Tuesday September 02, 2014

Blogging about Fontinalis rising

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Welcome to Week LXXXVII of 'Fishing Parkland Shorelines'. Like most of us I am a novice fisherman, loving to fish, but far from an expert. In the following weeks I'll attempt to give those anglers who love to fish but just don't have access to a boat, a look at some of the options in the Yorkton area where you can fish from shore, and hopefully catch some fish.

I have to say as a writer, one who has called journalism a career for a little more than a quarter of a century, there are times punching keys on the laptop become a drag.

When you think about things such as the sheer volume of words I have written, and I try not too think about it often, I can feel the circle of my life turns a bit too quickly. My coverage of the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League Yorkton Terriers are a prime example. From the start of September through, until at least May each season, I write a story. That's somewhere around 35 stories a year, each averaging a 1,000 words, likely more if I were to track it. I have been on the beat some 16 seasons now, so have eclipsed half a million words on the team and its exploits.

So there are days beat writing is simply tedious.

And then there are the days you sit and stare at the screen wonder what to write. Editorials are notorious for causing hours of doubt and bewilderment.

So what does this have to do with an article of fishing?

Well in one respect not a lot I suppose.

Determining what to write for this space has never been that difficult and for the most part I have avoided tedium because I have the ability to write drawing from a fairly wide view of the topic, from actually fishing, to fashioning hooks, to creating recipes in the kitchen, or reviewing books on the topic.

In this case though my long involvement with writing does give me a somewhat different vision of Internet bloggers and their efforts.

It is one thing to ply the trade of wordsmith with a pay cheque tied to the end result of those efforts.

It is another thing to blog about something you enjoy for the sake of sharing your knowledge and experiences with like-minded people.

And so I am always intrigued by fishing bloggers and their efforts.

I have a lot of respect for people such as Jason Tucker and what he has created with his blog Fontinalis Rising (www.fontinalisrising.com).

For those curious about the name, the site explains, "Salvelinus Fontinalis- the scientific name for the Eastern Brook trout. I live in Northern Michigan, the home of Mr. Fontinalis, and pursue him on a regular basis.

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"Fontinalis Rising is my (Tucker's) attempt to bring you the type of outdoor coverage that I like to read -- gritty, boots-on-the-ground, yet creative and literate. Through my posts I hope to bring you the how and what, but especially the why of my outdoor activities -- whatever it is that got into my blood so many years ago and drives me to spend the better part of each year outdoors. I plan to bring you outdoor reportage, interviews, product reviews, how-to as well as essays and diatribes. While based in Northern Michigan, I plan to venture abroad and share those adventures with you," he wrote.

Having happened upon the blog after being turned on to it by Paul Beel (of Franken Fly reviewed here in December), I had to touch base with Tucker and learn more about his inspiration for the blog.

Interestingly, Tucker was inspired by another doing a similar thing.

"I started my blog Fontinalis Rising in January 2011," he told me via email. "I saw a post on Facebook by Rebecca Garlock of the Outdoor Blogger Network. It was like a gong going off in my head. I had always loved outdoor writing and wanted to do it myself but didn't know how. I work in construction but have always had a knack for writing, and blogging seemed to be a perfect way to get started. My goal was to write the kind of articles and information I would like to read myself. It has been far more successful than I would have ever imagined."

That said, Tucker has found there has been an ebb and flow to his blogging as he has come to better understand what a good blog is and must be.

"I've backed off in my blogging activities this year," he said. "Like many bloggers, I started off with a lot of enthusiasm, worked hard to build an audience, and did some gear reviews, interviews and giveaways.

"That was the first year.

"The next I focused on writing more literate stuff. This year I realized it pays me nothing and just started posting when I felt like it.

"Now I'm starting to post more. I wrote an entire novel in the month of November and now realize how lazy I've been. I had this weekly feature called Monday Morning Coffee which was just meant to introduce upcoming posts, but became the most popular posts on my blog. It ended up working in reverse. Instead of building enthusiasm for upcoming posts, people checked Monday Morning Coffee each week and then read everything else I had posted in-between."

Still Tucker sees Fontinalis Rising as something which has met his overall expectations.

"As far as achievement? Yes, it has surpassed my expectations. Not only have I built a following, but I have been published on several other websites and at least one print magazine," he said. "I just wrote my first fiction novel, and have a book coming out soon about the blog and fly fishing."

Tucker said blogs are finding an audience in a time-short, computer savvy world.

"Blogging has two avenues of appeal which you touch on," he said.

"Firstly that it is interactive. I try to respond to all the comments on my posts, and many people contact me via email, some with questions, some who want to go fishing. I have quite a few close friends and fishing buddies now who first knew me through my blog.

"Secondly, blogging is largely normal men and women sharing their stories, experiences and techniques. We are not sponsored celebrities. It gives us a level of street cred that goes a long way in the fly world. There is a huge undercurrent of resentment among fly anglers out there who feel the major print magazines have totally sold out to commercial interests."

The ability of reader and blogger to interact so directly, and near instantly, is compelling, especially when ideas are being mutually explored.

"I try to reply to all my comments and email," reiterated Tucker. "My blog gets a relatively good amount of traffic, but I don't get a lot of comments compared to some blogs. I think it's my writing style. I'm shocked when I go to fly shows and people approach me telling me how much they love the blog, people I never knew read it. If I had one request it would be that everyone who reads a post leaves a comment, though that is unrealistic.

"The flip side of that is the number of close friends I've made directly as a result of my blog.

"I can't complain at all. I spent a day on one of our best streams this summer with a man who manufactures flat boats and had read an article of mine on MidCurrent and wanted me to fish with him in one of his boats. It was a great day on the water, one I will never forget."

And of course behind writing a blog on fishing comes the deep love of fishing itself.

"I was born to fish," said Tucker. "As a toddler I used to cry because my dad wouldn't take me. I caught my first brown trout at age four. It still is the best day of my life.

"Come to find out my father wasn't that avid a fisherman, but my grandfathers were. I started fly fishing at age thirteen and never looked back.

"My Grandpa Tucker gave me my first fly rod then, taught me how to cast, and then perched me on a CCC fish shelter built into the local stream bank. There was a blanket Hex hatch that night. I was forever hooked."

When I find an avid fisherman, I am always curious where he is most drawn to fish.

"My life is deeply entwined with a couple of local rivers," offered Tucker. "Most people lump Michigan in with the rest of the Midwest- flat, corn and soybeans, and stocked fish. The rivers I fish are not stocked, rely on natural reproduction and are a joy to fish. Some have a distinctly western nature -- beaver meadows, aspen glens and steep-sided valleys.

"One river has a strain of lake-run brown trout found nowhere else. They regularly reach ten pounds.

"The other river has tremendous brook trout (specks) fishing with fish over twenty inches available.

"Very few people outside this area are aware of what we have."

So why those rivers?

"As far as the specifics, it is both the fish and the memories. I used to ride the school bus and talk with the other boys about the fifteen pound browns our fathers caught the night before," said Tucker. "These rivers here are both beautiful and full of great fish. The experience is seamless for me."

And while locally, walleye are kings for most fisherman from a rather small number of local species, in the broader world there are other options I also find myself interested in learning about from writers such as Tucker, who admitted a favourite species is not easy to pick.

"It's a moving target," he said.

"My first love is brook trout, and thus Fontinalis Rising, Latin shorthand for brook trout rising. I am a hardcore mouser -- a guy who fishes at night with mouse flies for brown trout. We have great steelhead fishing here and I pursue them from November through May. I fish for Fontinalis hard from May through September. I fish for smallmouth bass and carp May through July. I have recently started pursuing Esox via the fly, chasing pike and muskie, an entire passion on its own.

"If you want to corner me? Brook trout."

That's a true fisherman. We seem most attracted to whatever fish happen to be in a body of water we are close enough to spend some time actually tossing a hook into.

And as we wait for warmer weather to fish, make sure you pop by Fontinalis Rising. It's well-worth a perusal.



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