woensdag 31 december 2008


It all begins with a vast amount of skins, feathers, hairs, threads, shiny trinkets, beads, gold, silver and glittering fabrics and what have you. A whole sewing notions collection of 'haute couture' your average redneck homofobiac would shy away from with a shreek (high pitched).

Once you have established yourself amidst the raw materials that shine on you, have a go at one of the oldest arts and crafts surrounding the mystery of fly fishing. Beware though, fly tying is hard work and extremely addictive. Rows of volumes have been written on tying patterns and insect mimicry alone. The art goes way back.


In AD 200 the Roman Claudius Aelianus, in his book On the Nature of Animals, described how people fished with a fly in the river Astracus in Macedonia. In the beginning of the 13th Century a German romance written in about 1210 by Wolfram von Eschenbach mentions the catching of trout and grayling using a 'feathered hook'. The hero of the novel wades barefoot in a stream to catch trout and grayling with a fly. From 1360 onwards, across a vast area reaching from the Swiss plain to Styria, other texts identify fly fishing as the chosen method of commoners. In the early 15th Century a manuscript, kept at the Bavarian abbey of Tegernsee, lists at least fifty different fly patterns for catching carp, pike, catfish, burbot and salmon as well as trout and grayling.

Above: a few dry flies, designed to float high on the surface water while imitating local insect life. Special feathers, called 'Cul de Canard', from around the oily anal gland of certain duck species ensure extreme floatability.

Above: a closer look at a few effective nymph patterns, weighted so they will sink rapidly to where the fish are...

You have dry flies, wet flies, streamers and nymphs. The nymph imitates the larval state of an insect born out of the waters in which one fishes. The fly fishing term 'match the hatch' revers to the hatching of vast amounts of nymphs rising to the surface to evolve into the adult insect and become airborne. The hatch is a moment in time in which fish feast on both the rising nymphs as the developing adults . With equipment improvement and American fishing tackle coming to England around 1900, nymph fishing slowly began to arise. George Edward Mackenzie Skues was the nymph fishing technique's inventor and chief theoretician. Like dry-fly fishing, nymph fishing was developed in the English chalk streams. This is because such streams are fine to experiment in, with their clear water, abundant insect life, and selective fish which have become familiar with hooks due to the active flyfishing.

When fly fishing in 19th and 20th century developed even more, streamers where designed to lure great sweet- and saltwater predatory fish. Nowadays we have hundreds and hundreds of streamer patterns that will catch you billfish, dorado, tuna, bonefish, snook, jack, zander, perch and pike, to name but a few ferocious fish species.

Above a collection of effective pike streamers. Takes you hours to tie, cost you a fortune in feathers, but boy do they reek havoc among the Northern pike (Esox lucius)! Below: neat rows and rows of nymphs that do the trick: they will catch you fish almost anywhere in the world.

zondag 14 december 2008


We are led to believe that the life of a modern single is full of joy and self-fulfillment, career opps and splendid outings to far away resorts affordable only for the wealthy loner. But dating sites all over the net bursting to their maximum capacity do nothing but shout about a great sense of loss and loneliness. Thousands and thousands of self-proclaimed happy singles search feverishly for Cinderella or that one knight in shining armor. For the most part only to be met with deception after deception. Of which little is told.

Nearly half a million single parents in the Netherlands
As more married and unmarried couples with children decide to split up, the number of single parents in the Netherlands continues to grow. On 1 January 2008, there were 466 thousand single parents in the Netherlands. Since 1995, the number of one-parent families has increased by 30 percent. Statistics Netherlands (CBS) anticipates the number of single parents to reach 494 thousand in 2016. Subsequently, a gradual decrease will occur. The number of two-parent families will drop by 40 thousand over the same period.

Increase in single parents in the Netherlands divided by males and females

Splitting up
The increase in single parents is predominantly caused by the fact that more married and unmarried couples decide to split up. The proportion of never-married and divorced single parents is significantly higher in 2008 than in 1995. This applies to single fathers and mothers. In one-parent families, approximately half of fathers and mothers are divorced in 2008.

One million singles more in 2030
The number of singles will increase from 2.4 million in 2003 to 3.4 million in 2030. The main causes for the increase are the breaking up of relationships and the aging of the population.

Middle aged and older
The increase in the number of singles will occur among middle-aged and older people. The number of singles aged between 30 and 64 will increase from 1.2 million in 2003 to 1.5 million in 2030. In these age groups the major reason for being single is ending the relationship. In the future an increasing number of people will live together without getting married. Unmarried couples split up faster than married couples. After breaking up the ex-partners will live alone, either temporarily or permanently. In these age groups it is the men who usually end up living alone. After the break-up women usually live with the children.

Increase in singles in the Netherlands divided by age group

This middle-aged single signing out for now.
(Source: CBS, The Netherlands, Arie de Graaf and Andries de Jong)

zaterdag 22 november 2008


‘Be different’, happens to be the new slogan of the VARA, a Dutch television network. Being ‘different’ as opposed to being ‘indifferent’ is what’s been communicated here. Indifference apparently has become the norm in the Netherlands and we Dutch need to be shaken into a conscience again.

The Dutch want their elderly people to remain living on their own means for as long as possible. Byside of this policy: more then ever the elderly live in 'splendid isolation', alone in a digital era they have no connection too.

Gone are the days in which the milkman delivered at your doorstep, in which the baker hauled his bread from door to door, in which the family doctor made surprise house calls and the water company actually send someone to your home to read the water meter. Live.

People’s front doors have for the most part become silent barriers that open little. Households are supposed to have an Internet connection to annually submit their taxes, their energy usage, their prescriptions and their groceries. All the rest is done via 0900 service telephone numbers that make you wait in line for a lifetime.

‘No news is good news’, is what society conveniently thinks about households never to be heard of again. Searching Google for ‘found dead in own home’ will prompt in less than 0,15 seconds 1,8 million news items in the Netherlands alone. Refining the results learns one that approximately 1 million of those concern elderly people. Some of whom have been lying dead in their own home for weeks at a time.

Today the Dutch healthcare system is generating ‘professional networks of pre-signalling beginning signs of solitude among the elderly’. We need to call it a whole mouthful but in fact we are institutionalising simple feats of caring that have been lost for good. Just looking out for our elderly every now and then has been turned into a job, a plan, a master class and now a network.

These professional networks are actually devising strategies to disguise their front workers as the milkmen and water meter readers of old. Just so that they will gain entrance in a friendly inconspicuous manner into the closed households of elderly people. The goal being to gain their trust to then gather valuable information about the splendid isolation in which they live. I am not joking here.

I would suggest putting milk back into those classic glass bottles of the 20th century with the fancy silver wrapping on top and carry one or two of those manually while ringing at front doors. A merry white dairy cap and a bright smile might help too.

Caring for our elderly people has lost its matter-of-factness.

dinsdag 21 oktober 2008


We have always tinkered with the forces of nature. But like The Sorcerer's Apprentice (1) we have a tendency of letting the dancing brooms run amok. We introduce exotic species that then become plagues, we reap forests along hilly slopes that then become landslides, we surface mine for idiotic precious particles and leave behind ruined and barren habitats, we produce toxic waste and store in the earth’s atmosphere. We seem to never quite get it right.

Recently large scale land reconstruction programs are taking place in the Netherlands. The Dutch have always pushed and heaped dirt around to contain water and these new excavating projects are no different. What is different however is the ultimate goal: recreating in a controlled fashion nature’s natural solutions to contain and manage excess waters. In stead of directing our river’s water supply in the speediest way possible straight to the ocean, we have come to understand the need for rivers to flood every once in a while. We don’t like flooding. We hate it with a vengeance. It must be in our blood or so. We thought for a long time that we could prevent flooding by raising dikes. It didn’t work as well as we envisioned. And we kept on raising dikes a little bit more after new and unsuspected rises of water levels. And we kept on seeing the land levels in our claylike country drop. If we were to continue in that fashion the Dutch would soon live in a country that lies for the most part below sea level and is separated by huge insurmountable dikes that go on and on for miles.

Vast land reforms in the Netherlands to better and more wisely manage our water surplus in the upcoming years.

The Dutch government has published a pretty impressive policy campaign: ‘Treating Water Management differently in the 21 Century’. In it plans are published to rethink water management on a grand scale. We expect seawater levels to rise 60 centimeter in the next century. We expect land levels in the Netherlands to drop up to 60 centimeters in the coming fifty years. We expect rainfalls to increase with some 10% in the following fifty years. And these are just the modest official predictions based on the least dramatic scenarios. Even so the calculations spell disaster if we don’t do something. And so we did.

Deepened river forelands and wetlands are being rebuilt as storage capacity in times of severe flooding. Dikes are actually being demolished in a controlled manner to give rivers and canals access to these storage areas. Free meandering of rivers and streams will be restored in many parts of the Netherlands. In polders (low-lying tracts of land enclosed by embankments known as dikes, that form an artificial hydrological entity) water storage areas are also introduced. All these measures will increase the potential surface water storing capacity. At the same time the final landscaping of these newly created environments is being left largely to nature itself. Wetlands and river forelands can and will for the most part depend on nature to introduce plant- and wildlife. The developing biodiversity will of course be monitored but it will not be managed. Although the Dutch are still the architect of the rough draft of these new landscapes, they are only re-introducing some of the clever solutions nature already had in place to counteract massive peek flooding. This was way before we started to outsmart nature. After the new landscaping has been done, the tinkering with nature will stop. We will watch and see. And learn I hope.

New water storage areas turn to wetlands where nature rules freely (for the most part). Bird Sanctuary Koudenhoek near Ouddorp in the Netherlands.

(1) L'apprenti sorcier (English: The Sorcerer's Apprentice), by the French composer Paul Abraham Dukas (1897), based on Goethe's poem ‘Der Zauberlehrling’, later used in the Walt Disney film Fantasia.

zaterdag 18 oktober 2008


Not all salmon we caught in the Togiak and Ongivinuk River in Alaska where released. This fresh silver posed and then made it as sashimi and sushi to the dinnertable, an exquisite treat I can say.

The clip [below] shows the drill of a nice lean rainbow trout, locally known as the 'leopard rainbow', that took the monster fly intended for a silver. We're in Alaska, on the banks of the Togiak River, september 2008. Dresscode: Patagonia rain jacket, Patagonia Watermaster II waders, Patagonia cap.

vrijdag 17 oktober 2008


Where else than Alaska to give your gear the ultimate test? The rugged environment puts a hurting on every item you’re hauling along.

We did a floattrip on the Ongivinuk and Togiak river last September and we fly fished for salmon, grayling and trout. The weather most days was so so and that meant living in your waders for the better part of the day. The breathable waders we wore came from Simms, Hodgeman, Modulus and Patagonia.

Let me lay it down for you up front: I wore the Patagonia Watermaster II (Long), one of the few waders out there my 6’6’’ long legged stature feels comfortable in. And this one didn’t end on the fire. The Hodgeman did as it started leaking along seam after seam. The Modulus did within two days with multiple pinpoint leakage problems. The Simms did the year before, and I’m talking about the Simms G3 Guide Stockingfoot wader. It leaked heavily along the...stockingfoot.
Now I know full well that one buys a wader just to have it leak on you sooner or later. My Watermaster II however is still in prime condition after two seasons of rather heavy duty. All of my Patagonian stuff, from performance baselayers, to sweaters, to rain jacket, to duffel: they held remarkably well under Alaskan circumstances. I have definitely become a full blown Patagonia fan.

Now for the rods... We broke three # eight rods on Silvers that didn’t choose to jump but went straight for Dillingham and the open sea in one scorching run. I broke my Gatti three piece, a fine example of Italian rod builders craftsmanship but a tad on the fine side for those silver bullets in the Togiak River. So faired a new Sage TCX and a Dutch custom built eight rod that goes under the name of: ‘a fucking good rod’. My Redington Red.Fly and a Snowbee outperformed the brands with the big names altogether. ‘Dutch reels’ where used predominantly (what else?) along with a few System Two’s and the Dutch beauties did exactly what was needed of them. Simply fantastic reels, the whole series. I will spare you the details of all the knots that weren’t up to the power bursts of silvers and big rainbows, suffice it to say that in the end only true blood knots were used. Blood knots on strong tapered nylon leaders and 24 lb test fluorocarbon tippets. Stay tuned, I might be back shortly with more detailed info on our Alaskan adventure.

Power packed fresh silvers on the Togiak river in Alaska.

maandag 13 oktober 2008

DIG IT! That what must remain hidden

Archaeological remains define us. They constitute the collective memory of our culture. As pages in a book, layer upon layer of dirt harbours precious proof of what we once were. When dug up and studied archaeological remains tell us about our ancestors, our culture, our roots. But now we should stop digging?

Recently (2007) the Netherlands passed a law fully endorsing the ‘Convention on the Protection of the Archaeological heritage of Europe’, mostly referred to as the Valletta Treaty or Malta Convention. The treaty from 1992, aims to protect the European archaeological heritage ‘as a source of European collective memory and as an instrument for historical and scientific study. All remains and objects and any other traces of humankind from past times are considered elements of the archaeological heritage. The notion of archaeological heritage includes structures, constructions, groups of buildings, developed sites, moveable objects, monuments of other kinds as well as their context, whether situated on land or under water’. Sweden and the United Kingdom also passed laws and other European countries are following. In the Netherlands local city councils are responsible for the effective implementation of the new law. And problems arise.

The Valetta Treaty speaks about ‘in situ’ conservation of archaeological remains. Map it, sonar it, electrolyse it, photograph it, but leave it burried, the treaty says, and it will come to no harm. Vivian Smits, conservator at Studio Västsvensk Konservering in Sweden, who did a paper on the pros and cons of digging treasures up, states: ‘During the last decade or so, in situ preservation and conservation have been recognised as the most desirable course of action when preserving archaeological remains. That is, in situ preservation aims to preserve the heritage in a wider context, in this way establishing a greater understanding of the heritage in question’.

Once dug up archaeological remains have a tendency of quickly falling apart, rotting away, going up in smoke. Or they present valuable loot, a business opportunity, a bargain. For local (Dutch) governments however dug up remains present an altogether different and much more understandable challenge: a means in getting townspeople involved in the history of their habitat and thus sustaining a much needed social structure of a shared past. ‘Cohesion’ is the magic word here, and ancient bones or pottery may just contribute perfectly fine to that process of merging neighbourhoods and bonding people. According to Valletta however most of us will never see what lies under the grounds we tread.

Although a scientist herself Vivian Smits states clearly in her paper: ‘As for the archeological heritage, which should most definitely be well preserved and protected, this should be done in close cooperation with the public. Although this involvement might be employed in ways the academic world does not always approve of, it might be the right and only way of stimulating and involving the public in the preservation and maintenance of our common heritage’.

Getting us involved could mean a growing understanding and more enthusiasm for our cultural heritage, which would inevitably lead to larger funding and thus better preservation. A way of preserving archaeological heritage for all to see.

Archeologists of a company called B.O.O.R. at work at the new building site 'Parnassia' in the city of Hellevoetsluis, the Netherlands.

zondag 12 oktober 2008


We will empty the oceans shortly if we go on like this. All around the globe fish stocks are being depleted at an alarming rate. Europe's North Sea's coast is home ground for a number one sport fish ánd the most sought after species for the fancy dinnertable: the European seabass (Dicentrarchus labrax), now dangerously close to the red list.

A distant cousin of the American striper (or striped bass - Morone saxatilis), the seabass is mostly a night hunter, feeding on small fish, polychaetes, cephalopods and crustaceans. They can live up to 15 years and can grow up to a meter (39.37 inches) and more, but lately bass seldom reach full maturity. It has come under increasing pressure from commercial fishing and so-called sport fishermen who do not practise 'Catch & Release'.

The bass has recently become the focus in the United Kingdom of a conservation effort by well organised recreational anglers. In Italy the seabass is subject to intensive commercial breeding in salt waters. The Republic of Ireland has some of the most strict laws regarding bass. All commercial fishing for the species is banned and there are several restrictions in place for anglers, notably a closed season May 15th to June 15th inclusive every year, minimum sizes of 40 centimeters and a bag limit of 2 fish per angler in a 24 hour period.

In the Netherlands some recreational anglers are rallying together with the Royal Dutch Sport Fishing Society in a joint effort to save the species from extinction in Dutch waters and the European seas at large. The current Dutch legal minimum size of 36 centimeters (14.1 inches) does seabass stocks more harm than good and is considered way to lenient. It takes a seabass four to seven years to reach maturity and mate for the first time. Generaly a mature fish that spawns for the first time will measure 35 up to 42 centimeter. A legal minimum size of 45 centimeter (17.7 inches) is therefore considered prudent and strongly supported. Banning commercial fishing altogether ánd not killing and selling fish under the pretext of 'sport fishing' would in the long run benefit the species much more though.

A fly-caught European seabass that swims again in Holland's North Sea.

DOES IT HELP? iPod therapy for the depressed

Suffering from depression (the number one mental illness in modern times) is no party. Suffering from recurring relapses into depression is even worse. What Prozac, Remeron or any other oral chemical substance from the gardens of Organon may not cure, is now being effectively tackled by a smart marriage of iPod and Mindfulness. Or so do suggest the trials.

Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy is concentrated awareness of one's thoughts, actions or motivations. Recent research makes a useful therapeutic role likely for Mindfulness in a number of medical and psychiatric conditions, notably the prevention of depression (relapses).

Available in Mp3 format for the use on your iPod are various Mindfulness awareness exercises such as ‘The bodyscan’, ‘Breathing’ and ‘Mindful moving’. Recently these spoken meditations were translated in Dutch. There are a number of places on the Internet where one might download Mindfulness-based iPod meditations free of charge. Here is a link for the Dutch versions: Noud de Haas.

As a hardcore depression addict myself I have tried Mindfulness-based iPod meditations for more than a year now and I am stunned as to their inner workings. Much of it has clear and undeniable roots in ancient Zen and Buddhist meditation. Being a long time admirer of Alan Watts (‘Tao: The Watercourse Way’, 1975), Robert Pirsig (‘Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance’ 1974) and other pre-Internet explorers of the mind I did not find taking a little time a day to listen to these meditations difficult at all. As a matter of fact Mindfulness-based therapy has such a deeply consoling understanding of what the depressed needs foremost that such a soothing awareness in itself works therapeutical. Spoken for myself: ‘Yes, iPod therapy helps and it is very cost-effective at that’.

BIG DEAL IN HOLLAND - Lifehacking for the masses

‘Upgrade Your Life: The Lifehacker Guide to Working Smarter, Faster, Better’ by Gina Trapani was launched yesterday in a Dutch translation. Lifehacking.nl together with A.W. Bruna Uitgevers presents Trapani’s much praised lifehacking tombola of tips and trics both as a paperback (ISBN13: 9789022958858 / € 19,95) and as a free pdf-download on www.lifehacking.nl.

Lifehacking has become a big deal in the Netherlands. Leading lifehacking guru Martijn Aslander, the Dutch Jamie Oliver of e-life and cooking with an inbuilt smart-bug, has effectively evoked a charm front that is quickly changing the Dutch ‘outlook’ on the love-hate relationship with our laptops. Martijn (connector, resourcer, lead figure within Elvenstone with a wink @ Tolkien) is the founder of lifehacking.nl and the first Dutch Lifehacking Academy. His seminars on networking in the new reputation economy are entertaining eye-openers for suits and geeks alike. Earlier this year Martijn Aslander co-authored with Frank Meeuwsen, Taco Oosterkamp and Sanne Roemen a Dutch book on lifehacking: ‘100 Lifehackingtips om prettiger en efficiënter te werken’ (ISBN (EAN): 978-90-8965-009-2 (9789089650092) / € 19,90 at Van Duuren Media) ánd a free pdf-download at www.lifehacking.nl). Lifehacking hacks on! Or Dr. Phil's merry oneliner: 'I want you to get exited about your life!'.

Dutch Lifehacking guru leads the way

Martijn Aslander at a seminar on networking in the new reputation economy for the joint body of 1nP Mental Health workers on October 4th in Den Bosch, The Netherlands.