Reflecting on Two Years of The Scientific Fly Angler

It has been two years, more or less. My first post was about the idea of reciprocal prey subsidies - how in the spring, the many hatches that occur on streams fuel terrestrial food webs and by mid-summer, terrestrial insects become more important to trout than are aquatic insects. While the idea is not entirely new, Nakano and Murakami wrote a fantastic paper on the topic. Hardly any of you read it and quite frankly, that made me a bit sad as I thought it was a good application of science for the fly angler and a topic that really interests me - and I figured more people.

Figure from the Japanese paper.
One of the key figures from the Nakano and Murakami paper which shows how dependent fishes and birds are on prey from outside their ecosystem.

That first post was on July 9th of 2020 and then, I am not sure why, but the next one - In Praise of Smalmouth Bass - was posted exactly a month later. Maybe the first one was a "trial balloon" to see what it was like to write and publish a blog entry? The first post has received about 50 views, the second one, over 500 views and to be honest, I do not exactly understand the discrepancy. I know it got shared on social media which seems to make a ton of difference. I liked the smallmouth post but the reciprocal prey subsidies is a cool bit of science with a great bit of application for the fly angler.

Even after two years of publishing the blog, I have not entirely understood why some posts draw (relatively) tons of eyes and others many fewer. Yes, there are times I know that this is something that a lot of people are going to be interested in and there are other times where I know the topic is less likely to draw many eyes. The more scientific the post, generally, the fewer viewers. The more it is about helping people catch more fish - posts on fly tying, fly selection, about specific locations (though I try not to be too specific) - draw a lot more interest. And posts about the geography, geology, hatches, and ecology of Wisconsin and the Driftless Area draw a lot of interest - which makes me very happy.

Karst geology map of the US
Map of Karst geology in the United States - Karst is much of what gives Wisconsin streams their spring flow.

Being a bit of a stats geek, let's talk statistics. I have published over 130 posts. On the high side, they have received over thousand views or more, on the low side, tens of views. There are posts I wish would receive more views and others I am a bit surprised at how popular they were. There has been a bit of momentum - but just a bit - more recent posts draw more interest than did most of my early posts. However a number of old posts see a slow trickle of views over time.

Now for a bit of a confession - two years in, I am still figuring this thing out and what - other than amusing myself - I am trying to do with it. There is this odd juxtaposition where I am writing these things because I want others to read them and hopefully give the ideas some thought but at the same time, I am mostly doing this for me (selfish, I know!). I don't know how those two things work together, or if they do. Without question, if I write "hard core" science posts, they get less reads which can only be interpreted as, you the reader, don't care much about them. I find evolution fascinating and I wrote a post about the mechanisms of evolution and how they apply to a particular case in the Great Smoky Mountains where there are several species of Salvelinus that look a whole lot like Brook Trout, Salvelinus fontinalis. It received 44 views - a few of which were probably me rereading and editing the post. I knew it wouldn't receive a lot of attention and I was OK with that because it was a topic that interested me.

Mike and Ben on a foggy Wisconsin River morning.
Two of the best people I know. This was a fantastic morning on a great Crash Camp Trip. Click the photo for a link to a post about memorable trips.

Another confession - I have no real plans for this blog. Thus it is a somewhat random collection of what I am interested at any point in time. I sort of write about what I feel like writing about at the time, which may or may not interest you that much. And I am OK with that. I do it because I enjoy it (most of the time) and because it is a way to get my mind around some ideas I find interesting. To some degree, I don't really care about my reads, but at the same time, I don't want to be one hand clapping. What I write about ebbs and flows. Sometimes I am good about staying on a theme (see posts on connectivity or Clouser Minnows), other times my mind wanders and I have dropped a few ideas that I assume I will come back to later (see Project Terrestrial).

As I have stated a few times and it is in the introduction on the home page, this blog is born out of the COVID-19 pandemic, truly one of the life-altering things of my lifetime. There have been maybe three or four events in my lifetime that feel like 100 years from now, people will be talking and continuing to write about - the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, the terrorist attacks on 9/11 in 2001, and the January 6th US Capitol attack in 2021. COVID is certainly among these events - it will probably be like we talk about the 1918 influenza (Spanish Flu) which I assume received a lot more attention closer to the event but even 100 years later is still a pretty significant event. This is all to say that COVID is and was a "big deal" and something that really altered our lives.

Work day volunteer photo
A December work day with Southeast Wisconsin Trout Unlimited.

As an educator, COVID was, well - a huge fucking pain in the ass - a huge, on-going, and likely long-lived challenge. This foul language leads me to my next confession - I am still finding my voice on this blog. I do not (don't?) really know what to make of it but there are more personal and less scientific and formal posts - like this one - where I "talk" a bit more like myself (I cuss, A LOT - I hear it is a sign of intelligence and I am apparently very smart). Then in the more scientific posts, I try to write more like scientist me - without contractions, clearly and concisely, with literature support, and no fucking swearing because you rarely get away with that in science papers.

Musky flies hanging on the wall
Home decorations - a bunch of musky flies that will probably never get fished but they are a lot of fun to tie.

This COVID-alteration of my life - of pretty much all people's lives - got me to start this blog as a distraction, something different to do. And it's been going strong (??) for two years. Maybe not strong but I have posted at least once a week - first on Tuesdays, now on Monday mornings - for a solid two years. My first goal was one year and after that went pretty well, I figured let's shoot for two uninterrupted years.

I make no bones about it, I do it for fun. If it ever becomes less than fun, I will stop. Being that it costs me money and I have not made a dime on it makes it easier to quit (that's by design...). The closest I have come to making money on this is one friend buying me a beer and saying thanks for a particular post. Maybe I should have more of a plan and do more to promote the blog but that is not a lot of fun, so I don't do it too often. There is no question that when I or other do post to social media, the views go up but self-promotion is such an anti-Midwestern German thing to do.

The internet is a funny thing. As I have written above, I do not entirely understand why some posts get read (relatively) a ton and others do not. I mean, I have some clue, but then there are oddities. The Bluegill post - linked above - very quickly gained views. And some posts sort of slow-burned their way to hundreds of views - like posts about trophy fish or the Clouser posts that tend to continue to receive a lot of views. I wrote a post similar post to this one after one year and I suppose my thoughts are a lot the same. There are posts I wish would get more views - for any number of reasons - and posts I get why they don't get many views (I will not do another season wrap-up and don't really know why I ever did...).


If I could get a few more views for old posts, those posts would be:

  1. Fisheries Management topics: Human Dimensions of Fisheries - about how social scientists measure our satisfaction and thoughts about of fishing experiences. I think this is useful for anglers to understand how they and other anglers think about angling.

  2. Understanding USGS Streamflow Data and Flood Events - how to use USGS gaging stations to know about conditions and flood events. Links to places to look for precipitation data as well.

  3. Climate Change and Trout Fishing - I rarely think I did a great job on a post but I really liked this one and think it is an important topic.

  4. Invasive Species is a Loaded Term - which is about how we talk about non-native species - some of which we tend to like (Brown Trout) and others which we are much less fond of - like wild parsnip, New Zealand Mud Snails, and the like.

  5. Wisconsin Inland Trout Management Plan - I think I just gave it the 16th view which is way too few if for no other reason than that I spent a lot of time on this post. It is a quick - 5 minute - read and one I rather liked.

I limited myself to five posts - most all of them from the early days - that I thought should see more reads.


This blog will probably continue to be what it has been - a somewhat random collection my thoughts and what I am thinking about at the time. The posts range from stream of consciousness (like this one) to more planned and thought out posts. I take some pride in trying to publish things that I am (generally) proud of. They don't always hit the mark - maybe a bit like Saturday Night Live skits - sometimes they are interesting and memorable, other times they miss the target all together. But unless things change, I plan to keep at it.


So that's two years. Who knows what will happen in the future but I plan to keep it going for a bit...Thanks for reading! And as always, I appreciate your thoughts in the comments.

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