MADISON, Wis. — It probably seemed like a good way for the newlywed Claude Kazanski to connect with his new father-in-law 30 yearsago. Since the day the two went fly fishing together, Kazanski,associate general counsel at CUNA Mutual Group, has been hooked–nopun intended.

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“The thing about trout fishing is you end up going to verybeautiful places because the trout live in very beautiful and cleanareas,” said Kazanski. He was not even discouraged when he failedto catch any trout the first two years he went fly fishing.

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Here, fish are caught with artificial flies that are cast with afly rod and a fly line. The flies, which are tied with a number ofnatural and synthetic materials, are made in all sizes, colors andpatterns 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 andspecial attention is paid to how the line hits the stream and howthe stream flows, Kazanski explained.

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“Trout will feed in various levels on the stream–on the bottomand as insects hatch and emerge to the surface, they will gothere,” Kazanski added.

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The trout season starts in early March in parts of Wisconsin andends at the end of September. The season, water levels andtemperature are all factors that affect how successful a flyfisherman will be. Kazanski said the “old timers” are able to lookat nearby wildflowers and immediately tell what types of insectsare abundant near a particular stream. Spider webs, the type ofinsects living under rocks, and the overall surroundings can alsotell whether a stream has an abundance of trout.

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“Certain insects can only tolerate certain levels of pollution,”Kazanski said. “In order to have a healthy trout stream, you need ahealthy water shed.”

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Kazanski's zeal for fly fishing has also led to his urgentpassion to help conserve and restore the environment. He is amember of the Harry and Laura Nohr Trout Unlimited chapter where hehas worked with state and local agencies as well as local farmersto preserve trout environment through land, water and watershedmanagement. The chapter also invites schools to streams to educatestudents on preservation.

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“In the 1880s and early 1900s, as agriculture came in andfarmers worked the land, they didn't know this would lead to adecrease in top soil,” Kazanski said. “As the land converted infarming, there has been tremendous runoff into the streams.”

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That sediment eventually settled in streambeds, smothering rocksand driving away insects, which is a major food source for fish andanimals, Kazanski said.

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The Trout Unlimited chapter is trying to reverse the cycle byrestoring stream banks with native grasses and wildflowers andworking with local landowners and farmers to develop theirproperties to accommodate nearby streams.

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“We're also working with groups to restore prairies,” Kazanskisaid. “All of these things are connected. If you want to catchtrout, you have to maintain the land around [the streams].”

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Kazanski, who doesn't compete in fly fishing as some do, saidhis love for the pastime has opened his eyes to the bigger pictureof saving precious lands.

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“Over the last 50 years, we've seen great strides in restoringstreams but the work continues.”

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