Tuesday, December 22, 2015

In the Trees

Being in a treestand while the wind sways the tree you're in is an unsettling sensation.  Especially when the forest floor all around you is littered with fallen trees.  There isn't much you can do to control the situation.  If it falls, you're going with it.  Your choices are to: climb down, stay and spend the rest of your hunt in fear, or my favorite option- give up.

Give up and sway with the tree like you belong there.  Accept you aren't in control and enjoy the hunt.  If you can, that's about as close to nature as you'll ever get. 

I try not to hunt the swamp until at least Christmas.  It's a family spot, and we've learned it's a place worth waiting for.  Don't mess it up by hunting it early. 

From one of my favorite stand locations, you get a clear view of the northern sky.  At dusk in late December, the sky turns the most brilliant shade of blue.  Just before it fades to black, you get to see the big dipper literally materialize out of thin, rich, blue air over the horizon. 
Take it in, by now you can't see your sights anyways.

Last night, on my final hunt of the year, I watched the northern stars while swaying in my tree.  I could hear the river gurgling in the distance.  It was cold, but comfortable.   I wasn't ready to come down.  

Saturday, October 24, 2015

A Shot

Deer Trout,

I only hit the snooze button once this morning.  A little over an hour before first light, I was in my tree and good to go.  The forest was pitch black.  I'd never been up this tree before.  For all I knew, I wasn't going to have any shooting lanes if any deer came through.  The half light came around 7:30am, and I realized I had some small lanes to work with.

The wind was coming from a different direction than what the weatherman forecast.  Which I was okay with, but at the same time unsure what the deer would think about it.  The wind was supposed to be from the southeast.  The deer were supposed to come into the wind towards their bedding area from the northwest.

But instead of coming from the southeast, the wind came from the east.  And instead of coming from the northwest, the deer came from the southeast.  The first doe came through along the base of ridge I was using to funnel them into bow range.  Right away I decided she was a shooter, but she was quartering towards me, with her nose straight up in the air at about 20-yards.  She knew something wasn't right and I was certain I was about to get winded.  Despite her being directly downwind of me, the morning thermals caused her to let down her guard and actually move closer to me. She stopped in one of the best lanes I had in that direction.

I drew.
She turned broadside.
I picked a spot.
I made sure I was using the right pin.
She looked backward over her opposite shoulder, basically giving me a quartering away angle.
I let the arrow go.

She ran 10 yards, stopped, kind of circled behind the other deer who came up behind, and then they all continued northwest along the ridge.  Judging by her body, language, I missed.

Maybe my arrow deflected off an unseen twig?  Maybe I peaked as I took the shot?  Maybe I didn't bend at the waist?

I waited about 30 minutes before getting down from my tree.   My arrow was sticking out of the ground right where it was supposed to be.  There was light colored hair, light blood on the cock vane, and talowy fat greasing the shaft.  Nervous, I called my friend Steve to come give me a hand.

Three hours after I squeezed the trigger, we began tracking her.  The first 50 yards was easy.  There was really good blood.  Then it got tough.  We crawled on our hands and knees spotting a drop here, few drops there.  The rain started and a few minutes later, we found our last drop about 100 yards from where I shot her.

We circled out in front.  We broke the area up into grids.  Nothing.

Steve, who has a lot more experience than I do, thinks I made a non-lethal, low shot.  I hope he's right.  The thought of her being dead out there tears me up.  But I don't know what more we could have done to find her.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

A Different Tree to Climb


I hunted the corner again last night.  This time, from a tree closer to where I'd seen the three does come out of the swamp on Saturday evening.  There was another truck at the trailhead when I got there, a blue Ford I've never seen before.  As I walked across the field to the corner, I hoped he followed the main trail like everyone else who explores this chunk of timber seems to do.

I got to the tree I planned to climb and realized it was a dying ash.  I stood there looking at the other trees nearby and movement caught my eye from just inside the swamp.  Then orange.

"Shit, this guy is bird hunting where the deer I'm hunting are bedded."

He worked his way away from me to the south before popping out into the field with a telescoping pruning saw and and an empty 5-gallon bucket.

I stood there with my stand on my back, my bow in my left hand, and waved hello with my right.  He waved back as he walked back towards his truck.  I turned away and walked farther north than I've ever been on this property, hoping to find fresh sign.  I found some great looking spots that I would likely have to myself, but not the sign I was looking for so I turned back around towards the corner.  It was a good thing I got there early.

There really wasn't a good tree to climb, they were either full of limbs, dead, or too big around.  I picked the smallest and barely got my climber on at the right angle.  If it was another inch bigger in diameter, I would have been hunting from the ground.

The three does came out, one by one, at 6:43.  Except they weren't three does.  It was a doe with two yearlings.  I could have shot any of them, but for some reason, I didn't.  Maybe cause my freezer already has fresh venison in it, or maybe cause I'm just looking for something to regret in January.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

An East Wind


"Wind from the west, fish bite the best.  Wind from the east, fish bite the least."

As primarily an angler over the last 10 years, I've grown to hate an east wind.  My friend who makes maple syrup hates it, too, as even sap screeches to a stop when the wind comes from the wrong direction.  But its archery deer season, and even though the season is longer than most, its not long enough.  If you get a funky wind direction, you've gotta have a stand for an east wind or you just lost a day in the woods.

I took my climbing stand up about 20-feet last night.  Before pulling my bow up, I hugged the maple tree I was in and looked up at the swaying top.  It bowed back and forth like a rubber band.  At one point, I felt like it was going to fall on top of me.  "Don't look up."  I told myself.  

A pack of coyotes yipped and howled at 6:57p.m.  Three minutes later, a solitary doe grazed into the field 150yds south of me.  Another came 10 minutes later, and a third 10 minutes after that.  I watched them for as long as I could from 60yds inside the field edge before losing sight of them.  

They weren't supposed to come out to the field where they did.  They were supposed to come out on the runway I was sitting above.  But the error on my part was that they came out with the wind at their back.  They always come out with the wind at their back.  I should have picked a different tree to climb.  

I picked up my son's deer from the processor this afternoon.  50lbs of venison in the freezer, with three more tags to fill between the two of us.  If our arrows fly true, I'm gonna need to buy a chest freezer.  I'll wait till I need to, though.  Buying one now would be bad luck.  Like bringing a filet knife on a fishing trip.  If you have that knife in your pack, you just made it really hard to catch fish that day.  The hunting and fishing gods don't like it when you count your chickens before they hatch.  

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Season Two - Part VII

Ticks, carnival tricks, and plotting summer fishing in Michigan's UP

Drift boats are great. But I still prefer hiking into the backcountry and exploring blue lines. Northern Michigan and the Upper Peninsula can still be classified as wild. And once you get north of M-55, you'll find small stream nirvana.

After a month on the Au Sable, it's good to retreat to these less-pressured waters. One stream in particular is my personal favorite and, in the spirit of Hemingway, we'll call it the "upper Au Sable."
Brook trout can grow big here. A few years ago I hooked one that ripped into the tailout of a long pool where Jason stood. He'd caught a 17-inch brookie a few days earlier and said my fish could have been several inches bigger. Ever since, I always check tippet for nicks after errant casts into the brush—and I haven't fished bamboo since.

Jason might be the only person I've met who loves northern Michigan as much as I do. It'd been a long time since we fished this stretch together, but it seemed worth a shot. Tag alders reached from bank to bank, and provided perfect structure for busting out a modification of Joe Humphreys' bow-and-arrow-rollcast. It's a carnival style effort that'll throw your fly out twenty to thirty feet through a thicket. A slow, short 5-weight with a fast-recovering tip is ideal for making it work. When it does, you can't help but smile.

We took turns fishing upstream. Most of the fish that jumped during the fight hung themselves on alder branches swaying above the water. Those branches contained spider webs, including one so dense Jason's leader clung to it during a cast without ever falling to the water.

Most fish were small and beautifully colored. But Jason broke off a Dust Bunny eater in the mid-teens. The big ass ones always seem to eat that way here—they think they're at the top of the food chain. I got a great look at its brindled olive back as it sharked perpendicular to the current to eat the fly. After losing it, Jason asked me if I told him to set... almost offended for being talked to like a sport.

"I don't know, did I? I asked, sincere in not remembering. "It must be becoming a habit."

We bushwhacked out in the dark. Spring peepers played in the background like elevator music. We talked about the fish Jason lost earlier, and then went back and forth with fish stories we've told each other hundreds of times. We planned at least a dozen future trips to places infested with Bigfoot and bears and wondered aloud how many ticks we'd picked up so far that night.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Season Two - Part VI

Waiting for drakes in painted-on waders

There's one thing that has always terrified me about guiding women, and that is wader rentals. I can't stock 80 sizes of waders and boots, so I work with an area fly shop. I get the client's measurements, pick waders up the day before, and hope like hell they fit. I had a half-dozen women rent waders last year and no issues regarding fit, so it was just a matter of time before I ran into problems.

I met Claire and Rob at a little diner east of town, locally famous for its breakfast menu and homemade pies. It was Rob's birthday and Claire decided to get him an "experience" instead of another "thing."

When we got to the river, I rigged rods while they investigated their waders. Claire struggled. I pretended not to notice, hoping she'd get them over her gut. Then I looked at Rob who already had his on. Rob looked at Claire, Claire looked at her husband, and then they both looked at me. No one spoke. Mick Jagger's leather pants couldn't have been tighter. I was mortified and can't imagine how embarrassed she must have felt. Fortunately, she fit in Rob's waders. He fit in hers. And all was forgotten when we started catching backcountry brookies on dries.

A couple of days later I had John and Lloyd in the boat on the mainstream, hoping to run into brown drakes. Judging by the empty trailers at the takeout, we had at least a half-dozen boats ahead of us, and I let three pass us earlier. I tried to shrug it off, saying, "Let 'em pass, they're all douchebags anyway, we'll pick their pockets."

Just as it started to get dark, I back-rowed up a large trib and dropped anchor. Not a minute later, we had what sounded like a good fish working close to the boat. Lloyd went first and hung up on an invisible overhanging branch. Gloop! John got stuck in a tree. Gloop! Lloyd got stuck again. Gloop!
John found the same tree. Gloop! I grabbed my rod and got hung up. Gloop! John lost another fly. Gloop! I got stuck. Gloop! Lloyd gave up. Gloop! John gave up. Gloop! I gave up.

I turned my light on to see what we were up against and the fish rose again. There was a steady stream of drake duns floating past a skeletal shrub sticking straight out off the bank. You couldn't cast upstream or above. We lifted anchor and continued back into the mainstream, defeated.

By that time, there were fish going everywhere, and other boats on every bend or logjam. The fish we found were super shy, and we pulled out at 2 a.m.

The next night Bob and Nate joined me for a trip. To avoid crowds and find unmolested fish, we covered more water on a longer float and it worked out great. Bob, who's been flyfishing longer than I've been alive, said he'd never seen so many drakes in the air. In between fish, we listened to owls, whip-poor-wills, and howling coyotes. "Look up," I told Bob. The bugs were gone, but every star in the sky was out, flanked by silhouetted trees on each side of the river.

Being a textbook introvert, this is where I leave the Au Sable to chase drakes on less pressured waters. I'll be back in a couple weeks for hex, but only for a few days until word gets out on them, too. This is your June, and it'll end soon, no sense wasting it in the circle-jerk of leap-frogging boats.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Season Two - Part V

June is king

The growing pile of paper plates and gas station food wrappers on my car's floor hint at my daily routine over the past couple weeks. Wake up at 6:30 a.m., 40-minute commute, 9-hour work day, 40-minute drive to go watch my son at either baseball, track, or golf, stay as long as I can, hit the river or lake, get home around midnight, put the boat away, shower, go to bed....

A lot of people really love late-May fishing, and it's pretty good. But June is king. Brown drakes arrived a couple nights ago. Isos will come any day. Salmonflies and dark green drakes are going. The dragon nymph migration is at its peak. And oh yeah, sulphurs are hatching everywhere. Weather-wise, it's that time of year when you drive to work with the heat blasting, drive to the river with the A/C on high, then bust the winter hat back out when you start seeing your breath after sunset.

There was a light cloud of brown drake spinners hovering high above the parking lot when we arrived at the river last night. I was fishing with my friend, Lloyd, a local mechanic I used to ride the bus with in high school. We hiked down to the river where we were enveloped by water from the waist down, and a Pink Floyd "Welcome to the Machine" swirling mass of bugs from the waist up. Several smaller fish rose on the inside of a long bend, but we left them alone, as the bigger fish usually don't come out to play until the last hour of light and won't come out at all if you mess with the little guys.

A good fish rose after I lit a cigarette and I couldn't help myself from half-heartedly roll-casting a sulphur over it. The fish ate. Another good fish rose 3-feet upstream of where the first fish was as I released it. Lloyd set up and after tweaking the drift got it to take but missed the hookset. At the same time, two solid fish rose up and downstream of us. Lloyd went after the lower and I want after the upper. A few drifts later I netted the first, then Lloyd missed the hookset on the second.

"You're cut off!" I laughed.

Lloyd missed another hookset a few minutes later, and all at once, the bugs disappeared and the fish stopped rising.

When we got back in the car, the display said it was 38-degrees. "No wonder I was so cold," I said. I've had the same pair of waders for the last five years. A few pinhole leaks sprung last year, and then while taking my right leg out this spring, one of the seams came with it. I can't afford new ones yet, but they're still better than wet wading and do a good job keeping the mosquitoes at bay.

On the way home, we made a quick stop at a bridge going over the river to see what bugs were hatching. Bugs love bridges and it's crazy how closely you can keep tabs on what's going on just by bridge hopping. I walked underneath through tall dew-covered grass and spooked a newborn fawn as I was about to step on it. Only I didn't realize what it was at first and screamed like a little girl as I jumped three feet backward, hitting my head on the bridge in the process.

I joined Lloyd in laughing at myself.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Season Two - Part IV

Borchers, hennies, mattress thrashers, and the odd mahogany

"You're such a bass fisherman," I shot at Matt after seeing his approach on a late afternoon riser. His silence hinted that the joke didn't register. Matt is one of the best bass flyfishers I know, and fishes for trout with a bit of a heavy hand.

We went through a series of quick presentation fixes to help him out—subtle stuff that makes a difference in the world of pressured trout. As I watched him work on each new technique, I realized that I probably fish for bass like a trout angler.

Evening air temps finally fell below 70-degrees F., and I parked the boat to wait for the evening rise on a stretch of river that should have had more bugs by then. There were groups of hennie spinners here and there, some borchers, mattress thrashers, and the odd mahogany.

Matt laughed at the trout culture lingo as we drifted downstream to another spot.

"We need to find a donko-corno-saurus-rex-dot-com," he said.
"A what?" I asked.
"A big trout."

I pulled anchor and moved to a different hole; one that I'd never experienced during the evening rise, but one I always suspected held a good fish or two. Just as we drifted into the zone, I spotted a large trout sipping mayfly spinners. Going back to his bass-y roots, Matt was up and casting before the boat stopped. His first shot sailed about eight feet too far with his fly line splatting just about where the fish rose.

"Shorten up by about ten feet," I said, expecting his next cast to be about two feet farther than where I wanted it. But he hit the mark, with no response from the fish.

"Wait for it to rise again before you cast," I said

Matt stood at the bow while I stared at the water trying to figure out the best way to offer the trout a better drift. As I watched, I realized that this fish was sitting in a vault that even John Dillinger would have found tough to crack. I pulled anchor and drifted down and away from the fish before rowing back up the opposite bank and parking almost in the exact same spot, but just slightly upstream.

Twenty minutes later we started seeing borcher spinners on the water and the fish rose again... then again, and again.

But the current speeds and directions were too funky to get a good drift even at close range. After several failed attempts, we decided to switch positions. I pulled anchor, drifted downstream and across from the fish, and stealthily walked the boat back up the opposite bank. We crossed at the top, anchored above the fish, and then I released the brake hoping the current would push us into prime position.

Matt made several great casts but it was too late. The bugs, and what I'm sure was a monster trout, stopped. We tried one more angle and several more shots to coax the fish to the top. No go. On this day, the trout won.

"Trout are bitches," I said. Matt laughed as he swiveled the front seat around and stuck his fist out. I bumped my fist into it and he seemed genuine when he thanked me for trying hard to help him figure out that fish. A little later, as we rowed out in the dark, I said, "That was your donko-corno-saurus-rex."

"Dot-com," he added.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Season Two - Part III

Sucker spawn, teenage spawn, and first mouse attack of the year

My toughest client is my teenage son, Coleman—his friends call him Cole. Now, you might say taking a kid fishing doesn't count as guiding, but you couldn't be more wrong. Taking a kid fishing is the best practice a guide can get, especially when it's your teenager, because they know pretty much everything and don't need your help.

I don't know what the biological mechanism responsible for this is called, but my parents call it karma.

The spring sucker run is going in full force, and I figured it would be a great way for Cole to have some fun catching fish while I practiced teaching a new nymphing technique I'd learned from John. Cole picked it up quick and put a half-dozen suckers in the net. There was a group of bait fishermen walking down the bank, and Cole took his sweet ass time over-dramatically releasing his last sucker to make sure they knew he'd just caught a fish. Smirking, I asked, "What the hell are you doing?" He knew he was busted and laughed.

On the drive home he said, "Dad?"
"Can I bring a friend fishing with us sometime?"
"Sure! Just make sure they think we're fishing the Au Sable."
"I know, all my friends at school already think that's always where we go."

(Insert proud-dad emoticon face here.)

The arrival of bugs means I'm on the water every day now. I started out the other morning getting skunked chasing steelhead. After losing a couple dozen flies to submerged timber, I reeled in and swung over to the Au Sable to see if the brook trout had finished hibernating. They had, and despite no significant bug activity, they were looking up. Sometimes they'd take on a dead drift, but most fish would chase the fly down after I gave it more cowbell—a small twitch, or a big twitch that would actually pull the fly under before the Albolene floatant made it slowly resurface.

I took my daughter's prom pictures that evening, went grocery shopping with my wife, and then launched the boat on the mainstream for the first mousing trip of the year with Chad. Mousing is best in late summer, and other than the current date on the calendar, it felt exactly like a summer night... minus the mosquitoes. Air temps rose above 50-degrees and you could smell campfire smoke, possibly from the forest fire north of St. Helen.

We drank summer micro-brews and listened to spring peepers. Every now and then, I'd hear what sounded like a nice fish rise. So I'd drop anchor and we'd sit and wait for the fish to reveal its location. But there just weren't many bugs on the water for fish to feed on, and that second rise never came.

Chad missed a fish blind casting a stimulator, then had another fish just below a log jam go after his mouse. "Go after" is an understatement, that fish just plain blew that mouse up. Every time a fish takes a mouse is an adrenaline rush, but the first mouse attack of the year is always the best. We've been waiting 8 months for that fish. Under the light of the full moon, I watched Chad's eyes explode open as he set the hook and yelled, "Holy shit!"

"I never felt him," he said.
"I'm gonna bring you back around for another shot," I said, while circling the boat away from the fish and maneuvering it back upstream.
"You ever get them to go again?" he asked.
"Usually no, but sometimes."

But not this time.

We finished out the float and I got home at about 3:30 a.m., wide-awake and simultaneously so tired I felt drunk.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Season Two - Part II

Swisher Sweets, venison tacos, and the savage traditions of Michigan's annual trout opener

With so many miles of special regs water open year-round, you'd think Michigan's trout opener would have become largely insignificant by 2015. Yet most anglers still consider the last Saturday a holiday—including myself. In fact, as I walked out of a party store with celebratory provisions on a Friday night, a local fly shop owner on his way in for some of the same greeted me with a, "Happy New Year!" Like singing Auld Lang Syne at midnight on January 1, northern Michigan trout fishermen practice various opening day traditions that border on religious rituals to celebrate a fresh crack at another trout season.

Saturday morning we slept in on purpose, ate a big breakfast, cleaned up camp, and finally got around to getting the boats in the water just before lunch. After launching, I dropped anchor and played Mozart on my phone while we smoked swisher sweets and passed a three-dollar pint of blackberry brandy back and forth. This annual tradition purposely gets more corny from one year to the next, and is more about making fun of ourselves than celebrating our status as masters of the universe.

On Sunday we launched John's Au Sable Riverboat. These boats have been running the Au Sable since they were designed here in the 1870s for lumberjacks to quickly move supplies up and down the river system. Originally constructed of cedar and white pine, they have no keel and are controlled by a push pole at the stern, or by paddling between fishing spots. Most are about 24-feet long and have minimal draft, even when loaded with gear and fishermen.

Rube Babbit was one of the first fishing guides on the Au Sable, and in the 1880s someone from the Babbit family modified the boat's design to include a livewell where water flowed into and out of a box built into the boat to keep fish fresh. Fun fact: Rube is credited with being the guy who first planted brook trout in the river's East Branch.

Au Sable Riverboats are great for stealthily approaching rising fish, but would be the last boat you'd want for running Class IV rapids. They're more stable than a canoe, but are very capable of tipping if you're not careful. With a good guide on the push pole, you can fish while standing, but generally fishing is done from a seated position at the bow. I have no regrets about going with a drift boat for guiding, they're more versatile and more comfortable for the client. That said, building an Au Sable Riverboat is at the top of my bucket list, and will hopefully kick off this winter. I don't have a lot of carpentry experience, but I did stay at a Holiday Inn Express once. Should be a piece of cake, right?

John is one of the best nymphers I know, but he is an even better cook. When the fishing gods hand you lemons, you give them to John and he'll squeeze them into the homemade guacamole he's making on a rock under some tag alders to go on venison tacos.

John missed a couple nymphing, nothing showed any interest in streamers, and I blew a shot at a brown trout sighted under a cedar bough. I saw a lot of BWOs hatching both days, a smattering of Hendricksons, and never saw a rise. At one point during lunch with John I thought I saw a surface eat, and then we both stood and stared at that spot on the water for a solid 15-minutes, letting our minds play tricks on us without any type of affirmation.

At the end of the day, it just felt good to be chasing bugs again.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Season Two - Part I

photo: Cameron Mortenson
Guiding in northern Michigan starts with a great bumper sticker

This series begins, oddly enough, where the last series I wrote left off. "Lake Effect" chronicled a steeelhead trip where a friend and I hit tributaries flowing into all five Great Lakes inside a five-day window in early November 2013. I was so stressed to start that trip that it took 1,900 miles of gas station food, hangovers, and swinging flies to feel relaxed...

I didn't want it to end.

The drive home included nine hours of figuring out how to quit a job that had become the bane of my existence. The biggest problem was, this is northern Michigan. Real northern Michigan—not that south of M-55 pseudo northern Michigan. We just don't have a lot of work prospects here, but I knew I had to find a way out.

A long time ago, a friend suggested I should be a flyfishing guide. As appealing as that sounded, it felt like a pipe dream: like wanting to be an astronaut when you grew up. Then somewhere on the Ohio turnpike, a plan came together.

For starters, I chose five of the most common "professions" that serious hobbyists adopt to delude themselves into thinking they can quit day jobs and make a living. I'd open a guide service, supplement it with income from freelance writing and photography and second-shooting weddings, and maybe supplement those with some commercial tying and website building.

Where others failed to make a go, I would succeed by doing them all at the same time.  A DBA came the next week. Next was a trip to the bank to explore small business loans. I walked away with a stack of paperwork and the decision to start slow and fund everything myself through the paycheck from my nine-to-five. Then I got to the important stuff: business cards, bumper stickers, and a Facebook page. Three keys to succeeding in today's economy.

By February I'd bought a used drift boat, built a website, and even had my first trip booked. I got my guide license, insurance, and all the other official stuff out of the way. The snow melted, and it was time to fish.

There were a plethora of challenges I didn't anticipate about guiding. The pressure of putting strangers with little fly angling ability on fish was a new sensation. To me, not putting a client on fish was akin to a five-star restaurant chef not knowing how to cook canned corn. Yet, I knew that eventually I would have a trip where my clients didn't catch anything. I decided that when it did happen, it wouldn't be my fault. So I fished every day up to that first trip. Then I fished every day between that trip and the next, and so on. If I didn't have clients booked, I practiced guiding my friends.

But that presented the next challenge, my friends were experienced and knew how to do basic stuff like set the hook, or to lower their rod when floating under fallen trees.

My clients have been mostly first-timers and guys who have been flyfishing longer than I have... but only once or twice each year. I found out guiding wasn't just putting people on fish and letting northern Michigan do the rest. It was just as much about teaching, which I loved.

Watching someone go from learning what tippet is to catching fish is the best buzz in flyfishing. A close second is getting an angler in the boat who already knows how to cast.

June Recap

And just like that, its July.  June 2018 was everything a northern Michigan trout angler could ask for.  The bugs showed up and the fish ...