Science and Sarcasm
30 May 2005
Shiawassee River Fishing Report [May 30 2005]
To spey, or not to spey...

B and I closed out our Memorial Day weekend with an afternoon wading warm water for smallmouth bass. I think we both feel a little depressed that tomorrow we're back to work again. We've had a good 6 days of relaxation, fishing and gardening. I'd have chosen to have caught more fish than I did, but I really can't complain about how we passed the time.

This afternoon, we had hoped to catch up with our friend J for a half-day of smallmouth fishing on the Shiawassee River. Given my recent string of poor fishing outings, I can't believe I agreed to go. I'm kinda glad J decided not to join us - we discovered 2 of our regular, favorite river sections absolutely choked with aquatic plants - more vegetation than the peak levels we've typically observed during the lowest flows of the year in August or so. The water levels are below average for this time of year, but I can't imagine that the low flow alone is causing this much underwater plant growth. I suspect a nutrient issue.

I started out with my 12'6" spey rod. I'd been looking forward to using it, but after fishing just a short section of river, it was clear that the spey was not the best choice on this day. Long streamer swings and lots of floating and rooted weeds do not make a pleasant combination. I spending more time removing plants from my line and fly than I did casting and fishing. Back to the car to switch to my single-hander Lamiglas 6-weight. During this time, B had caught one or two little smallies on white/tan streamers, I was working on another near-skunk on similarly colored streamers...dang.

By the time I returned, B had worked her way pretty far downstream. After an hour or so, I caught up to her. She had added another little smallie to her total, but did not report anything much. We fished one last deep section, then fished our way back upstream. In addition to the increased plant growth, many of our standard holes and runs were very different than last year. Quite a bit of 'furniture rearranging' went on this winter...

We fished our way back up to our access point, changing streamer colors to darker choices. We chatted with a large batch of canoers and fishermen putting in. They all agreed that the river was way too weedy for this time of year. They all figured it was the lack of rainfall at the cause. At the car, we stopped for a few minutes to watch the bird life over the river. There were kingbirds, quite a few tree swallows and some flycatchers performing aerial maneuvers to catch supper. We even watched a red-winged blackbird try his hand at flycatching - he was a tad clutzy.

At that point, we decided to drive upstream and check the river's condition at a city park, another of our regular accesses. The park is located in town, just downstream from a city water treatment facility. At the park, the river did not look any more appealing. The plant growth was similar to the first site and the water had a noticeable 'film' on the surface. We decided to 'hold our noses' and fish a short stretch. Within just a few minutes, I had a couple of strikes and landed a little smallie on a zoo cougar. Shortly after that I caught a nice 12-13" smallie. Whew, the skunk was off... B also caught a couple of fish at the park. We checked each fish over for indications of ill-health - they were all in spectacular shape.

We put away the waders but decided to stop at another access point, upstream from the water treatment plant. At this site, the vegetation appeared to be much less vigorous, but still more prevalent than we'd expect to see at this time of year. Perhaps we're a little over-concerned about the river's water quality, but I think it's worth a call or two to the local DNR/DEQ or NRCS office to find out what we were wading in today...

28 May 2005
Rogue River fishing report [May 28 '05]
I am in a serious slump. I'm trying to just fish through it, but it's not going very well...

We made plans for an early morning trip to the upper Rogue today. Best of intentions, but we didn't actually arrive at the river until about 9:00. Oh well. The river was apparently the place to be - every access was full of cars and fishermen occupied the river in all the usual places. We did manage to find one or our favorite sections without any anglers and we felt fortunate. The water level was average or lower and relatively clear for this stream.

B and I both expected streamers to work well in the morning - and we were wrong. Not even one strike or follow, so I switched to my new DS2 3-weight and we both switched tactics. I managed one pretty little brown on a Griffith Gnat before making the first bend; little did I know that it would be my last of the day. The brown trout in this river are some of the most beautiful I've seen. Big black and red spots, deep coloration during the spawning season - unlike the more pale, silvery strains I've caught in other rivers.

B discovered that the trout were willing to take a bead-head Bird's Nest nymph dead-drifted and lifted. She caught several trout this way. All I mustered were a few strikes from little guys. She also had good luck with a Turk's Power Ant on a swing, then pulled under. I also could not duplicate this maneuver to the trout's preferences.

By early afternoon, sporadic surface, or near-surface feeding began and I thought maybe my luck would improve. But I was again perplexed. I tried sulphurs, drakes, caddis and BWOs in dry and emerging patterns, searching patterns like the Griffith Gnat and some rubber-legged deer hair thing, but no results. I was about ready to break my new 3-weight over a tree. What the heck are they eating? I've got a lot of fly fishing education left in front of me. At least I didn't lose as many flies as I usually do.

We fished until about 7:00-7:30. A couple of new anglers arrived at our spot to take over so we felt free to leave. The afternoon thunderstorms that were predicted never materialized, though the wind picked up significantly. I figured this might stunt the evening hatch activity, so we may not have missed much by leaving early. B finished the day with probably 15 or 20 trout in total. She wouldn't say for sure how many she caught since I was pretty crabby about the whole subject.

Difference between weather forecast and actual weather: +100%
Number of times I used the F-word: TNTC
Number of onion rings in an order at Arnie's Old Mill: 6, but they're huge
Arnie's lunchtime recommendation: Seafood-salad sandwich
Number of flies on my patch at the end of the day: 14

26 May 2005
Pere Marquette fishing report [May 25-26 '05]
B and I took a couple of days off work and left home for the Pere Marquette on Wednesday morning. We took the back roads - the highways are for commuters, we were vacationers. The drive was not quick as there were quite a few active road construction projects where the traffic is limited to a single lane. We arrived at the PM at about noon and headed straight for a new river access.

The weather was bright and sunny on Wednesday and actually turned out to be pretty nice on Thursday even though thunder and lightning had been predicted. We endured just a couple of light sprinkles on Thursday morning. We had the river almost to ourselves everywhere we fished. There were never more than 3 cars in the parking area (including ours) at each access.

A new river section

The fishing was OK but not great. Streamers were the obvious choice for the chilly mornings, then later in the afternoon, dries and emergers seemed logical as there were a few naturals present and a low level of surface feeding. Overnight temperatures in the low 40s and the variable weather patterns may be to blame for the sluggish action. The river was a little bit high and a tad off-color. I caught one little, but really beautiful steelhead smolt on Wednesday on a sulphur dry pattern and a pair of 10" brown trout on Thursday that smashed olive colored streamers. I did get a few strikes outside of that, but no hookups. Not much for 2 days of hard fishing. B did better, as usual. She hooked a couple of really big fish near underwater logjams. Though both times, she and the fish could not agree on a direction and her tippet was snapped in short-order.

High bank view

The evening hatches completely perplexed me. It looked to us like the surface feeding going on was motivated by emergers of some sort - the rises were splashy and just beneath the surface. The fish did not show any interest in the dries we tried, and the emerger patterns we tried (or tried to fake) didn't work either. There were brown or gray drakes, sulphurs, some caddis and a few other things in the air, but we couldn't find a fly to mimic whatever the fish were keyed in on. Very frustrating. I have a lot of learning to do... Anyone want to clue me in?

We also had the misfortune to witness a local professional guide directing his client to swing streamers over a steelhead redd with a freakin' 4-weight. They hooked, landed and released a fish that then just sat on the bottom right in front of me for quite awhile after they drifted off. It didn't head for a dark hole or back to the redd. I hope it lived. They probably should've just kept it. The guide suggested that we should go give them a try too. I definitely view this kind of unnecessary tactic as unethical. End of May, warm water, only a handful of steelies trying to sneak in some last minute spawning...and a 4 weight! Come on, there's enought big fish in the PM without having to harass these guys. For cripes sake, Tommy Lynch landed a 27" brown a few days ago. Let the lonely steelies get it on and head back to the safety of the big lake. Here's a thread on the Steelhead Site discussing the viewpoints of some fellow angler-types. Sure, it's legal. But it's not smart.

Shupac was apparently fishing near Baldwin too. We may have crossed paths but didn't realize it. We ran into several really nice fishermen. I hope one of them was him.

Vital Statistics
Difference between weather forecast and actual weather: +80%
Comfort rating of PM Lodge cabin #4: 4.5 stars (out of 5)
Number of pileated woodpeckers observed: 4
Tardiness of a handful of straggling, spawning steelhead: 2 months late
Number of guide services scratched off the list of possibles: 1
Ratio of very good to not-so-good meals consumed in Baldwin: 4:0
Degree of guilt for missing 2 days of work: 0 (on a scale of 1 to 5)

25 May 2005
R & R
Feeling tired? Run-down? Trouble sleeping? Not enough time in the day?

Me too. B and I are off for a 2-day fishing trip to relax and rewind. We both need 2 weeks away from work, but we'll see what we can get from a 2-day break instead. We're taking more fishing gear than clothing. Will 4 rods apiece be enough? I hope there's a trout like this one in my near future. B will undoubtedly catch at least one in this range. I'll report upon our return...

Manistee 'bow  Fall '04

23 May 2005
Got Gmail?

I've got 50 Gmail invites so if you'd like one let me know...

21 May 2005
Bush no longer wholeheartedly supported by the Christian Right
This gives me hope that the 'faith-based' portion of our population might eventually see Bush for what he does rather than for what he says:

Bush gets mixed reception at Christian college

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (Reuters) -
President Bush on Saturday championed faith in American society, but ran into some criticism as courted his Christian base in a commencement speech at a Michigan college.

"We need to support and encourage the institutions and pursuits that bring us together. And we learn how to come together by participating in our churches and temples and mosques and synagogues," Bush told graduating seniors at Calvin College, a Christian liberal-arts college.

The college describes itself as a "center of faith-anchored liberal arts teaching and scholarship," and Bush has aggressively sought to reinforce his support among religious conservatives who helped deliver him a reelection victory in 2004.

But anti-Bush ads that ran in the local newspaper, protests outside the event and buttons worn on graduates' robes made clear that many students and faculty objected to Bush's policies.

"We believe your administration has launched an unjust and unjustified war in
Iraq," said a letter signed by about one-third the college's 300 faculty members and published in Saturday's Grand Rapids Press.

"As Christians, we are called to be peacemakers and to initiate war only as a last resort," it said.

The letter criticized economic policies that it said favored the wealthy over the poor, and faulted Bush for mixing religion and politics and exhibiting and "intolerance" for others' views.

It cited "conflicts between our understanding of what Christians are called to do and many of the policies of your administration."


"Free Nitrogen" by Harry Vetch...
Pre-bloom hairy vetch plant with nodule detail

Before rototilling a new section of my vegetable garden for planting, I dug up a hairy vetch [Vicia villosa Roth] plant to look at the roots and assess its nitrogen fixation status. I've got common hairy vetch growing in rotation with vegetables as a source of organic nitrogen for my garden. Since hairy vetch is a legume, it can add N to the soil through biological nitrogen fixation. I found that the vetch plants had LOTS of nitrogen-fixing nodules on the roots (see picture inset). The nodules develop in order to host symbiotic bacteria (Rhizobium leguminosarium in this case). The bacteria get a nice place to live and the legume gets free N. It is a good practice to inoculate legume seed with the proper bacteria prior to planting to ensure sufficient organism numbers for N fixation. I've never inoculated my garden or my seed, but it appears the bugs are present in sufficient numbers anyway.

These nodules were numerous and were pinkish-red inside (see second picture inset). The pink color indicates the presence of leghemoglobin, a pigment associated with effective nodulation and N fixation. Nodules can also be greenish in color; but a green color indicates no biological fixation of N. So, I'm getting free N from the atmosphere into my garden soil via the many pink nodules. This reduces or eliminates the need for other N fertilizers. It's also a more slowly-available form of N compared with synthetic fertilizer. Many organic, sustainable agricultural production systems depend on natural nitrogen sources such as this.

20 May 2005
Smallmouth on a spey
After a long day of soil sampling research plots, B and I decided to visit a nearby warm water river for some evening catch-and-release smallmouth fly fishing.

smallmouth bass

The river was a tad high and stained for late May, but the water looked very inviting for our purpose. Lots of bugs on the water, but no obvious surface feeding. I broke out my 12'6" spey rod since this river is quite broad and a good place for such tactics - and I haven't used it in awhile. B used her favorite 6 wt. We both chose to go with a sink tip and a streamer. Before too long, B hooked into a very nice smallie with her black deer hair bugger. Demonstrating my ability to copy others' success, I switched from a light colored marabou streamer to a dark leech pattern and subsequently caught a 16" beauty - my only fish of the evening. B caught 2 or 3 more before we called it a night at about 9:30.

Late evening daylight is one of the best parts about living in Michigan...

16 May 2005
What is Your World View?
You scored as Materialist. Materialism stresses the essence of fundamental particles. Everything that exists is purely physical matter and there is no special force that holds life together. You believe that anything can be explained by breaking it up into its pieces. i.e. the big picture can be understood by its smaller elements.









Cultural Creative








What is Your World View? (corrected...hopefully)
created with

Rational thought strikes 3 strong ways...

1. Pharynglula:

PZ Myers must be the best scientist-blogger we've got right now. He's the Stephen J. Gould of the blogosphere.

2. Ruben Bolling:

Tom the Dancing Bug

3. Tom Tomorrow:

This Modern World

Hard-core trout fishing
Scene of the Big Man at
I've decided that B and I must be hard-core fishermen. I know we fish all winter (with the possible exception of January) for steelhead; but that's different. Winter steelhead fishing is supposed to be cold, snowy, rainy, miserable. Trout season, on the other hand, is supposed to be bright, warm, sunny, comfortable, happy...

We just spent a 3-day weekend up north fishing in cold temperatures, in the rain, in the wind, flailing the waters of an absolutely beautiful trout river, the Big Manistee, in hopes of hooking a few gorgesous little beauties. High temperatures barely broke 50 degrees. Low temperatures were 35 to 40 degrees. We saw little sunshine during the weekend. And it rained everyday. For my efforts and endurance, I caught one little 6" brookie. And I fished HARD for him. B caught 4 or 5 in total; one nice 14" brown. She's a more adept fly fisherman than me. We both came home tired and sore. The fish were very inactive due, I suppose, to the dropping temps and cold nights. Water temperatures maxed at about 50 degrees in mid-afternoon. Bug hatches and subsequent surface (or near-surface) feeding were very negligible. We stripped streamers and drifted nymphs almost exclusively. The fish were inactive and holding tight to underwater stumps, logs and other cover. Only very precise, courageous and creative casts would result in any chance of enticing a strike from a fish bigger than 7 or 8".

I should stop short of complaining about the weekend because it would be inappropriate. We did have a good time. A great time actually. The Big Manistee is an absolutely beautiful river. Years and years of stream improvements and bank restoration projects have resulted in a stunningly beautiful stream with diverse, abundant fish habitat. We had the stream almost to ourselves for the bulk of the weekend. When other fisherman did pass by, they usually packed up and left long before we did. Our car was always the last one left in the parking area. We were fortunate to discover a couple of new stretches that we've not fished before. They were a blast to discover and fish and we'll definitely fish them again. This was one of those weekends that causes me to notice what I like so much about stream flyfishing. My enjoyment is more about appreciating the natural environment - plants, water, fish, birds and mammals - and the company I'm sharing than about "fishing" per se. Though I do tend to get a little crabby when I can't catch some nature on the end of my line...

13 May 2005
Amazing steelhead video clip...
This video clip is a big download (~15 MB) but is well worth it. It's 2 minutes of steelhead hitting wakers or bombers skated across the surface of a big BC river. It's the best fishing video clip I've seen in a long time. Thanks for sharing Jamey!

They have several other video clips here.

ACLU of Nebraska and Lambda Legal win argument in federal court
A small but important victory for civil rights and equal protections in the US.

Federal Court Strikes Down Nebraska's Anti-Gay-Union Law Banning Protections for Same-Sex Couples

LINCOLN, NE -- In a ruling issued today, a federal court struck down Nebraska's anti-gay-union constitutional amendment that bans any and all forms of legal recognition for same-sex relationships, including domestic partnerships and other basic protections. The state is expected to appeal the case to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit.

The Court noted in its ruling that the plaintiffs in the case had not requested any recognition of their relationships through marriage or any other legal status, but merely sought an equal opportunity to persuade legislators of the need for protections. Judge Joseph F. Bataillon went on to say, "The court finds Section 29 is a denial of access to one of our most fundamental sources of protection, the government. Such broad exclusion from 'an almost limitless number of transactions and endeavors that constitute ordinary civil life in a free society' is 'itself a denial of equal protections in the literal sense.'"

11 May 2005

You are You are many things to many people. You try to find what people are looking for, but you're not very good at it. You suck.

Which Website are You?

This just strikes a little too close...

09 May 2005
Currently at 1603 and 2.2 per day...
Why does the MSM avoid these stats on a daily basis? I know this is a stupid and rhetoical question, but nonetheless one my brain leaps to every time I read stuff like this:

U.S. Military Deaths in Bush's Iraq Quagmire

'Acid Test' has some words for the Kansas devolved...
All scientific conclusions are probability statements: an observation is repeated a number of times and, say, nine times out of ten the results confirm a given idea, so . . . the idea is thrown out. A ninety percent chance of being right is not good enough. The probability of being right has to be nineteen out of twenty in the biological sciences. It has to approach ninety nine out of a hundred in the physical sciences. Imagine applying those standards in your personal life.

In science, that's just the beginning. The hypothesis, which is an expensive word for educated guess, is merely said to be confirmed once it passes that bar. These guesses are dignified with the name of "theory" when they have been confirmed so many times there is no real chance they won't continue being confirmed. They are called "laws" when that certainty becomes crushing, but even laws are probability statements. The law of gravity is a probability statement with an extraordinarily low chance of not working.

Against that backdrop, evolution is called a theory because there are so many facts in its favor. It's a parallel case to our understanding of stars and electrons. We have no personal experience of any of them, but scientists who have studied the facts have come up with coherent explanations that pan out. Evolution can explain practical things, such as how bacteria develop antibiotic resistance and why measles epidemics run in cycles, and it can provide mind-altering insights such as that insects and mammals have the same basic body plan, except the plan is back to front.

None of the other ideas for explaining the patterns of life rests on any facts that contradict evolution. The theory of intelligent design (and "theory" is used here in its common meaning) has not been able to show the existence of intelligence in the design, using scientific methods. Creationists can't show that creation occurred. If the scientific method is not used, the result is not science.

People who argue against evolution can, and do, fit some of the facts into their theories, but they have to ignore all the facts that disagree, which is about as far from the scientific method as you can get. They have no measurable observations and no testable, independently verifiable predictions.

07 May 2005
Take the test...are you a Republican?
I, evidently, am not:

I am:
"You're a complete liberal, utterly without a trace of Republicanism. Your strength is as the strength of ten because your heart is pure. (You hope.)"

Are You A Republican?

Rest and ivory-billed woodpecker news
I've spent the last few days in the field working on our experimental plots around the state and boy, am I tired and sore. Springtime is a bit crazy getting all our sampling and field preparation done. My body cannot adjust to getting up and down from my hands and knees hundreds of times per day or driving soil samplers into the ground this quickly. I think I'll use the day to rest and recuperate so that I can enjoy myself playing soccer tomorrow and then start the insane work week all over again.

I've been a bit behind the ivory-billed woodpecker story since I've been a bit busy, but my friend Lisa filled me in. It's easy to find the absolute TON of information available on the web as well. Here's a link to the article in Science by the birders from the Cornell Lab or Ornithology, the Nature Conservancy and various Alabama wildlife agencies. The whole story of discovery and identification is pretty cool.

image from the 1935 Louisiana expedition

From the Cornell Lab's description of 15 sightings from February 2004 to February 2005:
February 11, 2004: At about 1:30 P.M., while kayaking through the Cache River National Wildlife Refuge in Arkansas, Gene Sparling of Hot Springs, Arkansas, watched as a huge and unusual woodpecker with a red crest flew toward him and landed on a nearby tree. The bird hitched around the tree in what he later described as a "herky jerky" or "cartoon-like" motion. Sparling noticed several field marks suggesting that the bird was an Ivory-billed Woodpecker.

About a week later, Tim Gallagher, editor of the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology's Living Bird magazine, and Bobby Harrison, associate professor at Oakwood College in Huntsville, Alabama, interviewed Sparling about his sighting after reading a post on a web site. Gallagher and Harrison had been following up on ivory-bill sightings in preparation for a book Gallagher was writing. Sparling's description was so convincing that Gallagher and Harrison traveled to Arkansas so that Sparling could take them back to the bayou where he had seen the bird.

The Cornell Lab and The Nature Conservancy have lots, lots more. As does every other wildlife and birding agency and website hoping to affiliate themselves with this profile-enhancing and revenue-generating opportunity. Do visit Hedwig the Owl's blog for lots of behind the scenes details.

The plan used to prepare the discovery site and surrounding area in advance of the public announcement of the confimred discovery sounds like it was a thing of beauty. They managed to keep the many-thousand-acre area safe from the cetrain onslaught of lunatic birders thirsty for a new entry on their life lists. The planning and implementation of this protection plan were impressive. Well done.

02 May 2005
Trout opener
Secret creek west

Becky and I enjoyed opening weekend of trout season on a little local stream that I won't name. We had hoped to run into a few straggling migratory steelhead, but instead found an abundance of little wild steelhead and brown trout actively feeding on emerging nmyphs and dries. We probably caught and released 30 wild fish in the 8-11" range on the afternoon. We did manage to turn a couple of larger ones, but they refused the fly at the critical moment. It's nice to see such unimpeded natural reproduction of these beauties.

We also ran into another woman on the stream. That has never happened before. It is so rare, all three of us remarked on the occasion and stood on the bridge chatting for awhile. I hope we run into her again some time. We also ran into one other friendly gentleman.

All in all, a very enjoyable day in the water.

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