Linda S. Brown
James M. Glass Sr.
Helen Doris (Brown) Issacs
Joseph “Joe” Lueck
Gloria R. Moccaldi-Boone
Melvin C. “Mel” North
Mary Ellen Pope
Paul David Rauhut
Lydia J. Rubendall
Fredonna Jean (Smith) Tiffany
Arthur Edward Whalen Jr.
The little stream is a narrow, gravel-bottomed tributary of the Rock River that cuts through Rock County farmland in a slow, lazy swath.
It’s skinny water that’s local enough to float you right past cornfield hillsides and regular guys in ball caps out scouting their residential backyards for blown-down tree limbs and twigs. Nothing exotic.
But if you’re sitting in local fly-fishing guide George Kaider’s 13-foot-long rubber raft, you start to forget about all of that.
Somehow, the gentle Zen in Kaider’s voice transports the boat and its riders to some quiet, steady mountain stream of the mind.
A public school counselor by trade and a resident of Lake Geneva, Kaider guides spring and summer fly-fishing excursions in the streams and rivers of Rock and Walworth counties.
Kaider is 51, but he has fly-fished more than half his life. And this spring, he launched In The Flow Fly Fishing Guide Service.
Kaider instructs and guides fly-fishing novices, intermediates and experts alike with a soft, reassuring voice as his customers work on stretches of local streams that can hold some big Wisconsin game fish.
In The Flow probably is the only local guide service that uses the waters of Rock and Walworth counties to run excursions exclusively dedicated to the sport of fly-fishing.
“I just wanted to start something for myself on my own. Southern Wisconsin area has some really neat fisheries, trout streams, smallmouth bass and pike streams. But it’s really not a very well-known region for fly-fishing,” Kaider said. “I just saw an opportunity to build a business and to build something with our unique fisheries here in southern Wisconsin.”
Kaider scans the stream from the center of his raft, scouting along banks overhung with leaning willows and box elder trees.
He’s hunting the stream’s surface for ripples, bulges and eddies that he calls “nervous water.” They are all telltale signs of fish motion just beneath the surface that give away the hiding spots of 20-inch-long, golden-brown smallmouth bass and long, green, saw-toothed northern pike.
These are fish that favor sudden, massive attacks. Ambushes.
To catch them, Kaider casts hooked fishing flies he hand-wraps with colorful chenille and feathers that flutter and dance like miniature foxtails through the clear, springtime water.
Kaider tosses a blood-red fly tied to the line to the water. The line and lure flutter toward the bank, sailing from the long fly rod in a graceful arc. The line falls slowly as if it’s in a trance, and the fly flutters just beneath the surface.
Then, a big fish, probably a smallmouth bass, flashes out from the shade of the stream’s bank. It smashes into the fly.
“Oh! Did you guys see that? It was a tank!” Kaider says. But he says it softly—a blackbird perched on a limb nearby doesn’t even spook.
Kaider doesn’t land the big fish, but he’s not worried. The float down the river is mainly recon.
Kaider is scouting the stream for changes in depth and structure from the prior year. It’s still early spring, so the mayfly hatch and ensuing fish feeding frenzy hasn’t started. Many of the biggest fish are still working their way back upstream from deep, winter holds in the Rock River.
But come high summer, Kaider hopes to have his days booked up with eight-hour fly-fishing excursions with a blend of newbies and fly-fishing enthusiasts.
His clients early this season have included a pair of international business travelers who drove up to southern Wisconsin looking for a rustic break from business conferences and a few young couples who tried out Kaider’s service as an out-of-the-ordinary, daylong, outdoor date.
Some people Kaider takes out floating, wading and rowing the skinny streams of southern Wisconsin don’t know a whit about fly-fishing.
Kaider loves that because then he gets to draw from his professional wheelhouse as a career-long educator.
“This just seemed to be the natural fit for me, really using all my skills as a teacher, as a counselor and a coach. I mean, these are the things that I do out here on the water with people. There’s some anxiety that goes into learning something new. Sometimes folks are getting in a boat for the first time or they don’t know how to cast or think they just can’t do this. Don’t worry. You coach them and teach them through it,” Kaider said.
What Kaider is doing is a different take on local fishing, using a long rod with a light line and nearly weightless, feathery lures.
Somewhere downstream, Kaider hops out in his neoprene wading overalls and pulls the little raft over a shoal near a long bend in the stream. He grabs one of his long fly rods and wades out into knee-deep water.
Near the bank, another man works the shallows for fish. The man is fishing the stream the way almost everyone except Kaider would, with a typical, spinning reel and rod with regular tackle he might have bought in the fishing aisle at a hardware store.
Yet he and Kaider regard each other with a sense of mutual respect. Then, both men slip into their own personal pursuit of fish, engrossed in the late-afternoon slant of light as it hits the water and casts shadows that outline the stream’s rocky bottoms.
Kaider said he likes to teach people he guides about the unique hydrology and ecosystems of southern Wisconsin streams. But what he likes most, he said, is when people get lost in the fishing. If nobody’s saying anything, Kaider knows they’ve reached a state of mind that is the basis of his guide service’s name.
“That’s what I mean by in the flow. You find yourself someplace where time stands still. Five hours feels like five minutes,” Kaider said. “You’re just fishing.”
An attorney has served Rock County with notice of lawsuits that would seek $550,000 in damages for 11 workers the county laid off at its Rock Haven nursing home after the workers refused the COVID-19 vaccine earlier this year.
In a notice of claim filed at the Rock County Clerk’s Office, Fitchburg attorney Michael Anderson notified the county he was seeking $50,000 in lost wages and benefits, plus reimbursement of legal fees for each of the 11 Rock Haven employees he is representing.
The legal notice argues that the 11 Rock Haven employees were wrongly laid off and later terminated over a county mandate that required them to receive the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine during scheduled clinics the nursing home held in January and February.
Anderson threatened legal action earlier this year on behalf of the laid-off employees, arguing that Rock County and its county-run nursing home violated federal law by requiring all its employees to receive a COVID-19 vaccine under a vaccination schedule the county had set for the workers.
The notice, which Rock County Clerk Lisa Tollefson confirmed Anderson had filed this week, is not a lawsuit, but it sets the ball in motion on possible legal action against the county and Rock Haven.
Anderson wrote in the notice that the county has ignored his repeated requests to discuss the worker layoffs and vaccination mandate, which remains in effect.
The claim Anderson filed this week continues to argue that federal law doesn’t allow public or private entities to force workers to receive a vaccine that lacks full approval for use by the Food and Drug Administration.
Earlier this year, the county had mandated Rock Haven workers receive the Moderna vaccine, which since earlier this year has been authorized for federal “emergency use” only.
Anderson has argued that federal law allows anyone to decline emergency-use authorized vaccines. In the legal notice, Anderson argues that the a top official in the federal CDC’s advisory committee on immunization practices publicly said that “individuals” have the right to decline emergency authorized vaccines.
“Rock County’s vaccine mandate is directly violative of…federal law and is a deliberate and unlawful taking away of Rock Haven’s statutorily-guaranteed right to decide for themselves whether to accept or refuse administration of a COVID-19 vaccine,” Anderson wrote in the notice.
In a separate claim in the notice, Anderson refers to all 11 workers as “former Rock Haven employees,” and argues the county’s “layoff/termination” of the workers is an illegal and “retaliatory” action against the workers.
Anderson argues the workers had a right under law to decline what he calls an “illegally” mandated COVID-19 vaccine and not face layoff or other sanctions by the county or Rock Haven.
It’s not clear from Anderson’s notice whether the county or Rock Haven has terminated any of the 11 employees outright, or if the nursing home has back filled any of their work positions while they were laid off.
On Thursday, The Gazette was unable to reach Rock County Corporation Counsel Richard Greenlee for comment.
County officials and Rock Haven in a December notice to workers announced the mandate and told the workers that they’d be laid off and not allowed to return to work unless they took the vaccine.
County officials earlier had said the county mandated the vaccines because it sought to protect Rock Haven’s vulnerable, elderly residential population from COVID-19 infection.
Although the county initially laid off a few dozen Rock Haven workers who’d declined the vaccines, the county eventually agreed to grant personal health or religious exemptions for a handful of the employees who had declined.