by Teresa Lynch
A couple of years ago, Justin Keene was involved in a cycling accident that tore his shoulder labrum. Eager for hobbies outside of media – and fueled by a desire to get outdoors – Justin started making trips to Indianapolis to take classes on tying fishing lures. Fly fishing, a pastime he had enjoyed since his youth, was out of the question until his shoulder recovered, but tying lures wasn’t.
Though tying a lure may seem simple, creating every portion of a lure is a craft. “I take a hook and I attach synthetic or real feathers and fur to it to try to simulate the things that the fish are actually eating; be that another fish, an insect, or a worm. I’m essentially fooling [the fish] into eating something that’s close to what it should be eating,” he said with a laugh.
Justin grew up in Lubbock, Texas, and made frequent family vacations to Red River, New Mexico where he learned to fish for trout from his father. Around eight, he was introduced to fly fishing by a local angler. He quickly became capable and then proficient at the style; quite a feat for someone that young because of the physical requirements of the activity. He carried on fishing as a hobby throughout his youth, but eventually pursuing his doctorate would bring him to IU. When he left Texas, he established his website, Stream2Stream, as a way to keep his family in the loop about his fishing adventures.
And he found plenty of opportunity to fish in Bloomington. “When I moved here Travis Ross and I started going fishing a little bit, I had never really fished for bass…I thought it sounded awful. I was a trout guy…but, I started going with him and through him I met some other guys that I still fish with quite a bit. I even ended up getting [Travis] into fly fishing, which was fun.”
Around Bloomington, Justin goes out fishing in small rivers such as Wild Cat Creek near Lafayette, as well as on larger bodies of water such as Lake Monroe. He’s also fortunate to have access to the Clear Creek watershed very close to his home. When the weather is nice, he likes to try to go every morning.
Justin is a catch-and-release fisherman. He uses hooks that are difficult for the fish to swallow, making the process more humane, an important component for him. But, that’s not to say that he doesn’t enjoy the sport of it. Justin says that with fly fishing for smaller fish “you’re actually pulling them in by hand…you can really feel the fight, the head shakes, and the tremors in the line. It’s this really intimate experience with nature and I find it really fun and neat and different.”
Although originally his family turned him on to fishing, Justin has since returned the favor, showing his father the ropes of fly fishing. Justin will be returning to west Texas later this year, but he will continue fishing and is looking forward to heading back to Red River with his family. His wife, also an accomplished angler, will be learning to fly fish this summer.
When you hear Justin talk about it, it’s obvious that in fishing, he has found something that goes beyond a casual hobby – and it’s something he will enjoy for a long time. “For me, a lot of the places I go – even around here – these fish aren’t stocked. They weren’t bred for the purpose of sport fishing. I mean, small mouth bass in Indiana have been here for millions of years… and I like the idea that I interact with this other being for a few minutes of its life and my life.”