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Old 12-09-2016, 03:33 PM
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Default The Streak - a fish story

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Sports history includes several streaks that are regularly discussed to the point where they have become common knowledge. And most of these records are so incomprehensible in nature, that many view them as unbreakable. Even the most casual of sports fans are awestruck by; DiMaggio's 56-game hitting streak, UCLA basketball's 88 consecutive victories, and the Boston Celtics 8-straight NBA titles, just to name a few.

May 31st, 2007 was a dark day for me both literally and figuratively. Unusually warm and humid weather had settled into eastern Pennsylvania and threatening skies greeted me as I arrived at the Bowmanstown turn-off along the Lehigh River. I knew I was facing a tall order upon arrival. In my experience, anytime that you need your vehicle headlights to see while driving at 5 o'clock in the afternoon (at that time of year), funky fishing is sure to follow. Sure enough it was dark, blustery, muggy, and the fish - along with the insects they gorge upon - were having none of it. After a little over 2 hours of flailing away, a fabulous lightning display chased me off the water and I plopped back down in my truck seat – SKUNKED! I really can't put into words what I was actually saying to myself (due to website censorship settings), and it's not like I had never been skunked before, but this one annoyed me because it ended a streak of 69 consecutive trips without taking a zero. I felt completely deflated like Senator John Blutarsky being notified that he was being expelled after only 7 years of college. As the saying goes however, when one streak ends… it's really just the beginning of another!

Most of you probably wouldn't know this, but I am a meticulous keeper of fishing journals. Since 1988 I have logged every trip in great detail, and it has served as my greatest point of reference for drawing upon, and preparing for future fishing trips. Obviously without this kind of record keeping, I wouldn't have even known that I had a skunk-free run going. In fact I didn't really think about it until one of my buddy's brought it up, so I looked it up. As it turned out I was right around 40 in a row at the time and looking back through my records it was the longest such run of good fortune that I had ever recorded. Thus The Streak was born. And now it would become a thing with us… "How many in a row is that?"… "Better catch one. You don't want to break your streak!"… And so it went, all in good fun until that awful Thursday night back in 2007. It probably didn't make your local (or national news), but in my small circle of fishing friends I took quite the ribbing.

On June 2nd, 2007 I climbed back up on the horse. While wading the gentle flows of Bushkill Creek just above Stocker Mill Bridge during a steady hatch of dorotheas, I managed to bring 2 browns and 2 rainbows to the net. As I was wrapping up I saw my buddy standing on the bridge, and when he saw that I noticed him he excitedly joked, "That’s one in a row Joe!" Funny guy, but he was right. Back at the cars we talked about how long it would take and how lucky I would have to be to hit 70 trips in a row without smelling the skunk. It seemed… well… incomprehensible! The trips started to pile up though, seasons passed, years went by… and then life got in the way. Work got really busy requiring me to travel more, my daughter was getting older and we were onto other activities, and then something happened that I never saw coming… we moved to Utah!

In 2010 the company that I work for decided to relocate and I seized the opportunity to leave behind the small town in PA that I was born and raised in and headed west seeking new adventures. This was quite a curve ball to my fishing of course. Bodies of water that I had logged hundreds of hours on over decades were now 2,000 miles away. All new fishing adventures lie ahead, but I didn't know anything about any one of them. I really didn't fish much in that transitional year, but made a serious effort to dive back in the following spring. I quickly realized that the trout calendar that had become imprinted on me over the years needed to be thrown out. I was facing all new conditions now in the form of weather patterns and water types. Gone were my Pocono freestoners and Lehigh Valley limestoners. All were replaced by temperamental tailwaters and alpine lakes (trout live in lakes?). More daunting was that my 800-page fishing notebook was now rendered pretty much useless as far as providing historical insight. Also, I needed new fishing buddies as my old gang back in PA seemed unwilling to make the 2,000 mile journey on a weekly basis. One of my colleagues invited me to join him on the Provo River on March 12, 2011 – my first fishing trip in Utah! I was psyched, the weather was beautiful, and I was promised a river full of big fish (that should have been a tip-off). First impression – THERE MUST BE 3 FEET OF SNOW UP HERE! It was not super enjoyable, and my eastern fly boxes were not speaking to me, but I did manage to coax a single 15 inch brown trout into the net on an old standby – red Serendeepity. Once home and freshly humbled, it got me to thinking about the streak again. Well I didn't get skunked (I told myself) and my logbook revealed that this was trip number 34 since that awful day on the Lehigh River. Man I really hoped the number would be higher than that.

It was somewhat of a struggle early on, but I always managed to catch a couple of fish and then a revelation occurred in September of that year. I joined a website called The North American Fly Fishing Forum and it felt like I had been reborn as an angler. This site was nothing like most of the others. It was well-moderated and there was no sniping, and no "clicky" behavior. Just a bunch of good people sharing stories, trading tactics, and always willing to help a fellow angler out. There is no way to tell where my fishing life would be today without NAFFF, but I am pretty certain that the streak would never have made it to 50. During this time I was feeling more informed than ever and tying all these cool new fly patterns that folks were sharing. Through NAFFF I also discovered a man, a place, and a way of life called Planet Trout <head exploding sound & visual>! The culmination of these findings pushed me to new angling heights and tremendously expanded my knowledge of the sport.

As I chugged along, racking up trips, making new fishing buddies (even joking about the "new" streak) the day finally came. In the cool flows of the Provo River on the afternoon of September 14th, 2012 I used a pair of soft hackles that had duped so many fish for me in the past to bring 14 hard-fighting brown trout to the net. My 70th consecutive trip without posting a ZERO! Oh it felt good, although there were a few nail-niters along the way. Nine times in fact I called it a trip after landing only a single fish, but 1 fish beats NO FISH every time. Feeling like my angling stock was on the rise, I just wanted to keep it going, and that's exactly what I did.

I hit a major milestone the evening of September 5th, 2013. While swinging a Partridge & Yellow on the middle section of the Provo River I fooled 5 trout and in the process hit the century mark… ONE HUNDRED (100) trips in a row without the skunk finding me! I never even dared to dream of this. To be honest it was getting easier by the trip. I actually started to think that I was becoming a better angler. Maybe this is how it is for everybody (I thought). Maybe nobody ever gets skunked, and I have finally arrived at the party. Better late than never I suppose.

I was really starting to hit my stride in 2014. Now my angling transformation was complete. Back in PA there were long winters of fly tying followed by the slow starts of early spring. Around mid April things would start happening followed by an explosion of insect and trout activity that was largely over by mid June. Now I was fishing through the winters (tailwaters never sleep). And in the heat of the summer – which previously put me into "bass mode" until fall – the fly fishing got even better. I even took on a whole new challenge that spring – fishing stillwaters. Lakes and ponds are a different ballgame entirely from flowing waters. Back were the seasonal limits of ice out and freeze up along with a very diverse and different food chain. Perhaps the biggest adjustment was in knowing how to find the fish. I was no stranger to lake fishing, but lake fishing for wild trout was something I had never experienced. It was (and still is) incredibly challenging at times, but I always seemed to catch at least a few fish and eventually developed a pattern of consistent success.

My next major milestone came on the morning of June 26th, 2016. During the maiden voyage of my new float tube (a comedy of errors in itself) I coaxed 2 cutthroats from the depths of Strawberry Reservoir making this the TWO HUNDREDTH (200th) consecutive trip without a skunking! This run from 101 to 200 was just phenomenal. I averaged close to 9 fish per trip, almost topping 30 on a handful of outings, and narrowly escaping zeroes with 1 fish landed on seven occasions including a nip/tuck "happy hour" visit to a local reservoir; it was one of those evenings where fish seemed to be rising all around me. I was going through flies trying to put something together to capitalize on the activity. I finally hooked a willing cutthroat on an A.P. Emerger, only to lose it! NO! Then I hooked and landed its twin on the very next cast just as the bats arrived and the fish disappeared.

On a gorgeous day in late September I decided to take the day off work and hauled my float tube back to Strawberry Reservoir. I figured that I knew what to correct from my previous attempt and was now ready to slay some fish! It didn't take long and I had my first hook-up on a chironomid. It was a feisty rainbow that cleared the water by a foot or two and then sped off throwing the fly. Not unusual, but it turned out to be the theme of the day. Three more solid hook-ups, all ending in the same manner - lost without a full understanding as to why. And so it ended, on September 27th, 2016 Joe Dziedzina (a legend in his own mind) got skunked, zero, nothing, nada! Even worse, as I kicked back to the shoreline in secret shame, I went to stand up in about a foot of water and both my legs refused to straighten out. I tried to take a step forward to catch my balance, but the kick fin dug into the mud, and I did a full swan dive/face plant into the lake! There I laid, face down, both fin tips now dug into the lake bottom, life flashing before my eyes, and all I could think about was my streak ending. Eventually I decided that I wanted to go on living, rolled over, and stood up. When I emerged from my watery grave I noticed that there were about a dozen boats with plenty of witnesses to this event. I can only imagine how hilarious it must have looked from their vantage point. "Not one of my better dismounts" I muttered as I turned to retrieve my float tube, nearly stumbling again in the process.

And there you have it. 208 consecutive trips, over 9 years 3 months 27 days, 1,597 fish landed, average time on the water was about 3.5 hours per trip, with 22 times having been saved by a single fish to extend the streak. Not sure where this streak ranks on the (slightly) more famous list that I opened this article with, but I am quite certain that this will be my personal high water mark. I would never say never though as my current streak is up to 13 trips so maybe, just maybe I have one last great run left in me.

Interesting is that many of my favorite memories over the majority of this streak are captured here on NAFFF in the form of trip reports. I always try to give back to the site in some small way. Sharing stories and pictures with fellow members that have helped shape me into the angler that I am today is my preferred way of doing this. In fact I posted a full report on my last productive trip (before Strawberry Reservoir broke my heart) to the Coldwater Fly Fishing forum. It occurred September 2nd on a high mountain stream in the western Uintas Range. On this day, I hit the Grand Slam; rainbow, brown, cutthroat, and brook trout (in that order)… all wild, all on the same day, all from the same river. If I was going to pick a fishing trip to end the streak on, I would be hard pressed to come up with a better one than that over the past decade. You have got to love all of the highs and the lows of angling along with everything experienced along the way.

--------------------------------------------------------------------

I would like to thank all of my fellow members here on NAFFF for helping me to build this story. And I can't wait to see how the next chapter unfolds. Here are a handful of pictures from my memorable run between the skunks:

Meet Earl the Door Man, a frequent opponent on the Bushkill Creek near Tatamy, PA. My friends and I tangled with Earl several times before an unexpected (manmade) disaster took him from us. That's a whole other story for another day.
Click the image to open in full size.

Ephemerella invaria, one of the shining stars of the famous Sulphur Hatch that marks the pinnacle of so many dry fly seasons on eastern trout streams.
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The late great Rian Siska, an environmental warrior and proud representative of the "old guard" wet fly anglers of the Pocono Plateau. He taught me so much during our short time fishing together. His impact on my life as an angler has been tremendous. Rian really opened my eyes to trout stream entomology and fly design. He truly was one of the greatest anglers that I have ever known. Miss you brother!
Click the image to open in full size.

Another dear, departed friend… here's Toby and I along the banks of the Firehole River in Yellowstone National Park (I'm the one with the hat). Toby was the best friend of dog lovers everywhere and a perfect little gentleman throughout his entire life. I've tied hundreds of flies through the years with Toby faithfully snoozing by my side.
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Over the course of this streak, I was so fortunate to watch my daughter grow up and exhibit the same passion for the outdoors that has played such an integral role in my life. Here she is from our July 4th trip on the Provo River back in 2013 where we intercepted a spectacular Green Drake hatch. She is all set to graduate with a degree in wildlife biology and fisheries management and I could not be more proud.
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Our move out west has put me in proximity to so many destination fisheries. One of my favorites is the Gunnison River in Colorado above Blue Mesa Reservoir. I swear these are some of the strongest fish I have ever encountered. Here's a broad-shouldered brown from the Palisades section (mountain lion country).
Click the image to open in full size.

Winter fishing on tailwater rivers has become a real obsession of mine. Here's a beastly rainbow from my new "home water", the Provo River.
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Nothing raises the hair on the back of your neck like fresh bear tracks along the river bank. These occurring after we arrived (snapped this as we were about to leave). Makes me wonder that for all of the fascinating things we see during our time on the water, there must be so many more that we miss.
Click the image to open in full size.

Ah, the evolution of the "selfie" took place over the course of the streak. Late December on the lower Provo River… I call this one, "Fishing… serious stuff."
Click the image to open in full size.

The coolest thing about fishing lakes is that the fish (on average) can run big. Here's a beautiful Cutthroat from Strawberry Reservoir. Not sure why they named it Strawberry Reservoir, because it felt more like "humble pie" the last time I was there <RIMSHOT>… thank you, I'll be here all week!
Click the image to open in full size.

Ah, my new favorite place to be… on an alpine lake high in the Uintas. Places like this are what dreams were made of when I lived back in PA. I still dream about them, but now I can simply wake up and drive to them. This one appropriately named – Jewel Lake.
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Last edited by stenacron; 12-09-2016 at 05:16 PM.
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Old 12-09-2016, 05:09 PM
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Default Re: The Streak - a fish story

Great post.I loved reading this.I have read it twice. I have seen a few of your reports on here and enjoyed reading them also.Congratulations on having such a huge streak of catches.You certainly have the right to be proud of this.I hope to read another post next year from you letting us all know that you have exceeded this streak and set a new record for yourself.Thanks for posting this.
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Old 12-09-2016, 05:31 PM
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Default Re: The Streak - a fish story

Hi Joe,

Wonderful! I hope you can keep it going forever buddy even if there is somehow an off day just staying with it is a beautiful thing, As much as you give credit to the existence of the forum for being there for you, you have been here for us. Your contributions and beautiful photography are part of what has made this as good as it is! Please know that although I may not comment on every post you make I see them and always return to read what you've been up to. I'm so glad you are here.

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Old 12-09-2016, 05:44 PM
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Default Re: The Streak - a fish story

Joe

That was an awesome post! I'm amazed at how detailed you are in keeping track of your fishing adventures, wish I was more like that. All I really know is that I get skunked from time to time, don't know anything about streaks. LOL!
How time flies, I remember back when you joined this forum and that you were taking your daughter to CSU, it makes me feel good that she is now graduating. Yahoo! We're very fortunate to have have you as a member, thanks for all the posts and trip reports you have made over the years.
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Old 12-09-2016, 08:12 PM
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Default Re: The Streak - a fish story

Damn Joe, that is amazing. I'm a big baseball fan and DiMaggio's hit streak is one of the most impressive sporting feats to me. But this, I've never heard of anything like this. Catching fish every time out for 200 in a row! I'm speechless.

And you've inspired me to get back to journaling about fishing.

Thanks for the story.
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Old 12-09-2016, 11:35 PM
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Default Re: The Streak - a fish story

That was a good read and one helluva streak Joe. I don't keep records or count fish, but I definitely count skunkings. I feel like their is usually something I could have done to bring one fish to hand. Even if it isn't so, I force myself to analyze so I am prepared to try something different next trip. I think it is safe to say I have never went must past 20 trips without a skunking. Maybe 25 if I count creek chubs as a save. Fly fishing warmwater is really tough here in August and I will push my luck until I throw up a couple goose eggs.
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Old 12-10-2016, 04:18 AM
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Default Re: The Streak - a fish story

Welcome to Steelhead fishing .... pitch and pray. Your prayer will probably not be answered... Pooie. They're called "Fish of a Thousand Casts," works out that way for me.

The basket ball reminds me of the most fab game I ever attended. 'Pick up' game(Charity) with the Harlem Globe Trotters and Seattle Pacific University. Some one forgot to tell the Trotter's that Seattle Pacific was the THE team to beat in the Pacific Northwest.

They learned soon enough! After a few minutes Trotter's were down 12 points and it was going to get worse. That's when they became professional basketball players. They won by a few points but they earned that win.

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Old 12-11-2016, 02:10 PM
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Default Re: The Streak - a fish story

Great read, and a great life story, Joe.

Thanks for sharing.
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Old 12-12-2016, 07:14 PM
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That was an awesome read Joe, thanks for taking time to put that together. One thing I have not done through my fly fishing adventure is keep a log. I probably should have done it years ago when I was fishing in the ANF regularly. I've not been there in years now. Then there was the brief period of time I spent in the upper midwest and now my new destination fishing is Colorado. It would be interesting to look back at it to see the progression much like you've illustrated.

Awesome photos, awesome story and apparently an awesome move for you and the family. Congratulations on your daughter's accomplishments as an angler and student. That's got to be pretty darn rewarding. Thanks again for sharing, these kinds of write-ups on the forum never get old.
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Old 12-13-2016, 12:37 PM
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Default Re: The Streak - a fish story

Gents,

Thank you all for the kind words. It truly has been my good fortune to somehow stumble across the North American Fly Fishing Forum. And I really appreciate the sentiment that I am somehow a part of what makes this website so cool. I will not allow myself to truly believe that however, so we'll just chalk it up to the mutual admiration society. The stories and pictures shared by others on NAFFF are of great interest to me, especially when I'm stuck somewhere on business travel, and missing the great outdoors. That's one of the reasons that I always try to post the same thinking that there are others that cannot get to the water for some reason and turn to NAFFF to get their fill.

Regarding the article, I've had this idea for a while and ironically was just waiting for the streak to end before writing it. Moving to Utah definitely played a huge role in how long it lasted. Regardless of the season or weather conditions, there always seems to be a viable option with a reasonable expectation of hooking up. I can almost guarantee that I would not have gone for so many years back in PA without a skunking. The stream trout there are greatly affected by the changing seasons and water conditions. Nothing like the year round, fertile flows of clear, 40-45 degree water that churns out of these local reservoirs… although when changes occur, the swings are quite large!

Fred's comments about wild, northwest steelhead fishing is a classic example of difficult or unpredictable settings which ultimately do result in a skunk (for anglers of any skill level). My only exposure to steelhead fishing was a side trip to Erie, PA (Walnut Creek) one day in early November many years ago. Quite honestly it was like shooting fish in a barrel. Picture a small stream (20-30 feet wide), clear water, and thousands (tens of thousands) of steelhead stacked like cordwood. The only reward in landing one was getting to keep all of the flies lodged in its dorsal fin from the frequent foul hooking episodes.

On the subject of maintaining fishing journals (in general), their value in improving oneself as an angler cannot be measured. The hardest part is simply getting started. After a while I came to realize that I learn so much more from the bad fishing trips than the good ones. Good days are easy to write about, but there are no challenges, no lessons learned… just fun to go back years later and relive some of the details. The tough days however, these are the puzzles that remain to be solved. Bad trips are the ones that I really enjoy documenting now and then analyzing and formulating a game plan for future success. This "cracking of the code" has happened on several occasions, sometimes years later, which is really gratifying.

I must confess however that just this morning I discovered a serious error in the number reported within this article… my fishing book is actually 933 pages (not the "800" that I loosely alluded to)! At risk of exposing myself as an even bigger fishing nerd than you all are already thinking, I should clarify that in addition to my fishing logs from 1988-to-present, I've also compiled tons of hand-drawn maps, pages of general notes, photos, annual reviews/summaries, articles I've written, hatch charts, notes on specific bodies of water, etc. all of which culminate in this massive 900-plus page fishing book. My fishing logs themselves only account for a little over 200 pages!

Larry, yes you remembered that my daughter is a proud CSU Ram! A lifelong marine biologist wannabe (from about 5 yrs old), she was also profoundly affected by our move to Utah. One trip to Yellowstone N.P. and living within half an hour of Rocky Mountain backcountry took her dream of almost 15 years in bit of a different direction. Next weekend she will graduate with a degree in Wildlife Biology & Fisheries Management, and is actively seeking opportunities in that field. If anyone out there has any leads please send them my way!

Good times guys!
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Last edited by stenacron; 12-13-2016 at 11:41 PM.
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