Treat yo’ self this summer

There’s a moment when every person (unless he, she is a millionaire or a teacher, professor etc.) realizes he, she will not have a free summer like they did when they were younger for a very long time.

Here are five things you need to do this summer to stay sane.

1.)  Get wet

Go swimming, kayaking, canoeing, rafting, water skiing cliff diving. Whether your idea of a water activity is floating down a body of water with a beverage in your hand rather than an extreme sport – don’t be afraid to get your hair wet.

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2.)  Pamper yourself

Get a manicure, pedicure; go shopping; get a massage; get a free makeover from a department store; enjoy a tasty treat or have your hair styled. Whatever it is, channel the TV characters of Parks and Recreation and treat yo’ self.

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3.)    Take a vacation

Take time off work. No really, take time off. You need to let your brain, body recharge by letting them have a break.

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4.)    Stress less

We want things done right and we want things done well. We have a reel that is constantly turning, thinking of things we have to do. Preparing to take vacation is stressful as you try to get all your work done before you leave. Returning from vacation can be stressful as you try to catch up all the things you missed over the week. Stop stressing and enjoy yourself.

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5.) Be a kid

Okay not in the sense of your attitude or the way you treat others, but do something this summer you used to love doing when you were younger. Go camping, jump on a trampoline, play laser tag, go to an interactive museum, shoot squirt guns, play dress up or eat an ice cream flavor named after a super hero. Whatever it is; do it, laugh and enjoy yourself.

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Soul revived

I have been MIA for several days, but I have a good excuse – promise. I spent the past week soaking up the sun while laying on the beach, wandering around Tampa Bay, Fla. and snapping photographs with my cousin.

We celebrated her 26th birthday by visiting Anna Maria Island, Treasure Island, a fun winery featuring several different types of fruit-based wine, Kate Spade outlet (I found love in a purse), participated in a pub crawl and how could I forget the food. I had some of the best food I’ve ever had through Datz, Dough, Bella’s, Holy Hog and Colonnade while overlooking Bayshore Drive.

Not to mention this was my first paid vacation from work. I knew I was going to have a great time visiting with family but the experience was relaxing, fun and quite literally soul-reviving.

Here’s a look at some of the photographs. I hope to add more as I continue to travel in 2013.

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A conversation with a fly-fisherman

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This week I had the pleasure of talking to Eric, a 26-year-old guy who wants to open up his own fly-fishing guide service in Jackson, Wyoming or New Orleans.

Eric isn’t a stranger to twenty something life-altering changes. He packed up his blazer and moved 1800 miles away from home when he was  21 years old. He hasn’t let anything stop him from following his dreams and he plans to continue working to make them come true.

Eric, an Ind. native, who has lived in Jackson, Tucson, Ariz., and  Baton Rouge, La., is taking classes to complete a business degree so he can learn everything he needs to open his business.

He said accounting has been the most helpful and he plans to focus on small-business classes before wrapping up his degree.

He first got in to fly-fishing when he was 17 years old.

“I saw ‘A River Runs Through It’ and liked it,” he said. “I decided to try it before a big fishing trip to Michigan and have been ever since.”

He said his favorite part of having the business would be being able to be outside all day.

When asked what the hardest thing about fly-fishing was, he said ‘All of it. The patience is the hardest, but it’s probably the best thing about it too.’

He admits he sticks with it because it’s addicting.

The best advice he ever received was from a coworker, Dan Sowers, who helped show him all the spots to fish and how to read the water in Jackson.

The worst piece of advice he received was when he was in a drift boat in a river in Jackson and even though it looked like there was a complete log jam across the river he was told there was a wide enough gap to get through. He dropped everyone out on the bank and went through it by himself, without a life jacket, and said the drift boat was ‘like a pin ball machine going through the gap and I screamed like a girl,’ he said.

Eric said the scariest thing he has ever done is move to Jackson alone when he was 21. He said moving west is also his proudest accomplishment.

In Jackson he worked as a fly-fish guide, camp jack at hunting camp, snow mobile guide in Yellowstone during the winter and participated in activities at a ranch as well.

“What I remember the most is the campfires, hanging out with people and fishing with my friends Myles, Dan, Todd and Zach,” he said.

He said he fished every day in the summer and every once in awhile in the winter.

August or September is his favorite time to fish because it’s hopper (grass hopper) season.

“You use big flies and big fish go dumb for big hoppers,” he said.

Since moving west, he has developed more of an environmental viewpoint.

“I like stories about helping the environment, dam removal and more,” he said.

Although he said  fisherman don’t share their favorite fishing spots, he said he has fly-fished in Jackson, Louisiana, New Zealand, Michigan, Idaho and Indiana.

“The spots I fish rarely are fished, so I usually have the river to myself,” he said. “I don’t want to give my spots away.”

Advice he has for other twenty-somethings is to do what they have a passion for.

“Stick with it and don’t be afraid to go against what other people think is normal,” he said.

A look at some of the questions: 
Favorite fish you’ve caught?
A Red fish in Louisiana. it took us five days to catch it because the conditions were so bad
Biggest fish?
Also a red fish. It was probably 12 pounds.  
Do you have a favorite fish?
Cutthroat trout
What is something you had while fishing in Jackson? 
I always carried bear spray. I never had to use it, but I tested it to see what it would do one time and it was an orange plume that shot 30 feet out.
What is your dream job?
CEO of Patagonia
When did you first know you wanted to be able to fly-fish daily?
My first day in Jackson in 2007
Where do you get your inspiration ?
I really like Yvon Chouinard’s story (he founded Patagonia)
What is something scary that happened while fishing? 
I was walking along the edge once and didn’t realize the ground was brittle. I slid 30 feet down the side of a hill and landed in the water. 

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Travel Tuesday: Wyoming

A few years ago my brother was living and working in Wyoming between Jackson Hole and Yellowstone. He absolutely loved it and I was lucky enough to be able to visit him twice.

I visited once in summer and once in winter. My parents and I went during the winter and it was incredible. The mountains, views were breathtaking. While we were there we went snowmobiling through Yellowstone (with my brother as our guide), saw Old Faithful, toured Jackson Hole and more.

When I went to see him in the summer it was after my senior year of high school. My brother worked as a guide on a ranch leading people on snowmobiles in the winter (like us), but in the summer he was a fly-fish guide and also took people on raft trips. In fact the first time I went fly fishing it was in Wyoming and my brother took me to his favorite spot – in the middle of nowhere – and when we were almost to the water he said we had to go all the way back to the car because he forgot the bear spray (Yes, we were fishing in an area that required bear spray). I also went hiking, rode horses, fished more and went to a bonfire by a lake.

In the past I had always headed south to Fla. on spring breaks and vacations but it was truly incredible to be able to visit Wyoming and I would suggest it for people looking for something different.

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Tetons

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Yellowstone

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winter

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My brother and I

A look into my portfolio: On the Fly

I’ve collected a number of articles in my portfolio over the past four years.  The one featured below is a glance at some of the things I enjoy writing about: the outdoors. Enjoy! 

 

With ponds and creeks stocked with bass, you can find great fly fishing here at home in Southern Indiana.

I’m standing on the bank of Eagle Creek in Zionsville with the overcast sky above me. Guide Mike Exl stands to my right, out of reach of the sharp hook I’m flinging through the air. I pull my arm back, looking behind me as I cast. When the hook goes all the way back, I cast forward into the water releasing the line. I am on the prowl for a lone carp that is feeding in the water in front of me.

Mike Exl practices his fly casting skills on Eagle Creek. / Photo by Eric Stearley

 

This is my second time fly fishing. I grew up with a dad who took me fishing in a creek by my house every summer and a brother who has been a fly fish guide in Wyoming and fishes every chance that he gets. I learned that there is a special passion behind fishing, and especially fly fishing. I had been fly fishing in Wyoming, but never in Southern Indiana. I was curious what was here and if it would be as exciting as out West. I was also curious about the angler and what motivated him to spend hours on top of hours throwing a line out, when he could come up empty handed.

Most people think of Montana and Wyoming when they hear fly fishing, but how does Indiana compare to other states in fly fishing?  We have ponds, rivers, lakes and creeks. All of these bodies of water hold various fish, such as largemouth bass, smallmouth bass and steelhead. Out West, it’s mostly trout. However, you don’t need to travel to Montana because home can offer so much.

I soon found myself talking to Ben Shadley, an avid fly fisherman and senior writer of the Indiana DNR’s Outdoor Indiana magazine. Shadley grew up traveling to rivers and ponds in Southeast Indiana to fly fish. According to Shadley, Sugar Creek in the Crawfordsville area, Lake Monroe near Bloomington and the White River near Indianapolis are three places that are great areas in Indiana to fly fish. He’s also worked at fly fishing shops in Indianapolis and Bloomington.

I left my house at 8 a.m. to meet my guide. Mike Exl, 25, works for Wildcat Creek Outfitters in Zionsville, but he takes people fly fishing all over the state — and well beyond. Mike’s face captures the excitement of a child when he says that when he gets any chance, he fly fishes at Eagle Creek.

He gives me a few tips before we head out to the creek. “Be patient,” he says. Fishing is fun, but it takes time to pick up. Depending on how much the fish are biting, you may or may not catch too many. “Always, always have a fishing license on you. The Indiana DNR can confiscate gear if you don’t and you will be fined,” he warns.

The carp I’m trying so hard to catch this morning isn’t what most anglers are after. Mike says smallmouth bass and largemouth bass are Indiana’s prized game fish. But those fish weren’t always available here.

Smallmouth bass were spread throughout the United States by the rail system in the early 1800s, and today, they can be found in most Indiana streams and rivers. Largemouth bass are sought after because they put up a fight and are readily available. They can be found in most of our ponds and lakes. Shadley says Indiana has always been a good source of fly fishing.

Like any sport, there are certain fishing no-nos. Number one on Mike’s list: lightning. He recalls a time that he was on a boat with some friends and a flash lightning storm appeared. A metal boat, water and lightning are never a good combination. Although they weren’t injured, he says fishers should always keep a close eye out for storms. Mike also says you should be careful of where you fish. Watch out for private property areas and stick to Indiana-owned ponds. The DNR lists areas that are accessible to the public.

Anglers use a specific technique but each line is a little different. / Photo by Eric Stearley

 

Mike leans his rod against his car and grabs a tacklebox of flies. Around his neck he wears extra line and the equipment he’ll need to cut it. The wind picks up, and before either of us can grab the rod, it tumbles to the ground with a thump.

“Nice,” a fellow guide says to Mike with a chuckle.

Mike looks up and shakes his head.

“Hey, I saw a 22-incher the other day,” he says as he picks up the rod.

“Really?”

They continued to talk with one-word phrases that might as well have been German to me. Around his neck, Mike is wearing a lanyard necklace. Most anglers sport a lanyard so that everything they need is within reaching distance. The lanyard includes clippers to cut a fishing line, forceps to bend the barb of a hook or get the hook out of a fish and line that keeps the fly on top of the water.

The wind is a little chilly as it rips through my long-sleeve T-shirt. It looks as if it will start raining at any time. I cast back too quickly and the hook tangles around my rod. Mike walks over to help and then throws the fly back into the water.

In bait fishing, the lure is weighted. However, in fly fishing, the weight is the line so you have to cast back and forth to get the line out. The flies used in fly fishing are meant to mimic a bug in hatching season. Sometimes you must use a distinct pattern because that is what fish will be eating. Anglers both tie and buy their flies because it can be time consuming. Mike says it takes between five and 10 minutes per fly. Tying flies is considered an art among anglers. When personal flies are made, they are kept a secret — anglers’ superstition. They don’t want everyone to know.

Anglers use artificial flies to catch their prize while fly fishing. / Photo by Eric Stearley

 

The next time I cast, the hook falls in a heap only a few feet in front of me on the water. I start to laugh.

“Any pointers?” I ask. He gives me advice on timing and making sure the line goes all the way back before I pull it forward. I thank him for the pointers and he thanks me for listening.

Mike learned early on not to take things personally when it comes to fly fishing. When he takes people out on guided trips, he is used to skepticism about his age. He graduated from Purdue University in 2009 — right around the turn in the economy.

“Luckily I had this job that turned into a full-time job. It has also given me the opportunity to travel places that I might not have been able to go otherwise,” Mike says. Wildcat Creek Outfitters leads guided trips not just in Indiana, but all over the world. The hosted travel trips go to places like Michigan, Ohio, Montana, Chile, Argentina, Canada, Alaska, Mexico and the Bahamas.

There is a certain camaraderie that comes along with fly fishing. Mike remembers a trip to Chile in 2009 with his father — it was a “last hurrah” trip before he graduated from college. He recalls a picture of him holding the biggest trout next to his dad and the experience they had. Ben Shadley has a similar story about fly fishing. “In general the most memorable times fly fishing have been with my father as a young guy. The camaraderie growing up and times spent bonding over fishing has become sentimental, not the specific accomplishments,” Shadley says. Fly fishing allows for a common bond among people as they cast toward what they hope will be their next big catch.

I’m not sure Mike and I are bonding as I cast again and this time the hook gets caught on a rock. I apologize over and over, but he laughs it off and says that it’s okay because he’s only been hooked three times. Only three times? He has been hooked in the back, ear and under his thumbnail. The thumbnail was the worst, he says. He was 16 years old, and he told his mother that they needed to go to the ER. But, before they made a trip to the hospital, she wanted to see if his father could get it out. He tried to sit still as his father attempted to pull it out with some pliers. Without any luck, they finally went to the hospital.

Mike has perfected his cast, but he sees it as more of an art than a science./ Photo by Eric Stearley

 

Some people believe that fly fishing takes more of a delicate approach than other types of fishing. It’s seen as more of an art, resulting in various casting techniques among anglers. Shadley’s best advice: “Don’t worry about fly fishing technique and definitely don’t stress. This method is related to an old angler thought process, but the whole point is to catch fish. Don’t spend your time worrying about what other people think of your technique.” Mike advises fishers to watch the cast all the way through to find flaws — technique will develop over time. There are always people willing to help or give advice on casting. Most anglers would be more than happy to share their insight on perfecting the cast.

I cast back this time, and it feels right. I pull forward and the fly lands in the water in front of the carp. Exact location. Mike gives me an excited smile, but stays silent knowing that the fish can hear us.

“I think he’s going to bite,” he whispers.

I stand there for a few minutes before Mike says, “Set the hook, set the hook!”  We had been so busy talking about preparing to fish, that I hadn’t asked what to do if I actually had a fish bite. The carp pulls on the fly and swims away as I try to figure out how to set my hook.

“That was awesome,” Mike says as he walks over. He tells me that he has been out with people when carp won’t even take a bite. He explains how to set the hook.

We try to look for a fish somewhere else. We walk for a few minutes before stopping at another area. I look out at the water but don’t see any movement or fish. “There are some bluegill out there, but with the trees behind us there is no way to get a cast out,” Mike says.

“You’re magic,” I say. He can spot fish so easily. He laughs and tells me that that he has polarized sunglasses. Mike says once he was out on a boat and saw people fishing in a foot of water, but they had no idea because they couldn’t see.

“You don’t want to be that guy, but I had to ask, ‘Catch anything yet?’”

“‘No, not yet,’ was always the response.”

The rain starts to come down as we decide to call it quits. I walk away reluctantly. I really wanted to catch a fish. After spending a few hours on the water with Mike, it’s easy to see why fishing can be so infectious. It’s the thrill of what might be caught, along with the camaraderie and stories shared. This summer you can expect to see me trying out my flycasting skills on Sugar Creek, until I finally catch that fish.

 

Want to take a guided fly fishing trip in Indiana? Here are three places that would love to help you get the experience you are looking for:

Wildcat Creek Outfitters
317-733-3014
575 South Main Street, Zionsville, IN 46077
Cost: $375 (equipment provided)
Meet the guides: Chad Miller, Mike Exl and Marc Dixon

Indiana Fly Fishing Guides
317-258-8608
1404 Lawrence Road, Carmel, IN 46033
Cost: $225 (loaner equipment provided)
Meet the guides: Jeff Conrad and Ed Devine

Anglin’s Guide Service
574-210-2844
409 Fox Street, LaPorte, IN 46350
Cost: $250 (equipment provided)
Meet the guide: Jay Anglin