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Reel Talk: Noodlin’ Around with Allison Hunter Voges

Sometimes you’re the fish, and sometimes you’re the hook. The key is to fight-fight-fight regardless of which role you’re playing. The lines can get blurred, especially in the strange and dangerous world of catfish noodling. Few know this better than Allison Hunter Voges, better known as @amHunter11 on Instagram.

For those not yet among Allison’s 15,000+ followers, there is much more than meets the eye to this Southern Indiana adventurista. She might be best known for her turkey bowhunting exploits, but in the past year she has made a mark with the gritty sport of noodling for catfish.

Predominantly illegal in most states, grappling for catfish is the kind of pastime that most Americans don’t even get to attempt, let alone excel at. It was just about a year ago that Allison was invited by one of the Internet’s foremost noodling experts, @AlyFromAlabama, to try it for the first time. Much like the fish she was finding, she found herself hooked–without any hooks around!

Allison proudly showed off a 50-lb catfish brute last year, and is eager to get back into the action this year! She is a living example of the joys that can come from trying new things, even if they are a bit intimidating. Sometimes you just need a little support to get you out the door.

“I never really thought of myself as a role model, but it was wonderful to receive messages from other women revealing how I helped them try new hobbies,” Allison adds. “The best advice that I can give for someone who feels intimidated by a new outdoor pursuit is to join some online groups of like-minded people. Many of them organize activities and events, and are often incredibly welcoming and receptive of new members. Step out of your comfort zone and meet as many people as you can!”

Noodling is not for the faint of heart. Fans have seen her wrangle snakes, field dress deer, mud wrestle hogs, and even have a veterinarian pull glass out of her arm. She’s clearly as tough as they come, but never would have even received the chance to learn without a little kindness from a former stranger. Allison practices what she preaches: she knows how important it is for women in male-dominated sports to stick together and to support one-another. In fact, she is organizing a trip for the American Daughters of Conservation (@adconserve) in August of this year, and will introduce noodling to them–with all of the mud, sweat, slime, and glory that she has enjoyed!

Whether hunting in the Indiana woods or fishing from hand-lines in Costa Rica, Allison is very aware that conservation is the key to continued outdoor pursuits. It is paramount that new outdoorsmen and women be attracted to fishing and hunting to ensure that money, regulations, and awareness continues to grow for the outdoors. To that end, Allison was disappointed when trying to introduce hunting to youngsters. There were very few materials out there intended for young readers.

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How do we get more kids interested and involved in the outdoors? This is my way of contributing. I’ve searched for children’s books about hunting and there are few options. I wanted a book with illustrations that drew the reader in, as well as content that captured the joy, respect and pride a hunt brings. So I wrote one myself. ⁣ ⁣ So far I’ve sold nearly 100 books and I’m happy to announce my new hardback copies are now available. I’ve put a lot of heart, effort, and money into creating this book. Being an independent author is not easy and finding a printer that did quality work took some time. However, I’m happy to announce that my new hardback copies have arrived! I will be selling them for $12.99 plus shipping. If you’re interested please shoot me a DM on my page or the @raisedtochasethewild page. I’m hoping to find an online retailer to sell and ship them for me soon. The paperback version of my book is still available on Amazon. ⁣ ⁣ I’m hoping this book will open some doors between children and adults for conversations about hunting and the outdoor lifestyle. It’s so important that we try and grow a new generation of hunters, not only for conservation reasons, but because kids learn so many advantageous life lessons in the great outdoors. ⁣ ⁣ I’ve also made this book interactive by hiding deer tracks through some of the illustrations for children to search for and find. I feel it’s a great way to encourage curiosity and exploration in nature. ⁣ ⁣ Please feel free to share this post. Purchase a book for your child, grandchild, niece or nephew. Gift it at a baby shower. Donate a copy to your local library or school. If you have any questions for me I’d be happy to answer them. ⁣ ⁣ Thank you for your support. #chasingthewild #raisedtochasethewild

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“I walked into a Bass Pro and looked for a hunting book for kids,” Allison remembered. “After failing there, I searched Amazon as well. Nothing! That’s when I decided to make one myself.”

And that’s exactly what she did. Having no experience in book publishing or writing, she soon found out that there are considerable hurdles in the process. Writing the book itself went fairly quickly, actually. She then let family members read it and give their input. When it came time for illustration, she turned to college friend Rebecca Mullins, who was not a hunter. The duo worked together to ensure that the content was accurate, fun, and above-all worthwhile to young readers. The final challenge was finding a decent publisher with consistent quality. Her book, Chasing Deer, was released in December 2019, and the reception has blown her away.

You can pick up the softcover on Amazon, but she is selling the hardback versions herself until she can find a reliable producer. Shoot Allison a message on instagram or facebook to inquire about the hardback version. She is hoping to have them available more broadly in the near future.

When not doing everything she can to open the outdoors to new audiences, she is either working hard in her landscaping company or traveling to the next adventure on her list. Her dream hunt is coming up in September: hunting elk in the mountains on Colorado. She also looks forward to continuing her adventures in the water–especially trying to catch the elusive musky that has evaded her so far.

What’s next for Allison? She wants to enjoy life in the here-and-now, and has many adventures planned. Will more books follow? She has been blown away by the reception to her first book, and has ideas for turkey hunting and bass fishing versions, but it’s still a little too early to tell. She loves being “a gateway drug to the outdoors” by sharing her exploits online. It’s clear that we’ll all have to follow her incredible adventures to see what is next on the docket for Allison Hunter Voges.

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Blog Posts Photography

David Braun: Shooting Reelers on the Fly

David Braun (@d.n.b.photo) started dabbling in photography while he was still a college student. It became a hobby, and then it became a business.

Once he began snapping photos, Braun realized he had a knack for it, even before he knew much about it.

“Some aspects [of photography] came natural to me, even before I had the technical skills that I do today,” he said. “Like I could frame an image in my head before capturing it with my camera.”

And then he went fishing with a friend at Pyramid Lake. There Braun discovered just how photogenic  flyreelers and their quarry can be.

Since then, he’s had several opportunities to shoot fly anglers in action — including one of our favorites, Chelsea Baum (@cherokeeflygirl)— and the trout they chase.

A resident of the Tahoe area, Braun enjoys shooting rivers and lakes in the Sierras, which provide dramatic landscapes against which he can frame his subjects. Whether it’s the mountains themselves, a sunset, or an alpine lake, capturing his subjects interacting with the landscape is an important part of Braun’s art.

His non-photography gig involves environmental, so Braun naturally gravitated toward landscape photography. And when it comes to shooting people, adding elements of the landscape felt, well… natural.

“I’ve done a lot of landscape photography, so when I shoot people — whether it’s an angler or a snowboarder — it’s second nature for me to incorporate the landscape into the shot,” he says. “Unless it’s a tight portrait, which definitely has its purpose, but if I can work in the environment, I will.”

Last cast. @Cherokeeflygirl

In few places is Braun’s rendering of the interplay between subject and landscape more evident than in his stunning photos of fly reelers, like Chelsea Baum, hooking a rainbow or a steelhead in settings like the Truckee River or Pyramid Lake.

One of the things that Braun enjoys most about taking these kind of shots is the element of surprise.

“When you’re  shooting — whether it’s fishing or snowboarding — anything can happen,” Braun said. “You may have an idea of the shot you want, but until you’ve got it, you don’t know.”

Braun thrives on this unpredictability.

“Every day is different… You never know what image you’ll get . And that creates excitement when you’re shooting.”

When Braun is taking photos that incorporate both a human subject and a natural landscape, framing is key to him.

“You need to incorporate the environment into the image in a way that shows the subject’s interaction with it.”

Even more important, though, is having a good relationship with your subjects. Braun likes to get to know a subject before shooting so that they feel comfortable with him and the camera, and only think about being photographed when asked to — like moving to a place where the light is better.

“The best shots happen organically, without the subject being affected by the presence of the camera.”

Check out Braun’s work: www.davidnbraun.com

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Blog Posts Photography Salt

Boats, Bikinis, and Big Fish: Through the Lens of Hunter Ledbetter

After 31 years as a United States Marine, Hunter Ledbetter made a beeline for Key West and bought a Maverick poling skiff. The Augusta, Georgia native is a lifelong reeler, but in 2011, a new passion also focused his attention: Photography. Island life allowed Hunter to combine his passions.

He started hitting the flats, chasing bonefish, permit… and tarpon. He loves how the silver king aggressively hits the bait and then puts up a “big fight in small water.” Taking folks out on his boat and shooting them with fish helped him network and meet others in the tightknit Key West community of reelers.

“The South Florida fishing community is awesome. They’re extremely welcoming and everyone, for the most part, is always happy to help out somebody else.”

@VickyStark with a beautiful Striped Marlin. Photo: @Keywestphotog

Word got out about Hunter’s photo chops and people started seeking him out. He launched his own photography business and an Instagram account — @keywestphotog — that’s currently followed by more than 15 thousand fans. These days, folks line up to have Hunter shoot for them: Charter boats, marine and fishing products, and — as you’ll notice from his Instagram feed — models and pro reelers.

Hunter is a devout catch-and-release practitioner who prefers to release his catch in the water. He loves to get in the water for release pics, usually with a lady reeler, and especially on the flats.

“Fish are designed for neutral buoyancy, not to be taken out of the water. So, we release them in the water. And crystal-clear skinny water makes for awesome release pics.”

As much as he loves small water, Hunter has cast his net a little wider, adding a Sea Fox Viper center console to his personal fleet, so he can fish offshore. With his own boat and his collaborations with charter captains, Hunter has been chasing the offshore species that lure reelers to the open sea.

@JackiShea captured with her first Marlin.
Photo: @Keywestphotog

Roosterfish, with their beautiful plumes, are his favorite finned subjects. But he also loves billfish. South Florida sees plenty of sails and swordfish in the winter when they’re migrating south for warmer waters, and in the spring when they head north again.

An occasional marlin may also ride the Gulf Stream to warm water and bait. But when Hunter wants to chase big blues, he usually leaves South Florida. Most recently, the hunt for blue marlin led Ledbetter to Los Cabos in Mexico.

@JackiShea and @VickyStark pose with Jacki’s first Marlin while @Islandbaby4life battles for her own.
Photo by: @Keywestphotog

They went out with Blue Sky Cabo, who put him, along with lady reelers Jacki Shea and Vicky Stark, on the some striped Marlin. Shea boated her first-ever marlin and then got in the water to release it, while Hunter shot the whole thing.

According to Hunter, the trick to taking such great fishing pics is preparation.

“Stop and think what everything looks like on the boat. Prepare your scene. Don’t want blood in your shot? Have cleaning supplies ready. Also, get your models ready. Make sure they have what they need before a shot, like a brush, ponytail holders, etc. And make sure your own back is to the sun.”

The trick, Hunter says, is not to take too many pictures, which is the temptation in this day of digital photography.

“Just take a few and make ’em count.”

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Blog Posts Charters, Guides and Outfitters Fly Photography

Chasing Brownies with Brian Wise

Fishing the rivers of Southern Missouri, Brian Wise never thought about being a guide — but he’s been at it now for more than 15 years.

“I pretty much fell into guiding in 2001. I had never really… had any aspirations to be a guide, but I got an offer to try it out and loved it,” he says.

Photo by: Matt Tucker

Wise and his service, Fly Fishing the Ozarks, specialize in putting their clients on the big, wild rainbow trout that rule the river in his part of the world — the Missouri/Arkansas border country. His home water is the North Fork of the White River, and the thriving population of rainbows in the river hasn’t been stocked in more than half a century.

According to Wise, “The river is a lot like streams you find in the West, with a lot of the same food base as well.”

The wild rainbows make the North Fork of the White River unique in the region but also challenging, even for an experienced guide like Wise.

“I really like helping people figure out the ‘little things’ that take them to the next level in the sport, [but] as a guide, these fish can make you look like a hero one day and a total idiot the next,” he says.

Yet the wily guide relishes the cat-and-mouse game he plays with his quarry. “Once you get them figured out, their patterns change and you have to start all over. So fun.”

But the rainbows that Wise puts his clients on are not the fish that keep him awake at night.

“I am a total big fish guy… [and] I am really more of a brown trout guy. Big brown trout have a strangle hold on me.” he readily admits. “Once a brown trout reaches a certain size, they become major meateaters. These fish get very predacious… and will literally eat fish that are half their size.”

Photo by Matt Tucker

And brown trout do get big in the Ozarks. Three browns in the 40 lb. range have been pulled from area rivers, including a 38 lb. 7 oz. winter monster that came out of the White River in 2015. (The world record is just over 42 lbs. and was caught in New Zealand).

“The White River is also at my doorstep, add those rivers to the North Fork of the White River and I live in big brown trout mecca, so I have the option to chase big brown trout all year long,” Wise says.

When targeting brown trout, the guide looks for “any change in depth, structure, or even color.” These are all “great place[s] to find a big brown.”

However, when you’re using a fly rod to chase a trout the size of a five year-old boy, you need to make some adjustments.

“Chasing these fish with saltwater sized fly rods, sinking lines, and 9″ flies on rivers in Southern Missouri and Northern Arkansas really makes for a fun time,” Wise says.

Photo by: Matt Tucker

For Wise, “The main thing about chasing big brown trout is persistence. You have to keep going. Long days turn into long weeks of chasing these things, but… you keep your head down and keep casting…. You have to be willing to change tactics, flies, locations.”

Wise’s success as a guide and as a reeler is not only his persistence in chasing but also his persistence in learning — and then sharing what he learns with his clients.

“Fly fishing is a constant learning thing, you never really master it–you just hope to scratch the surface.” And to Wise, sharing his knowledge with others is something he loves. “As a guide, if you can’t teach, you should probably find something else to do with your time.”

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Blog Posts Fly Follow This Photography

Stories on the Fly: Andrew Engel’s quest for big browns to hook and shoot

Growing up, Andrew Engel had to travel for hours to feed his passion for hooking trout. If his tale of woe sounds like the makings of a Merle Haggard lament, it’s probably because we was raised “in the desolate wasteland known as Bakersfield, California.” At least that’s how his website, TheFlyDudes.com, describes it.

Fortunately, Engel’s father was an avid fly fisherman who took his young reeler as far as necessary to put him on the trout. Engel did a lot of fishing on Lake Crowley, near Mammoth, California.

“It’s a trophy still-water trout fishery, with plenty of big fish,” he says.

@AndyEngel_Photography

It was there that he Engel honed his fly skills and developed a passion for chasing trout — especially big, lake-run browns.

Engel eventually decided to move a little closer to the brown trout that haunted his dreams and ended up in Logan, Utah, where trout chasing and fly fishing permeate the culture. He gave Utah State a shot but found his interests lay elsewhere, along the area’s world-class trout rivers.

He began guiding for Round Rocks Flyshop and with each trip he guided, he came to realize that every fishing experience has a story arc. And the idea of telling these stories was fascinating to Engel.

@TheFlyDudes


He and his buddy, Kyle, had started a shoutout Instagram account dedicated to fishing. The account had a decent following, but Engel and Kyle now had more interest in showcasing their own content and telling fishing stories than shouting out other reelers’ trophies.

A couple years ago, that account morphed into The Fly Dudes and today it has more than 31,000 followers. In addition to the Instagram and web pages, The Fly Dudes also has a YouTube channel that showcases Engel’s vlog-style fishing stories.

Although Engel and The Fly Dudes are now sought-after content creators and storytellers, there’s a common thread that permeates most of the media: fly fishing for big browns.

“I go after big brown trout. It’s what I do,” Engel says matter-of-factly. “Other people can catch five or ten trout in the time it takes me to hook one. I may cast hundreds of, maybe even a thousand, times to get a fish.”

Then why not just fish and skip all the hassle with the cameras and editing and posting and promoting?

Because he loves to find the stories in each trip he goes on. He goes fishing with another reeler and “comes up with the story on the fly.” (Pun intended? He says no, but I don’t quite believe him).

“I want people to see how much fun we’re having and enjoy the sport the way I do.”

Well, we’d all have a lot more fun doing it if we could catch fish the size of the browns he’s holding up on his Instagram page. I asked Engel if he has any tips for us mortals.

@AndyEngel_Photography

He says a good place to start is to target lake-run browns in the fall when they start heading upriver. They’re extremely aggressive in this pre-spawn phase.

Engel starts by using a baitfish presentation with streamers, using a spey rod to swing it at a 45° toward the target spot. The trout are burning a lot of energy as they head upstream, so they’re attacking bigger targets to fuel their run.

As they get closer to the spawn, an egg pattern becomes effective. Aggressive males instinctively attack eggs to protect the gene pool, and females grab eggs in an effort to move them to safety on the river bottom.

@TheFlyDudes

On either side of the spawn, Engel says that the big browns get so aggressive, he’ll sometimes just loft out a big bait like a wooly bugger and see what happens. Maybe even a mouse pattern.

What? A mouse pattern?

“I’m not the most traditional fly fisherman. People get so serious about technique and whatever… I want people to see the lighter side of fly fishing.”

And with Engel, the proof is in his pictures.