Saturday, April 2, 2011

Conversations overheard

A recent technological innovation promises to change the way we fly fish forever by finally taking the mystery out of fly selection. The "ichthyo-phone" is a recording and translating device that allows anglers to not only record, but to also understand, what wild fish, underwater, are saying. The "iPhone", as the inventors are calling it (seems to be some trademark issues not yet worked out, so we can't say for sure what the device will be called once commercially available), is still a work in progress as there are still some bugs to be worked out (for example, it can translate the languages of all of the anadromous Pacific salmon as well as steelhead, but not that of the residential life-history form of the rainbow trout...which does make you wonder, don't it?). But we at The Culvert had a chance to test out a prototype recently during a steelhead outing. Using a splitter and dual microphones, we were able to capture, simultaneously, the above-water conversation of two fly anglers and a conversation between two steelhead in the run they were fishing.
Angler 1: "What are you going to use? I'm thinking of trying this purple egg-sucking leech. You see, the steelhead see this leech eating one of their eggs, and they get mad, and strike the fly out of anger. Even makes 'em fight harder."

Angler 2: "Yeah, I know that. Everybody knows that. But I think I'm going to try this orange egg pattern. Check it out."

Angler 1: "What's with the stringy stuff around it?"

Angler 2: "That's the yolk leaking out, dumbass. You see, the steelhead see this egg coming down the run and they notice the yolk oozing out. This way, they know the egg's already been punctured and won't survive, so they might as well eat it."

Angler 1: "Oh. Yeah. That makes sense. Well, how's about you try that fly and I'll try my leech, and we'll see what works."

Meanwhile, under the water...
Steelhead 1: "You hungry?"

Steelhead 2: "I dunno. I guess. Hey, you see that thing coming down the run? That purple thing?"

Steelhead 1: "Yeah. What is it?"

Steelhead 2: "No idea. Should I eat it?"

Steelhead 1: "I guess. What's the worst that could happen?"

Steelhead 2: "Don't you remember what happened last time you ate one of them things?"

Steelhead 1: "No. What happened?"

Steelhead 2: "You know, I can't remember either. That was two days ago. Don't matter though; the thing's gone now."

Steelhead 1: "Hey, here comes something else. Orange thing. What is it?"

Steelhead 2: "I dunno. You gonna eat it?"

Steelhead 1: "I guess."

And back on dry ground...

Angler 2: "Whoa!!! Fish on !!!!"

Angler 1: "Damn! What'd he take?"

Angler 2: "Orange yolk-leaking egg, size 10. Better put one on now, Dude!"

Angler 1: "Well, I've got an orange egg pattern, but it doesn't have the leaking yolk."

Angler 2: "Shit, man. I think you're screwed. Hey!! Fish on !!!!!!"

[This piece was published in a slightly different form in the Fall 2013 issue of "The Drake" magazine.  Thanks to Tom Bie and "The Drake" for putting it out there.]


  1. I read in Science that the ichthyo-phone can also be used on other wild fish, like Striped Bass.

    Go on. You know you want to.

    Yours sincerely,


  2. Striped Bass 1: "Hey everybody!!! Look, it's a fish!!!"

    Stripers 2 through 27: "Get it !!!!!!!!!!!!!!"

  3. I'll let you know after this afternoon.

  4. I wonder what bluefish sound like?

  5. We've transcribed a few bluefish conversations, but they aren't fit to print here. We have standards, you know.