Fishin on the Great Plains

Last semester I was enrolled in the Capstone course that was completely centered around the Great Plains region. Using the Great Plains as a backdrop and conceptual framework, my partner and I created a coffee table book: The Great Plains: A Collection of Works Exhibiting its Past and Perseverance. (We applied for funds to print the book, but are currently waiting for a response back from the school).

We wanted our book to feature work from as many artists and writers as possible to really encompass what people believe is significant about the region. So we asked our others to contribute. One of those contributors was my boyfriend.

I would like to share the research that he presented in this post:

As a result of the settling of the Great Plains, the species of fish found in the Great Plains has drastically changed. When fish species are introduced to new waters, they may have large scale effects on the species that are native by out-competing them for food. Also, nonnative fish may prey on the native species and threaten their populations. By introducing outside fish species, whether it be for food sources or for sport, humans drastically changed the waters of the Great Plains.

According to Daryl Bauer, a fisheries manager for the state of Nebraska, warm water fish species such as largemouth bass, northern pike, and bluegill were likely native to parts of western Nebraska and the Great Plains. However, these species have been transplanted and stocked heavily by European Americans while they moved out west into waters where they wouldn’t be found naturally. Species like largemouth bass and pike are very aggressive, and by introducing them to unnatural waters, the fish would then consume large amounts of the smaller fish. Many warm water fish species that aren’t native to the Nebraska Great Plains, such as common carp and rock bass, were introduced by European Americans as they moved west. Common carp are a species that are particularly destructive and harmful to native fishes.

In addition to warm water species of fish, nonnative cold water fish species have been introduced to the Great Plains of Nebraska. In areas such as Crawford, Chadron, and Valentine, where there are cold water creeks and rivers, several trout species were introduced that are not natural. Brown trout from Europe, brook trout from the eastern US, and rainbow trout from the west coast were planted in many of these cold water streams. Also according to Bauer, cutthroat trout may have also existed in cold Nebraska streams naturally before the Great Plains were settled. By introducing other nonnative species of trout to these waters, humans may have unintentionally extirpated the natural populations forever. Bauer stated that it is a large topic of debate with fish biologists—whether cutthroats were native to Nebraska. The settlers and explorers of the Great Plains documented green trout with black spots in the Nebraska territory, and there are even specimens in the Smithsonian Museums that were taken from the Nebraska Territory by explorers. However, it is unclear where the fish were collected from, and if they were actually found in Nebraska. Today, cutthroats are found in some cold streams in Nebraska as a result of stocking for fishing.


Catch and Release

The practice of catch and release in recreational fishing is one of great debate. Many anglers believe that releasing is important to help conserve species and save money on stock fish. However, opposing anglers believe that fish, much like humans, feel pain and that catching and then releasing a fish could cause irreversible trauma.

I am one to release, mainly because I can’t stand the thought of killing a living thing, but also because I am never going to eat all of the fish that I catch (sounds like I catch a bounty of trout right?).

It is true that research shows fish do have pain perception, but it isn’t as big of a deal as some make it. Fishes’ mouths are made out of cartilage so a hook entrance is a lot like a pierced ear. There is little pain or bleeding to the area. If the practice of releasing is done carefully and correctly, the fish shouldn’t suffer much trauma at all.3378018991_3783c396db_z

Using barbless hooks is a very proactive way to lessen the pain inflicted on the fish. A barbless hook makes it much easier for a fisherman to slide the hook out of the fishes mouth with little struggle.

Another thing to keep in mind is that fish need to be in the water. So don’t keep the fish out too long measuring it and taking pictures. Be quick and gentle when releasing the little guy.

Here is an awesome video on how to perform the most gentle catch and release as possible. Plus, the narrator’s accent is positively dreamy.

Furthering the journey: Time to fine-tune your PLN


After reading Chuck Frey’s piece on How to cultivate a personal learning network: Tips from Howard Rheingold I realized that I have a bit of work to do.

  1. I need to be more open to discovery. In my explorations online, be it through research on Bing or hashtags on Twitter, I tend to overlook anything that isn’t my initial topic of search. By doing this I am cutting off any serendipitous encounters that I may have. I need to open my eyes and think outside of the box more often.
  2. I need to look into Diigo, delicious, and listorous!!!
  3. I need to follow more RSS feeds and Twitter accounts, but I also need to follow less. I’ve noticed just over the span of a week that some of the accounts and blogs I have recently followed aren’t really fitting the bill for me. I need to follow people who share a little more substance in their posts.
  4. I need to remember that when it comes to my personal learning network it isn’t about quantity, it’s all about quality. I was so excited by the amount of followers I have been getting on twitter lately, but I quickly realized that many of them weren’t worth following back or were only following me for advertising purposes. The number of followers you have is not important if they are not helping you expand your knowledge.9733284483_d01e4924cb_k
  5. I need to be more proactive in my sharing. I check my feeds several times a week, looking for inspiring facts and info, but I don’t need to wait for someone else to post first. I should share something that inspires others.
  6. I don’t think I need to work much harder at being a polite cyberspace participant. I tend to show my appreciation and am mindful of what I post so that I don’t offend too many people.
  7. I should really concentrate more on my productive give and take. I am not sure if my responses to others’ posts are that valuable to them. Sometimes I get so caught up on assigned comment quotas and making sure that I respond to every comment that I receive that I am not really focused on the substance of what I am typing.
  8. I am a very sarcastic person in face-to-face conversation, but a part of me must realize that conversations online are not the appropriate place for my banter. I tend to be very genteel yet straightforward in my posts and responses.

I feel that taking these steps to fine-tune my approach to cultivating my personal learning network will really take me that much further in my fly fishing journey.

Fish Identification

What happens after you catch a fish? Well keeping the little guy or catch-and-release is another blog post, but it might be helpful to know what kind of fish you’ve caught first. I am HORRIBLE at identifying fish. My boyfriend quizzes me at random all the time. In fact, just last night as we were waiting for our table at a restaurant for a romantic Valentine’s date, he pulled out his phone and started asking me, “what kind of fish is this?” Though, I am improving most of the time it’s a lucky guess.

I’m hoping this post will serve as a sort of study guide for myself as well as for my readers.

These are all of the parts of a fish that you should look at when trying to identify what species it is:

Fish art by Michelle LaGory

Now, I am from Wyoming and I mainly fish in Wyoming, so this post is geared towards Wyoming fish identification, but these fish are in other states as well.

(All information is taken from the Wyoming Game and Fish Department)

  1. Rainbow Troutrainbow_trout
    Uniform black spots 
    White tips on fins 
    Distinguished from cutthroat by the presence of white tips on fins 
    Distinguished from kokanee by 11 anal fin rays versus 13 to 15 for kokanee 
    May have faint red or orange slash on lower jaw
  2. Bonneville Cutthroat Troutbonneville
    Body is greenish yellow to silvery gray
    Red to orange slash under jaw 
    Spots are large, round and sparsely scattered, uniformly distributed
    Distinguished from rainbows by the lack of white tips on fins 
    Distinguished from other cutthroat by its duller colors and uniform distribution of spots
  3. Snake River Cutthroat Troutsnakeriver
    Body is brownish yellow with dull silvery, green or bronze tints 
    Spotting profuse and of very fine spots covering the body except the belly, which is white 
    Red or orange slash under lower jaw 
    Distinguished from other subspecies by its profuse fine spotting 
    Distinguished from rainbow trout by its lack of white tips on its paired fins
  4. Colorado River Cutthroat Troutcoloradoriver
    Body is bright, golden yellow with a brassy green back, the most colorful Wyoming cutthroat
    Large spots distributed uniformly on body and caudal fin, which can be rectangular in shape on the caudal peduncle 
    Adipose fin usually has a black border 
    Orange tint along belly 
    Red or orange slash mark under jaw 
    Distinguished from other cutthroat subspecies by is bright colors and large spots 
    Distinguished from rainbow trout by the lack of white tips on fins
  5. Yellowstone Cutthroat Trout

    Yellowish brown, silvery or brassy bronze, becoming paler toward the belly 
    Spots medium in size, conspicuous, rounded and often concentrated towards caudal fin 
    Red or orange slash under lower jaw 
    Crimson blush on gill plate 
    Distinguished from rainbow trout by the lack of white borders on its paired fins 
    Distinguished from other cutthroats by its large black spots concentrated toward the caudal fin and its drab colors
  6. Brook Troutbrook_trout
    Light spots on a dark background 
    Some red or pink spots with blue halos concentrated on lower half of body 
    Lower fins and tail have striking white border offset by black
  7. Golden Troutgolden_trout
    Green or olive in color about a bright red lateral band with bright yellow to brilliant read on the lower sides and belly 
    Large, round black spots, concentrated on the caudal peduncle and fin and its dorsal fin 
    Distinguished from cutthroat trout by its borders of white on its paired fins 
    Distinguished from rainbows by its smaller scales and spotting only on the posterior part of its body
  8. Lake Troutlake_trout
    Light-colored spots on a dark background 
    Deeply forked tail 
    Distinguished from brook trout by a deeply forked tail and absence of red or pink spots
  9. Brown Trout

    General lack of spots on the tail 
    Light colored “halos” around the dark spots 
    May have some red or orange spots 
    Orange tint along belly 
    Small scales 
    Distinguished from brook trout by dark spots on a light background versus light spots on a dark background for brook trout
  10. Graylinggrayling
    Large dorsal fin 
    Distinguished from trout by the coarse scales and large dorsal fin

Take the WGFD Fish Identification Quiz HERE!

become a better life teacher

Basically I have learned that a Personal Learning Network (PLN) is exactly what it sounds like. A PLN is advancing your personal knowledge by connecting with others who are learning about the same thing. Like this video explains, a PLN isn’t just a process it’s using your experiences and relationships to become a better teacher and also a better learner.

There are many ways to create these networks. We are using one way right now… Blogging. Starting a blog, or even just following other bloggers and connecting through their comments is a great way to begin your  PLN.

Another great way is through the nifty hashtags on social media sites. That is how I found so many fishing experts and amateurs like myself to follow on both Twitter and Instagram. Finding these accounts then led me to find their blogs such as The Trout Underground Fly Fishing Blog.

Not to mention, a majority of the accounts that I started following followed me back. PLUS some accounts in the same field of knowledge that I hadn’t even heard of yet. I even had a pretty awesome account The Fly Shack (@FlyShack) retweet one of my blog posts!

Not only are PLN important for learning, but they’re also a great way to get your name and your work out there. It’s not just about becoming a better classroom teacher, bur it’s about becoming a better life teacher. By establishing a PLN you are putting your passion-based learning out on the table for others to share in and to benefit from.

PLNs are an invitation to learn outside of the classroom to help you advance your career.

Not a Teacher

6773801511_db47ce56f1_zI have never even considered becoming a teacher. I have a hard time articulating what I am trying to tell someone. I can’t even train the newcomer at the coffee shop because I get flustered with myself when I can’t get the words to come out correctly and I get flustered with the inexperienced barista. I know at one point I was the newbie and someone had to teach me the proper technique of assembling a macchiato, but in the moment I don’t have the patience.

So, that being said, it’s hard for me to imagine how I would use these skills to build a passion-based education system.  However, I am a learner and I have had many teachers in my day. My favorite teachers have been passionate about what they do, and as I got to know them better, they had passions outside of the classroom as well. Sometimes they would use their passions, some may call them hobbies, within their lessons, but not always.

Some of my teachers have been very dry, teaching directly from a text book, extracting homework sheets directly from the teachers manual. These teachers were not passionate about their jobs and I was not passionate about learning. It’s a teacher’s contract to help students learn the best way they can.

I also appreciate the concept of “flipping the classroom.” Open the floor up for students to have a discussion. This way students are talking about what interests them on the subject and who knows, they might bring up something that you had never thought of yourself.

I know that I always learn more hands on or visually. Make something. Create something. Show a YouTube video. Show a TED talk. Let the students get on the computer and do their own research, while steering them in the right direction of course.

Not everyone is passionate about the same thing. A teacher doesn’t need to teach according to every student’s hobby in order to get him/her to learn. It’s the teachers responsibility to make every topic relevant to the students’ lives.

Let’s Get Packing!

Okay, before we actually go fishing together we should do a little packing. What you pack kind of depends on the season and the location. For example, if it’s really cold you’ll obviously need a beanie, gloves, heavy coat etc. I am not a chilly day fisherwoman at all so I’ll just cover what I take on an average sunny day.

5612842793_586022659c_oFirst, you will need your rod, real, leaders, tippet, fly line, and flies. Pretty self explanatory…

No matter what time of year it is you should always wear sunscreen or bring it with you. I don’t need to rant about how awful the sun’s UV rays are for your skin and your overall health. Along these lines, I also believe that some form of hat is essential- you can’t put sunscreen on your scalp. Also, hats are a great excuse to not do your hair and to keep your hair out of your face.

Next, I always bring plenty of water and enough snacks for me and a little extra. I love bringing jerky, trail mix, fruit, granola bars, and so on. Something that’s healthy and convenient. Don’t litter!

Willy Volk

Other essentials could be a lightweight jacket to throw in your bag or to tie around your waist and bug spray- always useful.

You may want some sunglasses, but not just any old pair of Ray-Bans, anglers prefer polarized glasses to help cut glare from the water. They really do make a difference and you can get a cheap pair from any gas station.

Waders are a great item to invest in. Real anglers get out there in the wider streams and get after it. I have not taken the plunge and purchased these expensive fashion statements yet. I am just going to stick with my boots, sandals, and the shallow waters for now.


A few other tools that one might want to bring along could include: 

1. A compass- You never know how adventurous you may get

2. A pocket knife- Same reasons

3. Forceps- For removing barbs on hooks, removing hooks, etc.

4. A net- obvious reasons

5. A whistle- Just in case you wander off and fall in a ravine and need help… you never know

6. A camera- You’ll want to capture the memories. Plus, you’ll need proof for that world record rainbow trout

7. A water proof phone case- If you are taking these pictures with your phone… better safe than sorry! 

Plus, you’ll need some sort of pack or vest to put everything in. Like I said, these are just items that I usually pack, but you may need more or less. Did I forget anything?