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Are Great Lakes Anglers Obsessed with Fishing?

Welcome to the Chase blog.

As an ambassador and guide, Jeff Liskay is known across the Great Lakes as this really fishy guy who loves connecting and sharing with his fellow anglers. The pandemic caused a pause in all the face to face connections we valued, so Chase was started in newsletter format, as a way to bridge that gap. The original intent was always one of collaboration, so as we progressed it started to make sense it had to shift to a blog. I'm excited to be able to share the first post on the Chase blog where I want to ask "what is it about obsession and fishing in the Great Lakes?

I present the first example: Jeff Liskay

Like many of you, I had my first introduction to Jeff at one of the various fly shop events he's always supporting across the Cleveland area. It was 2012, that I began my fly fishing journey. I was living on the east side and my local fly shop, Chagrin River Outfitters, was my second home. I was totally immersed in everything they had going on (and filling up my fly material basket I should mention too). Along the way, being a big fan of April Vokey's podcast, I heard Ep 43. By that time I was swinging for Great Lakes Steelhead using my single hand Sage rod with sink tips and although I didn't really know Jeff well, I hung onto every word hoping something would stick to make me the better swung fly angler I hoped to be. It also initiated what ended up being a fateful decision to buy a 2 handed rod. That decision lead me to try out various rods with Jeff and the rest is history, but that's another story for another day.

Of all the wisdom in that podcast, the one thing that still stands out in my brain from their talk was the overarching themes of exploration and obsession. Early in the podcast April was telling Jeff he was obsessed with fishing and throughout the podcast she lays it out in subtle details.

everybody who knows you is like, obsessed is a complete understatement- April Vokey about Jeff Liskay

But as a listener at that time, I had no real concept of what that really meant, it seemed more like a reverent thing that one says. But today, as the partner in Jeff's life who is actually living it; I'm here to say it's no joke. The obsession; it is a real thing and it plays out daily, minute by minute in our lives. We make jokes that he always has 2 things on this mind; and one of them is always fishing.

But here's the funny thing; the longer I'm in the Great Lakes fishing community, the more I see that it's not just Jeffrey. There are so many Great Lakes anglers that are equally as "ill".

Websters defines obsession as:

preoccupy or fill the mind of (someone) continually, intrusively, and to a troubling extent.

Are you afflicted too? Here's my start on a symptom list from my experiences.

Great Lakes i Piscantur Illness Symptoms

  • First thing upon waking checks the weather forecast on their phone. Binge watches the Weather Channel and does a really good impression of a meteorologist.

  • Strives to keep a clean garage like "normal people", but alas it's impossible because it's a constant drop zone for coolers, backpacks, boxes filled full of lures, trolling gear, boating equipment, gear & fly rods, and waders.

  • On top of garage being full, probably has a storage unit for things like bass and drift boats (yes has multiple boats). May even enlist family and friends into taking kayaks and rafts to "give them more room"- plus after all, they can use them too.

  • Muddy water; bring it on. Shelf ice; big deal. 1 to 2 changing to 3 to 5; we've got a window. Wild rose bushes; hell yeah! Creek hopping and bush whacking; now we're talking!

  • Has more closet space spent on fishing clothes, hats and gear than anything else. In fact, people don't recognize them in street clothes because they don't wear them.

  • May from time to time have worms and maggots in the fridge and "eggs" in the freezer. This seems ok and normal to them.

  • Likely grew up trolling or casting for Walleye either with family or as a rite of angling passage.

  • Has stopped counting their rods and reels... because there is no point. Tells loved ones they are "an investment", but really who are you kidding- you'd never part with them.

  • Their waders and boots are never dry unless it is summer or they're wearing their winter ice fishing suits.

  • A fish taco means one thing; Walleye.

  • Has an extensive fly, fly material and/or lure inventory, yet is compelled to continue to buy.

  • Great Lakes migratory trout... or Great Lakes Steelhead. A debate for the ages.

  • Favorite color is chartreuse, because if it's not chartreuse.....

  • Honestly wants to translate all their energy to keeping the domestic life in check too and commits to getting things done when they aren't "aren't fishing". Can get caught in a trap, as this is really only possible a week or two in the months of August and February.

  • Sub-sets of this illness exist and are known as Swinging for Great Lakes Steelhead, Musky Fishing and Fly Fishing for Musky.

Is it in the water?

If you can relate to any of the above, you are likely obsessed too. But I ask, is it any wonder with so many great fishing venues and species that we have available to us in the Great Lakes? We are so blessed and totally so underrated in my opinion. Exotic, well no, but where else can you have such a variety of species and different types of fishing ,12 months of the year, all a tank trip away? Ice fishing, fly fishing for trout, fly fishing for bass, musky and more, trolling for walleye, conventional gear fishing, shore fly fishing, kayak fishing, fly fishing on one of the Great Lakes like Lake Erie or Lake St. Clair. We've got warm water and cold water species. Do I need to go on? The Great Lakes is truly a place to call home if you are an obsessed angler. It's no wonder we all have a problem.

Join the conversation

When I've talked to Jerry Darkes about the early days of fly fishing on Lake Erie, a re-occurring theme is collaboration. Throughout the development Jerry, Brian, Jeff and others all worked to learn and share, leading to what we all know and enjoy today. That's what I think is the good news of all this pre-occupation. I believe it demonstrates our deep desire to learn and our great capacity to love. After all a synonym of obsession is passion. And believing this gives me a lot of hope for our region's angling future even with all of our challenges. So let's keep the conversation and sharing going. Each month or two we'll offer a post on a topic in one of our categories. Become a site member to be able to access all Chase blog content. Do you have something to share? Please consider being a blog contributor. Use the Contact Us page on the Great Lakes Fly Fishing website or message us on Instagram to let us know and talk about it.

We hope you will join us. Become a member or blog contributor today.



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