March, 2016

Why Are Fishermen Called Anglers? Hooks and History

Why Are Fishermen Called Anglers? Hooks and History

John Denny’s book, “The Secrets of Angling,” morphed the word into a noun, and Izaak Walton finally bestowed it on fishermen as a specific designation when he published “The Compleat Angler” in 1653. We could be called hookers. Go ahead and laugh. It makes us grin too, but think about the etymology. That $20 word for the study of word origins has something in common with fly fishing here in Alaska. It’s not an exact science, and its practice always leaves room for improvement, improvising and a passionate pursuit of perfection. We know that’s a mouthful, so let’s figure out the angler moniker with a very brief history of hooks. A Hook by Any Other Angle So, why are fishermen called anglers? Were we given the name as a verb describing what we do, or was it derived from that angle on the end of our lines? Yes, hooks were called angles back in the 1400s when Dame Juliana Berners published her ultimate guide titled “Treatise of Fishing With an Angle.” Dame Berners even included instructions for crafting angles because tackle shops didn’t catch on until the late 1600s. Gorges, Copper and Cock Feathers What do you call a spindle-shaped piece of bone used to catch fish more than 7,000 years ago? Archeologists call it a gorge. Fortunately, the wordsmiths left this one alone, and we’re glad because we don’t like the idea of being known as gorgers. The Bronze Age gave fishermen tools that let them reshape their gorges, and Egyptians figured out the basic shape that we recognize today. Those hooks dating back to 3000 B.C. were barbless copper wonders, but design evolution resulted in a barbed version by 1200 B.C. Second century Romans were partial to iron and bronze hooks sporting red wool and cock feathers. Historic rumor has it that these were the first hand-tied flies. From Homemade to Kirby Standards From those ancient times up to the days when defining the word “angler” was still up in the air, hook production was a home-based business. All fishing tackle started out as a project on someone’s back porch, but hooks posed a special challenge to determined fishermen. In spite of Dame Berners’ how-to book, the quality of iron hooks remained dicey at best. Credit inventive Englishman Charles Kirby for perfecting the steel-tempering process that put his little company on the map in 1665. Mass production quickly figured out his secrets, but his hook designs set the standards, and one of his originals brings a nice price for something that’s considered discontinued. Lucky Anglers With Options Whether we’re called anglers because of what we do or what we do it with, we can look back in amazement at how far we’ve come. Can you imagine what kind of tackle box you’d need for a gorge collection? You’d have to keep Roman cock feathers in a shoe box instead of a fly case. Today, we fish with steel, carbon and alloys. We can pick and choose hooks that […]

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Alaska Nothern Lights & Winter Greetings From the No See Um Crew

Alaska Nothern Lights & Winter Greetings From the No See Um Crew

Things slow down during the winter, but we don’t spend all of our time around the lodge fireplace daydreaming about Alaskan fly fishing adventures. Yes, we look forward to the first spring melt in April, and visions of sockeye and rainbows are always dancing in our heads. Still, our No See Um crew stays pretty busy. If you wonder what we do up here at our Alaskan fishing lodge during the off-season, prepare to be surprised. There’s Always Work to Be Done It may be hard to believe, but not everything we do up here is glamorous. We deal with the same winter chores that you take care of, but our sub-freezing days and nights require heavy winterizing around the lodge. We don’t just insulate pipes. Our chimneys, heater intake systems and propane tanks need special protection. We do our fair share of snow shoveling too because that boardwalk to the hot tub and sauna won’t clear itself. Of course, it’s important to make sure that the open bar is always stocked. We never know when company might drop by. We Still Have Plenty of Fun If you imagine us hunting and ice fishing during the winter, we confess to loving both. Living off the land is an Alaskan tradition, and appreciating this wilderness paradise runs in our blood. Where else can you go wolf watching just a few miles from the back door? How often can you look up and count bald eagles soaring overhead? When was the last time you heard North America’s largest owl sing his evening love songs? These are just a few of our favorite winter things, and we take pictures like crazy too. For us, the cold months are almost like a vacation. The Northern Light Skies Dance at Night Our amateur photography talents aren’t limited to winter treks through Katmai National Park or the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes. We aim our cameras at the nighttime skies and capture the world’s most incredible light show. It starts with a faint glow and slowly builds into an incredible curtain of colors. Our Northern Lights ripple and dance as they drape the sky with brilliant reds, blues, purples and greens. It always takes our breath away, and the dazzling display is different every night. Did we mention that this miracle only happens during the winter up here? We know that our coldest months don’t appeal to everybody in the Lower 48. That’s OK because we make the most of our downtime. When we see you in April, the lodge will be in top shape. The rivers will be running with dollies and bows chasing salmon fry, and we’ll be saving you a place here on the banks of the Kvichak. When you’re ready for the Alaskan fly fishing trip of a lifetime, No See Um Lodge will be ready for you.

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Five Reasons to Really Respect Fly Fishing for Dolly Varden 

Five Reasons to Really Respect Fly Fishing for Dolly Varden 

They’re not the Rodney Dangerfields of Alaska’s fly fishing scene, but they don’t take center stage in our angling dreams like sockeye and rainbows. If respect could be earned through sheer numbers, dolly varden would be superstars. These are fish so determined to make it that they refuse to just spawn and die. They spend their lives migrating back and forth from fresh water to salt and offer up angling adventures that rival their trophy cousins. We really admire Salvelinus malma, and here are five reasons why. 1. They Aren’t Arctic Char Yes, dollies and char are close relatives. It’s easy to get them mixed up because they bear a strong physical resemblance, but the two fish part company at the jaw line. Dollies have a much larger kype than char, and that huge hooked lower jaw gives them a distinctive profile. The fork in a char’s tail is deeper, and its spots are larger. Dolly varden sport pink or red bellies while char undercarriages are yellow, orange or gold. We enjoy catching char, but we admire dollies for not complaining about constantly being misidentified. 2. Dollies Put Up a Great Fight How you fish for dolly varden depends on time of year, location and your personal preferences. Generally speaking, they favor bright colors that resemble salmon eggs. Some anglers swear by white streamers, and others recommend all-black leech patterns. You can catch dollies on sinking tip or floating line with a 12-foot leader. Whatever approach you take, be sure to go with a 4 to 6 weight rod. We promise you’ll share our respect for the ferocious fight in these fish when you go after them with lighter gear. 3. They Give Us So Many Opportunities Does spring get you in a fever for Alaskan fly fishing fun? Cast your enthusiasm into an enormous shoal of dolly varden feeding on outgoing fry around our river mouths and estuaries. Hit small streams in July, and try to keep your cool in the late summer stalking dollies as they stalk the salmon egg-drop. Are you ready to land a fish so colorful that it looks like its wearing a clown suit? Spawning dolly varden in late August are your ticket to angling heaven. We salute dollies for giving us so many exciting opportunities to fish in so many beautiful settings all across the state. 4. Their Name Origin Is Interesting If you’re a fan of Charles Dickens, you may be familiar with a character from his book, “Barnaby Rudge.” That Dolly Varden was fond of wearing brightly colored clothes, but our fish isn’t named after her. In the late 1800s, women routinely sewed their own, and one of the more popular fabrics was a pink, patterned muslim referred to as Dolly Varden. No one’s sure how the name was transferred from dress to fish, but we always appreciate an interesting backstory even when the details are fuzzy. 5. Dollies Survived Serious Misinformation Fuzzy details are one thing, but fuzzy science can […]

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