when fish yell back

by Emily Anthes via Erin Block‘s fantabulous Tippets section at MiddCurrent

fascinating piece on the study of how fish are adjusting to increasing sound pollution levels around the world. basically, just as we do when in a noisy environment, we start to raise our voices. the more ambient noise, the louder we speak until we get to the point of yelling. this is the Lombard Effect.

” We may think of them as silent, but fish make many sounds that are rarely appreciated by the human ear. Clownfish chirp and pop by gnashing their teeth together. Oyster toadfish hum and blare like foghorns by quickly contracting muscles attached to their swim bladders. Croaking gourami make their signature noise by snapping the tendons of their pectoral fins.

Altogether, more than eight hundred fish species are known to hoot, moan, grunt, groan, thump, bark, or otherwise vocalize. Carol Johnston, an ecologist at Auburn University, is partial to the sounds made by lollipop darters, small fish native to Alabama and Tennessee. “They sound like whales,” she told me. “

and that’s just a scratch of this subject’s surface. after reading a bit we’ll soon realise that this isn’t so fishy-churpy-cheery because its yet another reminder of how we negatively impact the world we live in.
however, many many thanks to Emily for making us aware of this, i’m sure i’m far from the only person to not have considered underwater sound pollution and how it affects its creatures.


click the image for the complete article including actual sound recordings of several yelling fish. enjoy !  but quietly…

How fish eat

fascinating stuff here from Smarter Every Day via The Ozark Fly Fisher Journal showing us just how cool and more importantly, how our slimy friends have adapted and evolved their eating methods through time.

i’d found the image above years ago on the net (sorry, no source) where the explanation behind it was that in many cases, trout will suck in a bug from quite a distance through a vortex created by opening the mouth and thrusting the water out through the gills effectively sucking the prey in instead of munching down on the meal with its teeth as most of us mammals do.
the videos below show and explain this action in high-quality slomo video confirming the ‘vortex’ method of feeding.
note that this method is mostly used by toothless or smaller-toothed fish. in the case of trout, a lot of bugs and smaller stuff will get sucked in and use their teeth when they go for forage fish.
an example of a (very) toothed fish that clamps its prey are pike. they’ll typically chomp, grab and hold their prey for a while until its stunned and later turn it so its facing them and then swallow it whole. yum !

but then, some fish aren’t all that smart and sometimes they get a little confused on which technique to use…
fish eat fish

what Piranhas sound like

when they’re about to eat you.

piranhas attack!
half way between a honking snore, beating on a coffin with the palm of your hand and a speeding fly saucer, here’s eleven seconds of something you’d probably never want to hear in real.

“The clip features three sounds. The first is a “bark” produced in what the researchers called a “frontal display”, meaning where two fish swam quickly towards each other and stayed still, aggressively intimidating and staring at each other. The second is a “drum beat” produced by the largest fish in the group when circling the shoal, mostly when there was competition for food. The third “croak” was generally associated with a piranha chasing and biting another fish.”

via The Cabinet of Freshwater Curiosities, click the pic for more on the Red-Bellied Piranha.

Finding trout in the shade

Hunting Trout in the Shadows by Ross Purnell, illustrated by Joe Mahler via Fly Fisherman

“Trout use shadows for concealment and for feeding, and it’s a particularly important feature on small streams with large trout. Small trout can conceal themselves pretty much anywhere, but a big trout in a shallow river is “naked” in bright sunlight. In the broken light of the shadow line, it’s much harder for predators like fly fishers, herons, and osprey, to see the trout.”
a most excellent double-plus good article on trout fishing tactics, fish behaviour and tips to take into account in sunny situations.
for tip no. 2, in the same manner that its no good for us to be looking at bright lights and losing our ‘nocturnal vision’ when fishing at night,  i’ll add that during the daytime the angler should avoid looking into bright areas when their eyes have adapted to looking into the shade.

be sure to click the image below for the full article and video, enjoy !

hunting trout in the shadows - joe mahler

deep thoughts

Apex Predators, Lack of Teeth and Renormalized Rationality

 and deep throat. yikes  !

“Humans like to believe that we are top tier predators. For most, it is true even without the use of weapons. For others, fearsome spiders and snakes reduce the ability to be any kind of predator at all.  It is just a part of the human condition. Take away all we have and it wont be long before animals find out that we are delicious and slow bags of meat… “

that’s just the intro to one of the more interesting reads on thoughts about fishing, fish, humans, predators, huckleberries, how it all relates, and who knows what else i’ve had the pleasure to read. it’s not like i necessarily agree with it all but it’s the thought process, manner and style i find particularly interesting. this isn’t your average “Went out and nailed the suckers !” blog post. lots of highly recommended food for thought.
click the pic for the full article, enjoy !

Fish Portraits – the Anglerfish “a rainbow of… Ugly”

as part of  the “Let’s get to know our slimy friends a little better” series here’s quite an interesting character, the Anglerfish.
master of deceit, this despicable creature has more than one trick up it’s sleeves, meaning that it most probably has a bigger brain than most other fishes. cool.

lesson learned ? never trust someone uglier than yourself…

Wanted: Pigeon Fly


“In Southwestern France, a group of fish have learned how to kill birds. As the River Tarn winds through the city of Albi, it contains a small gravel island where pigeons gather to clean and bathe. And patrolling the island are European catfish—1 to 1.5 metres long, and the largest freshwater fish on the continent. These particular catfish have taken to lunging out of the water, grabbing a pigeon, and then wriggling back into the water to swallow their prey.”

i’m thinking a disgusting dirty grey full neck hackle wound around a block of foam with a zip-tie will do the trick and i’m packin’. Albi is about an hour away…

big thanks to Agitated-Acey for the tip-off !

as extreme examples:

” on the stream where i lived i repeatedly observed wild brown trout not only being put down but altogether disappearing for four days because i discreetly threw 5 or 6 wood grubs in the pool for them to eat.

and then walking through a school of grayling, catching several, walking through the school again and still catching the dumb things from the other side…

perch:awereness scale quote

however astute the observer there are no conclusions or rules in attempting to understand animals but it’s all fun and informative if one keeps an open mind all the while remembering that there are no absolutes. it is however good to keep everything in an easily accessible folder in the back of the mind and add it all to our bag of tricks because they sometimes make a difference. interesting paradox…
anyhow, thinking about fish makes a nice distraction from thinking about sex although combining the two makes for a better experience. “


The Wariness Scale – part 2

” I am Aware of the air beneath me”

as promised, here’s the follow-up to part 1  by Carlos Azpilicueta, this time in it’s entirety.

The Wariness Scale (2nd part)
In the first part of this theory, we saw trout wariness levels 0 and 1. This second part analyses levels 2 and 3 and a whole set of factors that can condition a trout’s behavior to a greater or a lesser degree when the fish is involved in the activity that is the most important for the fisherman, feeding.

– Wariness 2
The trout’s feeling: it feels vulnerable and is aware of the fisherman’s presence, which it tolerates as long as his movements are rhythmic, regular and smooth.
Behavior: it feeds with apprehension and lets some flies drift by before taking one.

Probable situation of the trout: There is no protection nearby. There is quite a bit of light.

Reaction to your fly: anything abnormal like light reflected off your leader, micro-drag, etc. will make the fish reject your fly and increase its level of wariness. This trout may have moved up to this degree upon rejecting one of your flies because of drag.

Difficulty: high. You have to get everything right on the first try. You won’t get a second chance. So everything depends on the first cast.

A trout may be fully aware of your presence and go on feeding. But it will be taking the naturals irregularly and almost at random, with one eye on its food and the other on everything surrounding it.

– Wariness 3
The trout’s feeling: It’s feeding, but very apprehensively and on the defensive.

Behavior: unforeseeable and erratic. Feeds at random.

Probable situation of the trout: It’s very visible. No protection nearby. Quite a bit of light.

Reaction to your fly: unlikely that it will look at it. If it sees it, it may die laughing.

Difficulty: Impossible. This trout is not going to take your fly no matter what you do. You’ll have to wait until it drops to level two on the wariness scale.

According to the researcher-fly fisherman, Harry Ramsey, it takes a trout barely seven minutes to get used to a fisherman’s presence. If he casts and moves carefully and rhythmically, the trout relaxes and forgets about him. If the fisherman stays there a while and his movements are always regular and smooth, the trout will end up accepting him as part of the stream and even take him as a reference point with respect to its feeding station. It may even approach the fisherman to a distance of less than two yards.

A trout may be feeding and still be quite wary. What are the factors (either of the natural instinct or learned behavior types) that con contribute to a higher or lower level of wariness?

Some conditioning factors:
– Light (increases the degree of wariness)
– Transparency of the water (increases)
– Protection from the banks (decreases wariness)
– Protection from the sky (decreases)
– Current (decreases)
– False strike (increases)
– Rejection (increases)
– Awareness of the angler’s presence (increases)
– Intensity of the hatch (decreases)
– Size of the trout (increases)

After level three, you would have four, when the trout runs for cover in its shelter and stops feeding.

Some possible conclusions

A trout may be feeding on the surface, apparently relaxed and carefree, but is actually be feeling a bit tense, apprehensive and vulnerable.
No trout is unhookable. All trout become so wary at some time or other that they just can’t be deceived (you say you’ve never come across one?)
Lengthening your leader and/or reducing its diameter only make sense for trout at level one or two.
Changing the fly for a more exact imitation will only serve a purpose for trout at level two.
Your movements must be extremely unhurried and careful for level-two trout.
With level-three trout: Be still and wait.
After a rejection, the trout is very likely to move up the wariness scale a level.
After a false strike, it will very likely move up two levels. (If it was at level two and the false strike scared it, it’ll be put down. If it was at level zero, however, it’s still hookable.)
A trout can jump from level one to three or four in just an instant.
It’ll only lower its wariness one level at a time, though.
It’s very likely that this theory does no more than put a lot of fishermen’s unspoken impressions and experiences into words. Nevertheless, I believe that the more we rationalize complex fishing situations such as those studied here, the better equipped we’ll be to know what’s happening and how to proceed, often acknowledging that it’s useless to keep insisting. Something’s better than nothing.

Carlos Azpilicueta

The Wariness Scale – part 1

by Carlos Azpilicueta

one of the more interesting fish-behaviour concepts i’ve ever come across, an ever-present approach i’ve adopted no matter what species or water-type fished.
this goes a lot further than the simplistic and typical “Pattern vs Presentation” that most authors have re-hashed over centuries. something the dedicated angler should most definitely consider to add to their ‘bag of tricks’.

”  Imagine the following situation: a brown trout feeding near the surface in front of you. Moreover, it’s large (this requires some imagination). You have the perfect imitation. You know that because, during previous hatches of this same species, this pattern worked consistently. With a careful, accurate cast, you make a perfect presentation. Drag-free, it drifts into the trout’s window at the right place at the right time. Everything is perfect. It couldn’t be better. But… (now you don’t have to imagine anything, just remember the many times you’ve experienced this) it doesn’t take your fly. So, what do you do now? You tie on a different fly, and then another and another. You lengthen your leader to see if it’s that darn micro-drag. You carefully move into a different position and cast at a different angle. Zilch.

During the two last seasons, I’ve verified that there is one more parameter that we generally don’t take into account or we simply don’t pay enough attention to. Consequently, we don’t deal with it as something separate from the other two. I’m referring to the trout’s degree of wariness in such a critical situation as feeding on the surface. Conditioned by a heap of circumstances, the trout passes through states in which its feeling of security or awareness of vulnerability vary constantly. These states enormously condition the trout’s willingness to take your fly, independently of the pattern or the presentation.”

click HERE for Carlos’ complete article.
Part 2 will follow shortly, enjoy !

Think differently – The Fish Eating Fish fly (a refresher)

first posted here in November 2011 i’m constantly surprised and happy to see on my stats board that this fantastic article and fly by my friend Ulf Hagström is one of the most popular hits, averaging more than 30 a day, every day from all over the world. for some blogs that might seem like piddle but not for a fly fishing blog.
there are literally tons of great fly patterns and fly dressers but true fly design innovations don’t come often so here once again is the original post, an invitation to look this over, read the link to Ulf’s site and hopefully  be inspired to innovate on your own.

Think differently – The Fish Eating Fish fly
by Ulf Hagström

this kind of “Think differently” is just awesome, a sign of a truly innovative fly designer and tier not only interested in creating flies that attract fish but flies that attract fish in a different manner.

“One of the most interesting articles I’ve read in a long time was an article in a Swedish magazine “Allt om flugfiske” by biologist Peter Johanesson who talked about the result of a study on the phenomenon of kleptoparasites among pikes. Basically what it points to is that a larger pike would most of the times rather attack and steal the already caught prey from a smaller pike than eat the smaller pike itself!”

click here for the full article and adjoining step by step of the fly.

thanks for the inspiration, Ulf !

Hangin’ on Bob

The Hang of It – by Bob Wyatt via Bumcasts

once again, Bob shares his experience and wisdom on fish behavior and fly design, some invaluable reading for the angler trying to make sense of it all.
leafy fashions come and go but the roots  always hold it all together and these few words go deep. call it a mantra if you will, i’ll always be happy to re-read them over and over. thanks again Bob.

D.H.E ‘deer hair emerger’

” After decades of thinking about trout as cunning and fussy critters with eating disorders, my fly tying programme finally got traction with the ‘trigger’ concept. Behavioural science terms like ‘behavioural releaser’, ‘supernormal stimulus’, ‘optimal foraging strategy’ and ‘fixed action pattern’ entered my angling vocabulary. Everything just sort of came together and for the first time in my angling life started to make sense… “

for more click HERE, enjoy !