers" before I turned in my notice at the Depot, so I have plenty of material laying around just waiting to become a bench. If you would like me to build you one for a small fee, please comment below or e-mail me at snapperking78 (at) msn dot com.

If you think you might like to build your own the way I did, you can usually get the lumber guys at Home Depot (and probably Lowe's too) to give you some "stickers." The challenge is finding a pair that could make a decent looking bench. They aren't exactly quality pieces of wood, and nice "stickers" don't exactly show up in every load of lumber. If you have any questions about construction please don't hesitate to ask.

I hope I can inspire at least a few other budget fly fishers to build their own. If you're currently being asked to clear the table of that fly tying mess because Thanksgiving is on its way, then you probably need a portable fly tying bench.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

"Minnows"

Today I finished reading Dave Whitlock's latest book Trout and Their Food. It's a great book, probably the best I've seen on the basics of what trout eat and the flies that imitate those food sources. I wrote a brief review article on the book for Examiner.com that you can check out by clicking here.

Dave's book has a great section on "minnows"... all of the baitfish that trout eat and we in turn try to imitate with streamer flies. In this section, Dave recounts a time when he met a man who was "fly fishing for sculpins" on the Norfork River in Arkansas. The man was using an old fly rod tip section, a couple of feet of monofilament, and a 1/2" long San Juan worm tied on a size 20 hook to catch the bottom dwellers which he sold to a local trout fishing resort as bait... the going rate... 25 cents a piece!

Ozark Sculpin (Cottus hypselurus) from the White River, AR
Banded Sculpin (Cottus carolinae) from the Spring River, AR

Dave's sculpin story got me thinking about all of the "minnows" I have unintentionally caught on the fly rod. Sadly, there have been many days when "minnows" were the only thing I caught. Although I did manage to catch 2 trout this weekend when Kelly and I went to the Spring River, I also caught 2 "minnows"... actually Bleeding Shiners... not wounded, that's just their proper name. (In case you were wondering... Yes, Kelly caught more trout than I did... 6... but who's keeping score?)

An uncooperative fly caught Bleeding Shiner (Notropis zonatus)

You may be wondering why I keep putting the word "minnow" in quotation marks. Well... as a biologist, I'm not a big fan of the word. I don't really claim it as part of my vocabulary. My training in biology and my experience as a naturalist has made me prefer to call things by their proper names. "Minnow" is a loaded word. It can mean a lot of different things, and depending on who you ask you will likely get different ideas of what is and is not a "minnow."

Merriam-Webster defines a "minnow" as...
  1. a: a small cyprinid, killifish, or topminnow   b: any of various small fish that are less than a designated size and are not game fish
  2. a live or artificial minnow used as bait
By this definition, pretty much any little fish that isn't a game fish could qualify as a minnow. The first part hints at biology, including cyprinids, killifishes, and topminnows... but leaves out the shiners, shads, and herrings which would probably be called "minnows" by most anglers. Carp are cyprinids, but I don't think anyone would call a 40 lb carp a "minnow"... well, except a biologist referring to it as a fish of the family Cyprinidae: the true Minnows. All this being said, what you consider a "minnow" is up to you... I'll continue to call a Logperch a "Logperch."

Logperch (Percina caprodes) from the Spring River, AR

Some of the "minnows" I have caught over the years have been quite impressive. In Tennessee, we have a fish called a Tarpon... that's right... the "Tennessee Tarpon." This fish is actually a Skipjack Herring (Alosa chrysochloris), but if you ever see one you will understand the local name. They look very much like a tiny Tarpon... particularly because of their projecting lower jaw. I have only caught one, and it was not on a fly rod. I caught it one evening while fishing the Tennessee River in Knoxville with ultralight spinning gear. I admit I had no idea what it was. I immediately went home to look it up in a book, and subsequently did a little online research to discover that people actually do target them (sometimes with fly rods) for sport... and as bait for catching monster catfish. The "Tennessee Tarpon" I caught probably weighed a little over 1 lb. The Tennessee state and IGFA World Record is 4 lb... now that's quite a "minnow."

One of my best "minnows" caught on the fly was a River Chub from Cypress Creek in Alabama. I considered it to be picture worthy because it put up such a good fight.

River Chub (Nocomis micropogon) from Cypress Creek, AL

It was easily as big... or bigger than most of the wild trout I ever caught in the Great Smoky Mountains.

As a naturalist, the "minnows" are always a welcome bycatch. They let us know that our stream biodiversity is what it should be, and are often great indicators of the health of our waterways. Be kind to the "minnows" you unintentionally catch... remember that they feed all of those big hungry predators we're really after.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

11 month waiting period for trout

It was all going to be perfect. We were taking a nice road trip to visit old friends, attend a conservation conference, and we would top it all off with a stopover on the way home for a little Smoky Mountain fly fishing. This little fishing detour was going to be very special. It was to be Kelly's first time to fish for trout.

I had only recently introduced Kelly to fly fishing, and there was a definite expectation that we would be fishing for trout at some point. Even though I believe there is much more to fly fishing than just trout... when you tell people that you fly fish, they assume you are chasing Salmonids. I always feel like I have to explain fly fishing for other species, but somehow fly fishing for trout is understood, accepted, and expected. Kelly needed to catch a trout so she could be a "proper" fly fisher... no need for explanation.

Since we lived around 350 miles from the nearest trout stream, a trout fishing trip would require some strategic planning. When I found a way to include it in a work related trip to a conference, I really thought everything was going to be perfect. If only I could have foreseen the outcome.

The trip was planned, and we were both excited about our winter weekend getaway. We were making the long drive to Asheville, North Carolina from Jackson, Mississippi for the annual meeting of the Southeastern Partners in Amphibian and Reptile Conservation (SEPARC). Along the way we would stop in Knoxville, Tennessee to visit my old friends at the Knoxville Zoo and so I could give Kelly a tour of my favorite place of previous employment. We also stopped at the Bass Pro Shop in Sevierville so we could buy Kelly her first pair of waders and boots. All of our fly fishing up to this point did not require waders to keep warm.

The trip through Knoxville to Asheville went just as planned. It was the trip back that became interesting.

First, we ended up leaving the Asheville area a little later than expected. Our destination was the Tennessee side of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. As far as we knew the weather was going to be great, albeit cold. We expected cold, it was February after all.

Around the time we crossed the state line high up in the mountains, the snow began.

I knew unpredicted wintertime snows were quite common at the higher elevations of the Smokies, so I didn't think much of it. I just wanted to get to our campsite before it got to be too late or the snowfall got too heavy. This is the point where I should mention that this was also Kelly's first winter camping experience. It would be a good inaugural cold weather camp out with low temperatures hovering around 20°F.

I had hoped to camp at the Elkmont Campground, but much to my chagrin I had forgotten that this campground was closed during winter... a sad discovery at 10:30 PM on a cold winter night. We would settle for the Cades Cove Campground. It's a bit more off the beaten path and further from the Little River where we were going to fish, but open for camping year round.

We arrived around 11 PM and there were still some snow flurries falling, but it was nowhere close to a blizzard. I still had high hopes for our fishing the following morning. We were delighted to see that we had the campground almost to ourselves. There was only one other brave camping party, and they were already settled in for the night. We picked our campsite, deposited our fees in the honor box, and set up our tent. I gave Kelly some tips on staying warm as we got ready to go to sleep... and I quietly wondered how much snow the night would bring. I hoped for the best.

We awoke to a winter wonderland. It wasn't a lot of snow... maybe three inches, but it was pretty. Kelly was excited to find and photograph some Cades Cove Whitetails that were still bedded down when she woke up at around 6 AM.


We began packing up for our day of fishing, and took a timer photo of ourselves to document Kelly's first winter camping experience.

Kelly and Jay at Cades Cove Campground, February 3, 2009

A few minutes after this photo was snapped, we got a visit from our campground neighbors... the only other people in the whole campground. Very timidly, they asked if we wouldn't mind driving them into town because they had locked their keys in their vehicle.

This was not going to help us get in the river any quicker. The trip into town is around 20 miles one way, but I guess it would have been inconsiderate to leave them there.

We decided to do the right thing and help them out. They were a very nice couple, both of them in medical school at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. They had planned on doing a long day hike that, much like our fishing, was not looking very promising.

On the way into town, we passed only one vehicle so I imagine our new friends would have had a long wait for help to arrive... or a long cold hike into town. On our way out of the park, we also noticed that the snow was beginning to pick up. This did not look good for our fishing either.

We sadly made the wise decision to give up on fishing that day. Our brief window of opportunity had passed. I knew it would be a bad idea to head back into the mountains with snow falling and the roads getting more treacherous by the minute.

We stopped to take one last look at the trout holding waters of the Little River just outside of the national park. It was a beautiful sight in all of its winter splendor.


Thanks to the winter weather, our camping neighbors in need, the fact that we didn't live close to a trout stream, and two subsequent trout fishing trips with very difficult conditions, Kelly would have to wait almost a year before catching her first trout.

Kelly with her first trout. January 15, 2010

It was a great relief when she finally did, and it made that first trout that much more special.


“This Blog entry is my submission to the Sportsman Channel and Outdoor Blogger Network writing contest.”

Monday, November 8, 2010

Licensed to fish... and drive!

I drove to visit Kelly in the Jackson, MS metro area this weekend. (Unfortunately, my fishing buddy and I have about 200 miles of interstate between us due to lack of good opportunities for employment. We do our best to make the most of our weekends.) I wish I could say we had a great fishing weekend, but we got skunked... the big goose egg, nothing, zero, zilch.

I convinced Kelly to let me go down to the ol' Ross Barnett Reservoir Dam spillway/Pearl River tailwater... long description, but that's what it is. I say "convinced" because Kelly doesn't like Mississippi reservoir spillway fishing. Kelly hasn't had a lot of spillway success, and the environment itself isn't the most pleasing. To be completely honest, it is very dirty. The people who fish these places don't seem to have a lot of home training... lots of trash, food wrappers, bottles, tackle packaging, bobbers, nests of old line... you get the picture. This is "brownline" fishing at its finest.


I must admit I enjoy a gar on the fly rod. It's part of the reason I fish these funky ditches. Fishing in a funky place every now and again also makes you appreciate a pristine trout or Smallmouth stream that much more. The gar bite is really best during the dog days of summer, so this weekend I was hoping for a Striped Bass. Obviously, from my skunk report, I was a little late for the autumn Striper run. Although I have not personally caught one, I have seen some very large Stripers (well over 30 inches) pulled from the Pearl River. The biggest one I have managed to catch was about 16 inches... and I certainly didn't improve on that Saturday... or Sunday. The water was very low... the lowest I've ever seen it. We've been experiencing a bit of drought in this part of the country. There were a lot of folks fishing, but none I saw doing any catching. I eventually gave up on the bass and started slowly dragging a weighted giant woolly bugger (hook size 2, my specialty for bass) along the bottom in hopes of catching a Channel Catfish. No luck with that, but I did manage to catch a mussel... seriously... it clamped down on the hook and I felt like I had at least "caught" something. Sad.

The most exciting fishing related personal news I have is that on Friday I got my new Tennessee license plate for my truck. I decided to further my public expression of my fishing addiction (as if this blog and my other internet musings weren't enough) by purchasing a special vehicle tag. I was torn between a Smallie and a Brookie...

 

The Brook Trout plate supports Trout Unlimited conservation efforts in our state, and the Smallmouth Bass plate supports the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency in their wildlife and fisheries work.

It was a tough decision, but in the end...


I listened to Kelly. She told me the Smallmouth was "more me." I know she's right... I do claim to be a Smallmouth fanatic. I need to remember... Kelly is always right.

Just in case you can't read it on the small sample or see through my trailer ball... the plate reads "Where Smallmouth is King" which is reference to the World Record 11 lb 15 oz Smallmouth Bass from Dale Hollow Lake... and that's your Tennessee fishing trivia for the day. The Smallie on the plate is about to inhale a crayfish that is suprisingly not attached to any fishing tackle. The naturalist in me very much likes that the fish isn't about to inhale a crankbait.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

My fishing buddy... My life partner

At the request of one of my good friends, I am writing this blog entry to give a little background on my relationship with my #1 fishing partner... but I can't give Jenny all the credit here. I must admit that Howard of Wind Knots & Tangled Lines also inspired me by writing his blog entry entitled "Who is your fishing partner?"

Well, to answer your question Howard, Kelly is my fishing partner. She is my girlfriend, and despite the traditional association of fishing with male bonding... and even as an escape from the women in our lives... I would rather go fishing with her than any other person I know.

You see, Kelly and I see eye to eye on more than just fishing. We have similar perspectives on the natural world and life in general. Certainly we have our differences, and that's what makes us individuals, but for lack of a better way to express it... Kelly "gets me"... and I do my best to try and "get her." For those readers whom I may have just lost in slang translation... we understand each other on a deeper level than most. To illustrate this point using an example from our times fishing together, Kelly is the first person I have ever fished with whom I have had to tell "it's time to go." I can honestly say that I've never told anyone that except her. I always want to make the last cast just in case there's one more good fish to be caught. Kelly almost always makes the last cast now when we go fishing... and I totally understand.

Like me, Kelly is a biologist by virtue of education, but an education in biology does not make one a naturalist. A naturalist is a person who has a keen eye for the natural world... an observer of nature... a person like Kelly. I thought I had a keen eye, but she challenges me at every turn. She is one of the very few people in this world who can claim that she has spotted a snake in the woods before I did. (In my defense I was looking to the skies for Bald Eagles at least once when this happened, but it has happened more than once so I guess she really is that good.) Very often when we go fishing, Kelly gets distracted by the natural world around her, and so do I. I'll never forget watching her fascination with the abundance of life in the Spring River (AR) that becomes so apparent at night. I knew she was special then, but it certainly wasn't the first time. There was the time at Cypress Creek (AL) when I said "you know this would be a great place to find Stripeneck Musk Turtles" and she promptly reached down and picked one up as if they were easy to find. I can assure you... they aren't that easy. I've wasted a lot of time looking for Stripenecks with limited success... I can count less than 15 wild Stripeneck Musk Turtles that I have ever seen.

Interestingly, Kelly and I met at a party at a zoo... among the animals. It took place at a zoo where I was previously employed, and there was an expectation for me to show up as a representative of the zoo. I was less than excited about going and I almost stayed at home. Let's just say I'm really glad I decided to go. September 6, 2008 was a night that changed my life for the better.

Early on I knew Kelly was special because she made reference to butterflies as "Leps" during one of our first phone conversations. To try to explain, butterflies are insects of the Order Lepidoptera... which she abbreviated to just "Leps." This abbreviation is not something that your average girl who puts a butterfly sticker on her school folder would know. "Leps" was sexy. Sounds ridiculous, but butterflies are very special to me because I spent two years working with them at the Memphis Zoo. Kelly and I have a shared interest in our "scale winged" friends.

On our second date weekend, I decided to try and introduce Kelly to fly fishing. I didn't think it was much of a risk, because I knew from our first date and our several long phone conversations that she was quite an accomplished outdoorswoman already. (How many girls do you know who have a trophy whitetail buck hanging on the wall?) Fortunately for me, Kelly's dad introduced her to hunting and fishing at a very young age so going fly fishing on a second date wasn't a hard sell. We went to a nearby state park lake and Kelly managed to catch a Bluegill on her first day of fly fishing. I took pictures.


Early success probably helped keep her interested, but I like to think she would have tried fly fishing again just to be in my company...


OK... thank you Mrs. Bluegill for being cooperative!

Kelly even came fully prepared with her own pair of Costa Del Mar polarized fishing sunglasses.


Cool.

Fly fishing has become a big part of our life, and I probably fish more now than ever because of Kelly. It is our thing we do together. It definitely isn't the only thing we do together, but since this blog is mostly about fly fishing I'll leave it at that. Fly fishing has taken us to some beautiful natural places, and I regularly dream about the places we have yet to go. (See last blog post for details.)


I know that soon enough, Kelly and I will be married... and I wouldn't be any luckier if I caught a new World Record Brown Trout... I already caught the best fly fishing partner a boy could ask for.

Monday, November 1, 2010

"Fresh Air (some of it from a SCUBA tank) Bucket List"

This post was inspired by the Outdoor Blogger Network.

Counting down to #1 in reverse order... drum roll please...

10.    Completing the Bassmaster “BASS Slam” Challenge with a fly rod (catching all 9 species/subspecies of Micropterus in 1 year including: Northern Largemouth, Florida Largemouth, Spotted, Alabama Spotted, Smallmouth, Redeye, Suwannee, Shoal, and Guadalupe… they haven’t added the Neosho Smallmouth or “Bartram’s Bass” to the list yet, but I expect they will as the challenge grows in popularity)

9.      Fly fishing for Redfish anywhere on the Gulf Coast (I really should have crossed this off the list already… I guess I’ll get around to it soon enough)           

8.      Fly fishing the Boundary Waters Canoe Area in northern Minnesota for big Smallmouth, Pike, and Musky (I’ll be in a kayak instead of a canoe… I hope that is permissible… I would also like to fish the upper Mississippi for Bronzebacks when I make my way to the “Land of 10,000 Lakes”)

7.      Fly fishing for Bonefish in Belize (Kelly really wants to revisit Belize… next time she will be taking me and a fly rod… well, I guess two fly rods if she wants to have fun too)

6.      Fly fishing for monster Brook Trout in Labrador (I’ll never forget the first time I saw this on TV with Italo Labignan chunking mouse flies and repeatedly catching these unbelievable Brookies fish… I can’t even call them Brookies… sounds way too sweet for these Canadian beasts)

5.      Alaska (‘nuff said)

4.      Fly fishing for Golden Dorado somewhere in the Bolivian headwaters of the Amazon (after seeing the short film “Devil’s Gold” by Castaway Films, I am a believer in “fly fishing’s El Dorado”)

3.      Africa… climb Mount Kilimanjaro, catch a Tigerfish on fly, photograph wildlife, play with a wild Rock Python, see wild African Wild Dogs (I could go on and on… let’s just say I could have a lot fun on an African adventure)

2.      Learn to SCUBA dive, get certified to do so, dive the Great Barrier Reef (could also be accomplished on the same trip as #1… Kelly is already SCUBA certified so she’s one step ahead of me on this one… while I’m in Australia I also have to visit Australia Zoo and the Steve Irwin Wildlife Reserve)

1.      Fly fishing for Barramundi in Australia (which could theoretically happen soon if/when Kelly and I get hitched and take the honeymoon trip we really want)

I plan to accomplish all of these things in the company of my #1 fishing partner, Kelly. The experience wouldn't be the same without her. She'll probably outlive me, but hopefully we can cross off most of them before I kick it.