MADISON, Wis. -- It probably seemed like a good way for the newly wed Claude Kazanski to connect with his new father-in-law 30 years ago. Since the day the two went fly fishing together, Kazanski, associate general counsel at CUNA Mutual Group, has been hooked--no pun intended.
"The thing about trout fishing is you end up going to very beautiful places because the trout live in very beautiful and clean areas," said Kazanski. He was not even discouraged when he failed to catch any trout the first two years he went fly fishing.
Here, fish are caught with artificial flies that are cast with a fly rod and a fly line. The flies, which are tied with a number of natural and synthetic materials, are made in all sizes, colors and patterns to match local terrestrial and aquatic insects, baitfish, or other prey attractive to the targeted fish species. There are, in fact, several hundred patterns on how the fly line is cast and special attention is paid to how the line hits the stream and how the stream flows, Kazanski explained.
"Trout will feed in various levels on the stream--on the bottom and as insects hatch and emerge to the surface, they will go there," Kazanski added.
The trout season starts in early March in parts of Wisconsin and ends at the end of September. The season, water levels and temperature are all factors that affect how successful a fly fisherman will be. Kazanski said the "old timers" are able to look at nearby wildflowers and immediately tell what types of insects are abundant near a particular stream. Spider webs, the type of insects living under rocks, and the overall surroundings can also tell whether a stream has an abundance of trout.
"Certain insects can only tolerate certain levels of pollution," Kazanski said. "In order to have a healthy trout stream, you need a healthy water shed."
Kazanski's zeal for fly fishing has also led to his urgent passion to help conserve and restore the environment. He is a member of the Harry and Laura Nohr Trout Unlimited chapter where he has worked with state and local agencies as well as local farmers to preserve trout environment through land, water and watershed management. The chapter also invites schools to streams to educate students on preservation.
"In the 1880s and early 1900s, as agriculture came in and farmers worked the land, they didn't know this would lead to a decrease in top soil," Kazanski said. "As the land converted in farming, there has been tremendous runoff into the streams."
That sediment eventually settled in streambeds, smothering rocks and driving away insects, which is a major food source for fish and animals, Kazanski said.
The Trout Unlimited chapter is trying to reverse the cycle by restoring stream banks with native grasses and wildflowers and working with local landowners and farmers to develop their properties to accommodate nearby streams.
"We're also working with groups to restore prairies," Kazanski said. "All of these things are connected. If you want to catch trout, you have to maintain the land around [the streams]."
Kazanski, who doesn't compete in fly fishing as some do, said his love for the pastime has opened his eyes to the bigger picture of saving precious lands.
"Over the last 50 years, we've seen great strides in restoring streams but the work continues."