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More Fun with AI: Fly Fishing the Badger State edition

It all started with wanting to create a rather Wisconsin-centric fly fishing image...

I am rather intrigued by AI (artificial intelligence) for a number of reasons - among the top of those is, like it or not, it is almost certainly "the wave of the future". Yes, I am well aware that there have been no shortages of "waves of the future". And being an educator (this is me), I know our students are using it, for better or worse. And I am using it - mostly to help write code in R to analyze data. Is it cheating when my students do it? Or when I do it to write code? These are the discussions we are having and will continue to have. AI is going to change things - it already has.

More rambling about artificial intelligence to come - but first, some of those images.

First, I will say that AI has gotten much better and things like fly rods and flies but it is not perfect. Nor is it perfect about knowing the difference between a North American and European Badger. Hell, some of the images had a person rather than a Badger in them. It probably knows less about the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow - European or African. Or maybe not...

Ah, the classic question! In the 1975 film “Monty Python and the Holy Grail,” King Arthur encounters this very query. When asked about the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow, he wisely responds, “What do you mean? African or European swallow?” 🐦
Now, for a more scientific take: Swallow flight is remarkably efficient, seeming almost effortless. Estimates suggest that the average cruising airspeed velocity of an unladen European Swallow is roughly 11 meters per second (or 24 miles per hour). Quite speedy!

This is from Microsoft's CoPilot. There are many other options. Using the prompt, "what can you tell me about the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow - European or African", here are some other results.

The airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow is a popular topic, humorously introduced in the 1975 film "Monty Python and the Holy Grail." However, the question can be addressed with some ornithological insights.
### European Swallow (Hirundo rustica)
The European swallow, also known as the barn swallow, is a common species that migrates long distances. Studies and observations suggest that the average cruising speed of a European swallow is approximately 11 meters per second (about 24 miles per hour).
### African Swallow (Various Species)
There are several species of swallows in Africa, and "African swallow" is not a specific term in ornithology. However, using similar species for comparison, we can estimate that African swallows would have a comparable speed to their European counterparts. Some estimates for the speed of swallows in general suggest around 10 to 12 meters per second.
### Factors Affecting Speed
Several factors can influence a swallow's flight speed, including:
- Wind conditions: Flying with or against the wind can significantly change speed.
- Purpose of flight: Whether the bird is migrating, foraging, or engaging in courtship displays can affect its speed.
### Fun Fact from Monty Python
In "Monty Python and the Holy Grail," the question "What is the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow?" is used comically to highlight the absurdity of certain challenges faced by King Arthur and his knights. The punchline humorously depends on specifying whether the swallow in question is European or African.
While the discussion in the movie is fictional and meant for comedic effect, the actual airspeed velocity of a swallow can be approximated scientifically as mentioned above.

This is from the free version of Chat GPT. One of these days - maybe - I'll splurge for the $20 a month version but not sure it is that much better than the oh, so many free versions. Just one more example:

You're referencing a classic joke! The airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow is a topic of much debate and humor, thanks to a famous scene from the movie Monty Python and the Holy Grail.
In reality, there is no definitive answer to the question of the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow, as it's not a scientifically measurable or meaningful concept. Swallows are birds that fly at varying speeds depending on their species, altitude, wind conditions, and other factors.
However, if you're interested in learning more about the actual flight speeds of swallows, here are some approximate values:
* The European Barn Swallow (Hirundo rustica), a common species found in Europe and Africa, can reach speeds of up to 35-45 km/h (22-28 mph) during level flight.
* The African White-winged Black Swallow (Hirundo leucura), another species found in Africa, can reach speeds of up to 40-50 km/h (25-31 mph) during level flight.
It's worth noting that these speeds are averages and can vary depending on various factors, such as the bird's size, shape, and behavior.
So, to summarize: there is no definitive answer to the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow, but swallows are capable of flying at speeds ranging from around 20-50 km/h (12-31 mph) depending on the species and conditions.

This is from "AI Chat", another free AI. They've gotten better.

And its image generation has gotten better. Being interested in AI, I've played around with it and used it a few times on this blog. I don't know if I should be embarrassed, intrigued, disappointed, or what emotions I should have that an AI post - Fly Fishing the Driftless Area Intelligently (yeah, that last part should have been the giveaway) received over 2,000 views, fairly well above the blog's average. Of course, if I were to ever do a "kiss and tell" post about places to fish, I assume - I hope - it would do much better than this. This post was from a little bit over a year ago - AI's ability to create images of flies has greatly improved. Here are some early Dalle-2 examples of flies:

They, well, suck. They often lack hooks, despite writing prompts that tried to generate a hook. The last image has a hook, well, sort of. More recent examples of AI generated flies are below and they're much better.

However, these images are not perfect because all of these are supposed to be either Smallmouth Bass streamers or even poppers. Based on a recent post about Jake Villwock's book, Smallmouth Bass Flies: Top to Bottom, I searched for his pattern, "The Roamer" with a few other words in the prompt to try to get a better result. This is the first image I received:

There are some rather obvious issues with it so I added to the prompt to include "with feathers and fur" in the prompt.

This fly is rather striking and much more "fly like" than the first search returned. I would tie and fish it, with a few adjustment. Those adjustments are mostly the fact that I have no idea what those gold balls are and I'd tie in the hackles a little more horizontally to look more like a baitfish. It is essentially a Woolly Bugger with a few adjustments. AI built on the basic Woolly Bugger, much as I suggested many streamers are just fancy Woolly Buggers. But in any case, it looks little like "The Roamer" (my version of it is below).

I will say that whether on purpose or not, the internet is not exactly full of images or webpages of Villwock's "The Roamer" but it is a commercially available fly so there are some images out there. Which leads me to post what little I know about AI - it trains itself with text and images on the internet. This is why many think that AI is essentially stealing - and I understand this point of view. AI creates by modifying existing information and images. But it does train itself - based on human feedback - to get better over time.

Using a very similar prompt on the same topic of fly fishing the Driftless Area "intelligently". A more recent version of the post is below. Note that each time you give a prompt, you will receive a (slightly) different result. Here is the more recent (free) Chat GPT result:

Exploring the Driftless Area: A Fly Fishing Paradise in Wisconsin

The Driftless Area of Wisconsin is a hidden gem for fly fishing enthusiasts, offering pristine waters, abundant trout populations, and breathtaking scenery. Nestled in the southwestern part of the state, this unique region, untouched by glaciers, boasts spring-fed streams that wind through rolling hills and lush valleys. Whether you're a seasoned angler or a beginner, the Driftless Area promises a rewarding fly fishing experience. Here's a guide on how and where to fly fish in this captivating region.

Why the Driftless Area?

The Driftless Area stands out due to its lack of glacial deposits, resulting in a landscape of steep ridges, deep valleys, and clear, cold-water streams—ideal conditions for trout. The natural springs feed numerous streams, ensuring a consistent water flow and temperature, which is crucial for healthy trout populations. Brown, brook, and rainbow trout thrive in these waters, providing anglers with ample opportunities to test their skills.

Getting Started: Essential Gear

Before you head out, make sure you have the right gear. Here’s a checklist to get you started:

1. **Rod and Reel**: A 3 to 5-weight rod, around 8 to 9 feet in length, is ideal for the Driftless streams. Pair it with a quality reel with a smooth drag system.

2. **Lines and Leaders**: Floating lines work best for these waters. Use a 9-foot tapered leader, and carry a selection of tippets ranging from 4X to 6X.

3. **Flies**: Stock your fly box with a variety of patterns, including:

- **Dry Flies**: Elk Hair Caddis, Blue-Winged Olive, and Adams.

- **Nymphs**: Pheasant Tail, Hare's Ear, and Prince Nymph.

- **Streamers**: Woolly Bugger and Muddler Minnow.

4. **Waders and Boots**: Invest in breathable waders and sturdy wading boots with good traction. The terrain can be rugged, so comfort and stability are key.

5. **Accessories**: Don’t forget polarized sunglasses, a hat, a vest or pack with plenty of pockets, and a good landing net.

Top Spots to Fly Fish in the Driftless Area

1. **The Kickapoo River**

- **Location**: Runs through Vernon and Crawford counties.

- **Highlights**: Known for its meandering flow and beautiful surroundings, the Kickapoo River is home to brown and brook trout. The tributaries, including Timber Coulee Creek, offer excellent fishing opportunities.

2. **The West Fork of the Kickapoo River**

- **Location**: Near the town of Avalanche.

- **Highlights**: This stream is celebrated for its easy access and high fish density. It’s a perfect spot for beginners to practice their casting and presentation skills.

3. **Tainter Creek**

- **Location**: Vernon County.

- **Highlights**: A lesser-known gem with clear waters and a healthy population of brown trout. The stream offers a mix of open areas and shaded stretches, providing varied fishing conditions.

4. **Castle Rock Creek**

- **Location**: Grant County.

- **Highlights**: Renowned for its spring-fed waters, Castle Rock Creek boasts some of the largest trout in the Driftless Area. It’s a great spot for those looking to land a trophy fish.

5. **Black Earth Creek**

- **Location**: Dane County, near Madison.

- **Highlights**: Easily accessible and heavily stocked, this stream is a favorite among local anglers. It’s an excellent option for a quick fishing trip if you’re based in or near Madison.

Tips for a Successful Trip

1. **Timing**: The best time to fly fish in the Driftless Area is from early spring to late fall. Spring hatches bring trout to the surface, while fall offers solitude and the chance to catch pre-spawn browns.

2. **Weather**: Always check the weather forecast before heading out. Spring rains can lead to high water levels and murky conditions, while summer heat can stress the trout.

3. **Stealth and Presentation**: The clear waters require a stealthy approach. Keep a low profile, wear earth-toned clothing, and make gentle casts to avoid spooking the fish.

4. **Local Knowledge**: Visit local fly shops for the latest information on hatches, stream conditions, and recommended flies. The staff are usually experienced anglers who can provide valuable insights.

5. **Catch and Release**: Practice catch and release to preserve the trout populations for future generations. Handle fish gently and release them quickly to ensure their survival.


Fly fishing the Driftless Area of Wisconsin is an experience that combines the thrill of the catch with the serenity of nature. With its abundant trout streams, picturesque landscapes, and friendly local communities, the Driftless Area is a must-visit destination for any fly fishing enthusiast. Pack your gear, respect the land, and get ready to create lasting memories in this fly fishing paradise. Tight lines!

It is better (the original) but quite certainly far from perfect. The results are quite generic - a common theme in AI results which seem to be about an inch deep. The typical fly rod is 8 to 9 feet in length so that pretty much says nothing. Where don't you want to maintain a stealthy presentation? Where don't the extremely basic flies listed work? How can you not include a Pink Squirrel? Maybe it will be better once this is posted to the internet? The entry is not without errors. For example, Timber Coulee is NOT a tributary to the Kickapoo River, I might quibble with the West Fork's description, and I wouldn't call Black Earth Creek heavily stocked (though it has received "wild stocked" fishes in recent years). But it is much better than the first attempt.

Speaking of pink squirrel flies, CoPilot didn't do great with these. Below are the images from the prompt, "create a picture of a pink squirrel fly for fly fishing the driftless area" - not great! But they are all flies complete with hooks, not something that would have happened as recently as a year ago.

It did marginally better when I fed it a photo of a pink squirrel from Wisconsin Fly Fisher's page. The original image had 2 flies and I used a prompt asking for a single fly, here are the results:

Lastly, after those results, I gave the prompt, "OK but can you make a few similar images without the wing on the fly?" And it did not exactly nail it.

Better - but those wings...

AI - like it or not - is likely a huge part of the future. It is already an increasingly growing part of the present. Rather than fight it, embrace it - within reason. I could dig into all sorts of philosophical and ethical considerations but not today. I find AI quite intriguing and am interested to see where it goes and if we can harness it for good.

For now, maybe I'll use it to come up with a new baby Brown Trout fly pattern.

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David Stakston
David Stakston
5 days ago

Does AI believe that the algae on the pond behind the Manawa Dam seeded the clouds that provided the resulting heavy rainfall which caused the collapse of the Manawa Dam? Check the videos on the algae on the pond water being released through the collapsed dam. Check out on scientific studies on algae seeding the clouds, mysterious Mother Nature.

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