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Sunday, May 12, 2013

River Monsters- Part 1 Bowfin

Getting ready to get into some toothy critters with Jeremy
I have been a pretty lucky guy much of my life. I have been able to put a whole lot of time into following my passion of fishing, I have had some women who were far more beautiful than I deserve share my life and I have had some amazing opportunities. Few experiences compared to the email I received in March 2012. I read the email, read it again, and read it for a third time. Then I did a quick internet search to make sure it was real. Icon Films wanted me to guide Jeremy Wade while he was in Vermont filming River Monsters in May. 

Nothing but a series of expletives came out of my mouth for about 10 minutes. I was incredulous. 

Marty Sienkiewycz one of my best fishing buddies!
The River Monsters crew was after a number of species that are found in Lake Champlain. They were originally after muskies and when they had contacted the U.S. Fish and Wildlife service they were directed to me. I told them that muskies would be pretty tough during the time frame that they were going to be here but that there were other options out there... And so it began!

Tim Sienkiewycz- another great fishing buddy!
A series of emails and phone calls started after that. I was still a bit stunned. I was going to have the most recognized angler in the world in my canoe with me! Talk about some serious press time and let's just put it out there: it doesn't get any cooler than that! Seriously... how many people in the world can say that they have had that chance? And I didn't want to blow it!

Caught on the phone!
I got the ball rolling at work; I talked to my team at school and made sure it was cool with them (thank you so much Mike, Kathy, Amelia, Nancy and Brian!) and then checked in with the principal to see if it was alright to have a flexible schedule and take unpaid days off (thank you Karsten!). All set there! I also checked in with my friend Tom Rosenbauer at Orvis to see if there was anything they wanted me to put in Jeremy's hands. There was and I soon had a Helios/Mirage 9 weight outfit to have on camera! I also needed a couple of other boats for the camera and crew. I made some calls and my great friends Marty and Tim Sienkiewycz were more than happy to help out!

Hunting fish with Jeremy- photo courtesy of Tim Sienkiewycz
I met with the director, Dominic Weston, for a meal before the rest of the crew got to Vermont. They were still traveling here from Central America where they had been chasing tarpon. Dominic had great energy and it was pretty obvious that he was excited about the possibilities I had offered up. He had some great notes and had definitely done his research. Soon a plan was hatched. I had been spending a whole lot of time on the water making sure that the fish that they wanted were around and willing. Just that morning I was out on the lake talking on the phone with Dominic and got into a nice bowfin. It was on!

A couple of days later I was out after work fishing and the phone rang. It was the call I had been expecting. Jeremy. I asked him to hold on for just a second while I landed a smallmouth. What a great start to the conversation! We talked about what we had planned for the trip and I was getting even more jazzed up than I had been. Wow. Of course I had to fish for a bit after that too...

Jeremy with a nicely colored male bowfin! His first and on a fly!
The first day on the water arrived. What a horrible day weather wise. Gray, overcast skies. The wind was up a bit too. Rain was in the forecast. Just not pleasant weather to be out in. And here I was meeting fishing rock star Jeremy Wade for the first time and I had to put him on bowfin. Not ideal conditions. 

We all met up and got our game plan together. I was ready. I signed the contract. This was serious business. I could not talk about or mention anything about what we were doing anywhere in any media until after the show aired. Boy, this was going to be a long year! What a secret to keep too!

First fish in the boat! Photo courtesy of Tim Sienkiewycz
The crew got in the boats with Tim and Marty. Great guys one and all! They were going to meet us at the filming location in a few minutes. I was going to paddle down to where the bowfin were with Jeremy in my canoe. So cool! We chatted quite a bit, talking mostly about (surprise, surprise!) fish and fishing. We are both very passionate about the topic and got along very well. 

Me with James and Jeremy hunting bowfin!
It took a while to find the fish. The overcast skies were not helping matters. We started picking up bowfin though. I love those fish! It is such a different ballgame to fish with a camera crew though. You really have to shift your thinking and let them lead the action. Very different from when I guide. I was still guiding but I did have to change how I normally spot fish to fit in with the theme of the show. So we got a couple of bowfin under our belt and then James, the camera guy, asks if he can get into the canoe with me and Jeremy. Sure! I said.

Have you ever seen the crazy camera outfits they use for shooting HD television? They are pretty awesome to look at but weigh a ton. James got in the canoe right behind Jeremy. Then the boat didn't budge. Crap! What was going on? Oh... a stump under the canoe... Problem solved. I can't wait to see the footage from that. 

We got a couple of fish in the boat and it started to rain fairly hard. It was lunchtime and we were all ready for a break. We went to the only area of dry land we could find nearby. Not idea,  but better than nothing. But as we disembarked from the boats to walk through the muck to get out of the rain disaster struck. Dominic tripped and went face first into the water landing on the remote monitor he used to watch what was being filmed. It is not absolutely critical to filming, but does help a lot... and it costs a pretty penny too (thousands). The best part was listening to James talk about how he has trashed several cameras in the course of filming for the show (at $25000 a pop!). 
You have no idea how psyched I was to have him get this fish! 

We got back out filming. I wanted to see Jeremy get into a big female. I wanted a big fish in the boat. We were in this patch of dead cattails and I saw a nice big girl next to us. I pointed her out. She was pretty tight against the boat and I knew it was tough for Jeremy to see. I put him in the general area and he wasn't quite there so I asked if he wanted an assist... I grabbed the line and wiggled it in front of her. WHAM! It was on! Nice bowfin indeed! The fish went nutso in the weed growth and we both ended up out of the boat to land her. It was pretty cold being early May and an overcast day, but when I saw Jeremy go in I knew I had to do it too. Totally worth it! Great fish- 29" and a bit over 9 lbs! Jeremy had a Master Class bowfin on the fly!

After that the weather got worse and the camera lens was getting wet. It became impossible to film any more. We decided to high tail it out of there. It was a shorter day than I planned but completely worth it. After getting everything loaded up (with Jeremy's help) I went home to a nice, long, hot shower. 

More to come... 

5 comments:

  1. Very cool that you got to do this, but I am also conflicted. It's pretty awesome to see a local guy get some publicity. But I hate the way that show makes all fish into killing monsters. We have enough trouble getting help to keep our fish protected with out his over blown paranoia to sell TV time.

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  2. Fun watching the program last night. Spotted you in the one shot where you show up more than just your legs. From then on it was...OH, that is why Drew told me to watch the program. You did a great job keeping it on the QT for a year. Looking forward to reading more about this.

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  3. cool drew he got the right guy ........great program as well , not shown here in the uk yet but looking forward to seeing it pal

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  4. Congrats on the opportunity! I haven't seen the show yet, but I hope it paints bowfin in good light. They are a sport fish that deserve some positive attention, especially now that snakehead are in the U.S., and the two are easily confused by many people.

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