Sunday, December 27, 2009


A female river otter was recently transplanted to Utah’s Provo River. She arrived amongst great controversy from the fly-fishing community; a population that for the most part extols the virtues of wildlife. As more are released and they establish themselves within the fisheries riparian corridor, their impact will be closely monitored by all interested parties: biologists, anglers and other recreational users of the Provo River system. Only time will tell of their place and impact.

Across this country otters have been in a state of decline for a century. When the fur trade was at its peak in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s their desirable pelts led to the decimation of their population, as did any mammal with marketable qualities. Since then loss of habitat and pollution have continued to impact their numbers. In the 1970’s wildlife management agencies across the country implemented strategies to protect and mitigate habitats that were critical to these mammals. Reintroducing otters into healthy habitats where population had become critical or absent became an integral part of this process; a strategy that has been successful and well documented here in Utah.

In 1989 otters were relocated to Utah’s Green River. When anglers, guides, outfitters and local businesses learned of this, much criticism and concern followed. It was felt that the impact these animals would have on the trout population would detrimentally affect the fishery and in turn those whose livelihoods were dependent on this fishery. Two decades have passed since the first otters were introduced and their presence has benefited these waters in a number of ways, yet many in the angling community remain concerned and vocal about their presence. As long as they are free to cohabitate here and on other waters with similar attributes a certain level of narrow minded apprehension will exist.

At the root of the controversy lies an otter’s diet. On average an adult otter consumes 2-3 pounds of fish a day. With the Green and Provo River being several of the countries more prolific fisheries, anglers have thoughtlessly taken notice. Otters do eat trout, but given the option they prefer other more palatable species: carp, chubs or whitefish. They also have a liking for crawfish, a crustacean that is prolific in Deer Creek Reservoir, as are carp.

It is known that a predator based ecosystem leads to a more vigorous and stable ecosystem. In referencing this in a recent conversation, an acquaintance raised concerns about otters not having a predator base. On the Provo River, this is what I came up with: dogs, coyotes, bobcats, mountain lions, and eagles. I’d say that’s a fair number. Add one more noxious predator, two-leggeds.

While putting the finishing touches to this piece, I learned that the otter mentioned in the opening paragraph has already died. An errant surgical complication led to her death. To those dedicated to this project and others who see the value in it, the news was devastating, especially since she was pregnant. To many in the angling community, they couldn’t be more delighted.

I fish because it puts me in places of beauty; liquid corridors resplendent in life, removed from the pandemonium of city life. Although fishing often is the vehicle that transports me amongst such panoramic splendor, it’s the entire range of the experience that makes the activity so rewarding.

To fish a watershed void of wildlife would be nothing short of a sterile experience. I’m more than willing to catch fewer fish, to accommodate these otters and other species whose existence and ensuing impacts may result in more resilient habitats. Playing court jester to suit our own avaricious motivations, since we fish for sport and not necessity, seems rather maligned although not surprising.

Several years removed, in the predawn hours, a friend and I walked the banks of a river long before anyone else had yet to arrive. Our early jaunt had nothing to do with fishing, but to experience a river as it awoke, hoping to find its corridor yet undisturbed.

For a mile we traveled a path long worn by others before entering the rivers current to cross. Downstream, in the distance a placid pools stillness suddenly erupted into life. Perplexed we stood vigil until we identified the cause of the disturbance, otters. Having fished these waters for over 30 years, it was the first time I had seen them. In our still act of vigilance, they frolicked close enough for us to here their barks, elevated in protest at our presence before silently slipping beneath the rivers waters, deceptively disappearing.

The significance of this encounter erased all else that took place that day. We probably caught a fish or two, but that isn't what either of us remembered.

To fish waters where habitats provide the opportunity to witness a spectrum of wildlife heightens the overall experience. Although, trout play a vital role in the affair they are only part of the ecological equation. All others play an equally vital role in the ecological balance of those resources we derive sport from. In the grand scheme of things it is us who are the intruders, and not those who now seek refuge within this biologically diverse resource; a resource where the otters will have an impact, as do we as well.

Monday, November 09, 2009


First Light on a Perfect Steelhead Morning!

With winter knocking on Utahs door step the significance of the years passage hits home. The season has transpired as if life's time table had no relevance. This year in particular.

BC at its Best

Fresh from the Ocean

November in my world brings closure to the season regardless of its success or failures. Although, in fishing with a fly their are no failures. Over the years I have relived many of my journeys through my photographs and journal entries.Novembers quite cold tempers shop life creating windows of opportunities where years past travels with fly rod and reel can be relived and recorded. It will be a while before my journal entries can focus on British Columbia. Although it seems a distant memory, the accompanying photographs keep those memories fresh. I’m grateful for that.

The Arsenal

Cheeks of Crimson

For the first time since arriving in British Columbia the sun found the western hillside poplars and cottonwoods illuminating falls shifting foliage. Having been pissed on the previous days, suns radiance was a welcome salutation. There are sayings when chasing these fish about the character of a day; some revitalize the soul others can inflict harsh punishment, especially at the end of a fishless day. All is not easy in this game, for either man or beast, yet such elements make those successes even more revered.

The Mind Sweeper

Poachers Prints


As falls last leaves cascade haplessly to the ground, ocean travelers continue to trickle into the great watersheds of the Northwest until only the bare branches remain, signifying that the end to another year is near. Each year, the silent season arrives more quickly, and no more so than this one. Although some images and experiences linger, like tracks in wet sand they gradually disappear only to live on through photographs, diminished memories and abbreviated writings. But at least I have these, which like worlds waters that I am fortunate to wander I remain truly grateful.

The Way Home

The Journey Continues

Steelhead Paradise

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Steelheaders Ills

Cradling the wild fish in the rivers glacial currents stung my hands. Her prominent reflective scales flashed silver in the late afternoon sun. A hint of pink flecked from the rhythmical movement of her gills continuing down here lateral line. River bottom was visible through the distal tips of her pectoral fins, now steady and flared at her side. I still remember upon first bringing her to hand the milky white appearance of her plumb belly and the scar that lingered at her wrist. With the powerful flick of her broad tail she vanished; a phenomenon I’ve witnessed hundreds of times that lends a hint of doubt that she or others were even there.

As arduous as her life passage is, it pales by comparison to those steelhead that travel in my home waters in search of those rivulets of their birth; she passes no dams nor through the toxic waters that lie behind them. Upon her return and those of her smolt they will not know the burden and the toll such ill conceived atrocities take on their kind. They will not now the indignity of being loaded into a barge and boated through stagnant obstacles; a distance they could easily manage themselves, yet such navigation often become fatal. The fact that many steelhead survive such a journey is testament to their kind. Instead this beautiful hen and those of this pristine drainage migrate through flowing waters unimpeded by man; a luxury that few other races of steelhead encounter these days.

Slowly I stood, mentally reliving the brief encounter taking stock of the scale of the experience. Before me a free flowing river that dwarfs those waters that make her whole. Her arteries fed from a resilient yet threatened labyrinth of glacial basins each sustaining their own unique species of steelhead. For the most part these stocks remain relatively healthy, yet some stocks swim these currents no more victims of commercial netting that could have easily been prevented. Given the world’s climates and other encroachments, these remaining stocks also seem to be following a similar fate. Each passing year I seem to ponder such notions more, yet marvel in wonderment at the grandness of this country resilient fish and the totality of what draws me here.

A formidable wall of ancient cottonwoods resplendent in fall color stand guard over this emerald corridor. Recent snows dust the granite peaks that tower overhead in all directions. Wisps of vapor dance around their formidable summits. October’s sun radiates upward from the expansive field of neatly strewn boulders where I ponder the plight of these fish, this vulnerable landscape and its rivers knowing the greed of man can change all with the stroke of a pen. The native peoples of this land whose lives for centuries lived in harmony with these resources know of such fates.

For decades I have wandered liquid highways a driven soul where steelhead have migrated since ancient times; an event so purposeful and eminent it lends a humble perspective. Each year the urge to return knowing life’s journey comes to and end becomes much stronger, the sorrow in leaving more painful. Wilderness, their rivers and their mysterious travelers evoke such thoughts and emotion.

Content I again enter the river my pace now tempered finding solace in each cast, and the gentle arc of the line as it slides across the water. Periodically I lean back taking stock knowing my travels here are coming to an end, yet in the same thought recognize my fortunes in having such opportunities. Upon returning home, I know I’ll ponder with detail these days and count the time between until I return. These are the ills of those who wander these landscapes in pursuit of such a noble fish.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

The Drive

After midnight we would finish packing. Little dialog was exchanged between us after along day and knowing what lie ahead. Before departing we would stick a pair of twenties in the ash tray to cover food and gas during our travels. Such was life back then.

My partner invariably began the drive behind the wheel. His stints were always short lived. An hour or two would pass before he would be humped over the steering column, eyes a gaze barely pushing 40 in a 65. I’d put in a dip, pour a cup of coffee and take over. Sometime during the day he would comment on his state of refreshment. I never quite had that same sense, finding a mid day nap my only option for eluding the numbness that grew as the day lingered.

An hour into it our journey took us north, leaving the blue highway behind for two lanes our headlights the only luminance penetrating the sudden blackness. Through some of the west’s heartland we slowly progressed; agricultural lands dotted with cattle and neatly rowed crops lay juxtaposed yet hidden in the night. Periodically a lone light would signify an approaching farm. On nights it would rain, our travels became treacherously slow.

Sometime in the early hours of morning dawns first light would expose the Teton’s rising majestically on the horizon signifying that our drive was nearing its end. The fertile valleys were lined with rows of neatly sown crops interrupted by a smattering of small towns. Climbing from the valley floor to the caldera the landscape changed from fields to one pitted with sage, pine, aspen and varieties of wildflowers.

After camp was set, and fresh coffee was made before heading out to fish. By the time we’d reached the worn turn out, morning’s sun had removed any chill from the air. Methodically we would change; donning waders and assembling rods, attaching reels, carefully stringing the line, each lost in our own sequence of readiness. Spinners gather overhead; an orgy that plays out daily on rivers during the season. Eventually we would make the long hike through dense fields of Sage, Lupine, Larkspur and Mules Ear. For the first time since leaving there’s a sense of alertness knowing we’d soon be soothed by flowing waters and casting to rising trout.

Several decades ago “The Drive” lingered for seven laborious hours. Today, it takes a little over four, if one is motivated. Like this drive much has changed in our world. In some respects our chaotic and shortened world leaves me yearning for that period in time when life passed at a much more leisurely pace, yet one now can leave this polluted and burgeoning city behind to fly fish on some of the worlds most prolific waters all that much quicker. A trade off that I struggle to find consolation in knowing the affects continued growth will have on the west and those waters and landscapes were I seek solace. Unfortunately those who pursue such rabid development as sung by Jerry Jeff Walker "…have never seen the northern lights, never seen the hawk on the wing, and never seen the spring in the Great Divide…".

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Part of the Picture

Fly-fishing’s allure draws us from a myriad of directions. From the exhilaration one demonstrates upon landing their first fish, to the emptiness that's remains after the fish of a life time eludes the net, to the visual beauty in the surrounding landscapes where we pursue our obsessions. Amongst those who cast wisps of fur and feather there are many similarities in what we find appealing, yet the sport is such that it allows us to mold it to ones personal needs.

Over time, I’ve been fortunate to fish many of the world’s fisheries. In doing so, I’ve come to appreciate the array of physical and emotional experiences that are generated when fishing with a fly. Looking back to my early beginnings my ventures where more singular in focus. Now there are a variety of reasons that create the urge to cast a fly. In the grand scheme of things, the beauty in the sport is how it caters to each at so many different levels rendering a profusion of life experiences.

Waiting for the evening rise....

Hoping for one more...

Over the years I’ve always enjoyed trying to capture the beauty in fly-fishing through the lens of a camera. Although not a photographer, the rewards and challenges of preserving images have become as satisfying as the moment when a fish takes a fly. On a recent trip I spent as much time filming my days on the water as I did fishing. Reflecting back on a life of fishing with a fly rod I remember few if any such ventures that were as visually stimulating. It was a rare moment when one could focus on the task at hand without being distracted by the dynamic weather and visual spectacles that Mother Nature continually displayed. Although the fishing was quite good, it became only a piece of that which was impressionable.

One that Got Away......

One that didn't.....

Ducking for cover....

In a thousand words, I couldn’t describe that which daily unfolds when fly-fishing. Yet lost in such images as these are Mother’s Natures music; the sound of Sandhill Cranes off in the distance, the wind as it rustles a pine, rain as it lands upon water, the cry of a Redtail hawk, or lightning that sends you to your knees knowing such a posture still leaves you exposed. Yet they suffice to elude a mood leaving one to reflect on the beauty we are confronted with when we venture out to cast a fly upon waters that leave us with images, begging us to return.

Friday, July 24, 2009

After Hours Tugs

Mid summer’s late evening light and July’s caddis hatches created the seasons first after hour’s Shop Rats night out at a local watering hole. After a long hot day of trolling behind the counter the thought of cool air and water is sufficient motivation alone to expeditiously flip the closed sign and head for the nearest productive water. Add some cold brews, a chew, the potential for an evening rise with your compadres, and closing time just can’t arrive too soon.

Prior to our hasty departure discussions as to choice of waters given we have several good fisheries within an hour of the shop occupied the quite times. Matt, a shop manager and one never of a mind to waste coveted fishing time settled the conversation; what’s the closest river that allows us the most amount of time on the water to fish? With that pragmatic approach we settled on the Weber River. The fact that this river also has some of the states most prolific evening caddis hatches and a fair number of sizeable browns only bolstered the beleaguered resolution. In the end it mattered little, yet generated much more than an idle thought.

We arrived from a variety of directions. Nick and Bryce rendezvoused at the Side Track Café, a favorite shop eatery in Heber City, for Pasta Night and a few cold ones before joining those of us who worked. Sometime around 11pm when we’d reeled in for the night their diversion proved a wise diversion.

Shortly after our arrival and rapid exodus from Matt’s Element, the local residents quickly amassed for a gathering in hopes of a quick easy meal. Several dove for the Deet when one paused long enough to intravenously take a blood sample before joining their mates.


Bodies and gear were quickly sprawled about the ground in preparation for the evening hatch. Momentary confusion struck before the cluster of Patagonia Pack Vests were personally identified, given that’s what most of us fish with. If there was ever such a thing as chaotic organization, we resembled that conception. From a distance to the unsuspecting observer we may have more closely resembled a well armored swat team versus anglers preparing for an evening on the water.

Like ants we anxiously followed each other across the lush field to the rivers edge. From there we broke off into various directions in search of caddis and a seductive rise. By now suns heat had settled below the western horizon, the air now chilled. The tall streamside grasses yielded a few caddis as we moved about. Several worked their way over the waters mirrored surface, yet no trout rose to take the fleeting insects.

From the tailout, the footprint of a subtle rise grabbed the evening’s first attention. Shortly after that another rise appeared, the ring quickly melting with the ruffled surface of the riffle. Eventually several browns broke the waters rippled surface as caddis began to rise. A quick flip of a fly into the seam where several trout had risen didn’t drift long before dissappearing in the dying light. It wasn’t the largest of browns, yet its strength left an impression of a trout much larger. We hooked into several more spunky trout before the trout and the brief hatch ended among the growing darkness.

Succumbing to the inevitable we made our way under a star filled sky back. Several headlamps disappeared in and out of the dense vegetation, highlighting the others. On the frontage road, the dome lights from a vehicle showed others had given up earlier. They greeted our arrival with a welcome and cold beer.

It was after 11pm when we departed for home. Above us the Milky Way stretched across the horizon and drew considerable attention as we discussed the evenings mixed experiences. Anymore such sights are a rarity. One of the kids pointed it out. It was encouraging to see given most kids these days couldn’t recognize the

Big Dipper.

This will be one of several such forays now that the caddis have begun to pop. We talked of the fortunes we have here in Utah and the west before departing. Although such forays surrender moments of pandemonium, these evenings always make for a rejuvenating conclusions to a long day. This evenings experience was no exceptions.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Early Season

“A picture is worth a thousand words”. Through the windshield on a recent foray into trout country attempting to find fishable water makes one ponder the sanity behind such actions. At times during the early season journeys to western rivers and streams simply were a bust; reservoirs filled to beyond their thresholds regurgitating torrents downstream, monsoonal rains taking stream levels even further beyond their natural limits. Yet, the adventure of the unknown that early season fishing yields is often justification alone; seldom predictable, occasionally successful, always intriguing.

Given the patience of those who pursue trout with fur and feather this wet season has been trying. For others willing to roll the dice, there are rewards and discoveries that only the wrath of Mother Nature’s violence can conjure up.

If you are serious about finding good water to fish when seasonal conditions are so unpredictable better leave home with a full tank, a thermos of coffee or two, pack a lunch and don’t plan on heading pack anytime soon. You should also have a plan if you are hoping to have any opportunity at success. That said, even the best laid plans this spring have failed to deliver.

In a recent trek, the undertaking revolved around a reliable rumor involving Salmon Flies. Upon arriving at our destination, Salmon Flies may have been around, but the evenings down pour had negated any such opportunities. We moved finding the next piece of water in better shape, but also suffering from the previous nights deluge. Hours later we climbed to 9660’ the road eventually vanishing into a gray wet abyss before dropping into the canyon. Gnarled aspens still void of leaves eerily rose obscured by the summits dense blanket. This image fueled a growing skepticism. Descending the sun navigated through the ashen vapors illuminating a distant hillside lending hope to our dwindling spirits, the brilliant display only temporary.

Pulling over the rain continued to follow us, yet below the streams currents ran clear, a stark contrast from those waters we viewed earlier in the day. Rain drops dimpled the surface. Downstream a trout rose, its residual ring dissipating in the streams quiet currents. Those miles and swollen rivers we had left behind quickly transcended into distant memories.

PMD’s, Drakes, and Blue Wing Olives struggled to rid them selves of the stream. Those that struggled quickly disappeared, the streams piscatorial predators taking advantage of the easy meal. They showed the same eagerness for our flies, as long as the drift was true. At times that didn’t even matter.

At days end we gathered in a brief interlude of sun, riding ourselves of a damp chill. The valleys Aspens and Willows glowed, their newly emerged foliage shimmering in various shades of luminous green. Just before departing we witnessed a Golden Eagle’s rage as it fell from the sky in an attempt to red an unsuspecting Redtail from its turf both perilously plunging earthward. The hawk pulled up, the less agile Golden continued to descent before recovering to continue its ill time pursuit. This alone was worth the journey.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Living on a Dream

In the predawn hours of semi-darkness we idle north to the calm waters enveloping Key West. It’s May, the commencement of peak tarpon season. The islands tourists that flock here have departed the culturally mixed tropical destination for their more mundane domiciles, leaving it relatively mundane for those who pursue a mythical fish that has captured mans imagination since the early 1900’s.

Outside the no wake zone our guide seamlessly puts the small skiff on plane, navigating the juggernaut of invisible channels and the myriad of moored boats tethered randomly like abandon dogs within the islands sheltered basins. Startled cormorants emerge interrupted from the oceans oiled reflections as we pass. The morning’s cool air tugs at ones flesh vitalizing senses that aren’t accustomed to functioning at such an early hour.

John slows the skiff some to accommodate the smooth emerald rollers that separate us from Tower Flat, the deep channels blue waters vibrant even at this dull hour. Pulling up to the flat, its dimensions are easily defined by the mornings soft ruffling breeze. With the turn of a key, the motor dies lending an anxious calm to the atmosphere as we glide silently to the flats distal edge. All eyes methodically affix upon the shimmering waters, a rods quietly extracted from the hull, while John deftly attains the poling platform. To the east, the horizon turns various shades of crimson.

Having the pleasure of fishing with John for a number of years, we’ve learned some of his subtleties. Idle conversations slips between us in hushed tones in anticipation as he deftly works the shallow waters. In our first years we wouldn’t have noticed the alteration in the skiffs movement, but now we understand. Following the alteration peripheries locate the tarpons dissipating footprint, the only visual evidence that there are tarpon here. John quietly maneuvers the Dolphin knowing from experience that should the fish again show we’ll be in position to have a shot. Somewhere submerged the fish slips by silently undetected, “we’ll find another”.

From a thousand miles removed, I can smell the sweet scent of the ocean, hear and feel the breeze as it ruffles the ocean waters, the tousle of flags perched atop the marinas tall ships, they’re all vivid recollections. Once you’ve experienced the roll of a giant tarpon, felt its immeasurable power, heard and witnessed its manic gyrations timelessly suspended above shattered oceans the impressions remain eternally etched.

Just before the tarpon takes the fly, there’s a moment of brief hesitation as the prehistoric fish sizes up that which it pursues, their giant eyes unwavering. With a flick of a powerful tail, the tarpon accelerates, lifting simultaneously opening its cavernous mouth, the abyss, sucking in its prey. In the briefest of moments the fly disappears, almost imperceptibly, yet there is no mistaking the act. Moments later the line comes tight, the giant fish clearing the water, shaking its body violently before crashing into the emerald waters of the flat. In an instant the entire length of fly line disappears from the oversized reel, like a runaway kite severed from its string.

For the first time since being introduced to the waters off Key West and hooking my first tarpon, I’ll not make the annual migration in pursuit of this revered fish, yet realize the wealth achieved in past experiences. Like the addict I’ve become I yearn for that which I can not have. Fly-fishing is like that; casting allusions of hope for that which is often not so easily attainable.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Never Again

The snow blew vertically across the landscape as we made our way to the river; ideal conditions for spring mayflies and not necessarily so for those who fish. Entering the canyon a patch of blue sky lay visibly obscured above us. At first glance the winds ferocity disheveled the trees and tugged at the surface of the water, but the snow had begun to dissipate. Further upriver an impoundment showed little change in the winds temperament. To our amazement the canyons turnouts were void of any vehicles, the river undisturbed by the presence of any anglers; an anomaly for this fishery even under such challenging conditions.

By the time we arrived in the canyons upper reaches the wind had begun to disperse. Still no signs of legged’s, leaving us with unbridled choices. In the three decades I’ve fished here, I’ve only fished in solitude in dawns first light, but never at this late hour. I ponder the likelihood of ever witnessing such an unprecedented act of emptiness again.

I expect another vehicle or two to join us as we get dress and rig our rods, yet to our dismay none do. The steep bank that we must navigate to reach the river is covered in snow. Cautiously we descend. Once we reach the river bottom, we spread out, knowing there’s no one here. The suns rays maybe warm, but the canyon breeze adds a slight bit of discomfort to the air, yet it’s far more pleasant than the other days I’ve fished here this season.

Upstream a break of mature conifers shelters our casts and waters from the wind. Midges scurry about, and a blue wing or two drifts uninterrupted on the rivers placid currents. On the far bank, the afternoon’s first rise grabs my attention. Lazily I ponder the situation, soaking in the sun, patiently waiting for the hatch to mature before committing. Like magic the delicate insects appear, their numbers increasing, drifting haplessly like toy sailboats waiting for their wings to dry anticipating flight. It’s an amazing struggle given their size and the environment they must navigate to reach adulthood.

Eventually several of the rivers larger trout are attracted to the waters surface. From where I sit I watch a nice brown track a single blue wing olive, drifting back several feet before leisurely opening it’s mouth; water and mayfly cascading into its gullet. Before I leave it will take one of my flies in the same confident fashion, settling back in its lie before feeling the pressure of the line that now connects us coming tight. Twice the brown clears the water, its plumb body shimmering in the late afternoon sun before reluctantly sliding into my net.

These fish have wintered well, evidence of last year’s good flows. I admire this final trout’s large black spots and those prisms of color that are unique to Salmo trutta. It’s a far larger brown than I anticipated, although it felt heavy on the line. It’s broad pectoral fins flare, stabilizing its body in the cool current. With a gentle thrust of its tail it slides from my outstretched hand.

I secure my fly to the rod and reel in the slack eventually retaking my position on the bank in the sun content with the day. As the pool mends, its trout settle again feeding confidently on the carpet of blue wings. Quietly I sit and watch. For the first time since I started casting I hear the wind whistle through the adjacent hillside of protective pines. For the moment time slows as only it can on a river so unfettered.

After a while I gathered my reluctant companions. The rivers trout continued to rise, tempting our retreat. We pause periodically taking in a river bathed in afternoons soft light, its currents still void of anglers, its trout feeding undisturbed, an image and a day we all store in the memory banks knowing it my never happen again.

Friday, April 10, 2009

The Nipple Rise

Couldn’t resist! Rise forms often lend insight into what a trout may be taking. Here, there’s know doubt, yet the residue of pure bliss from another blue wing unsuspectingly engulfed the remaining lingering residual, the nipple rise form.

Sunday, March 29, 2009


When traveling distances without signs of human habitation, you’re wandering in destinations that are becoming increasing rare to experience. A thirteen hour traverse south from Atlanta will put you in such a place. In the dark of night we flew over fertile forests so vast they control much of the world’s climate. To date such mysterious habitats have only been viewed from the comforts of my couch. Tracking the trajectory of the plane, I began to surmise the expansiveness of this rich continent. I vividly recall the graphic animation as the plane entered the northern tip of South America. Hours later it appeared to have barely moved.

The sky outside the aircrafts windows were beginning to pale as we prepared to land in Argentina’s capitol, Buenos Aires. Its size was as impressionable as the country it resides within. After the lengthy journey it was a welcome change, but generally such masses of humanity aren’t much of a welcome reprieve for me, after flying packed like cattle on their way to the slaughter house. Guess I’m not very cultural, preferring landscapes were evening skies aren’t diffused by light or pollutants that are byproducts of the worlds densely populated metropolises.

Travel these days has a certain level of anxiety. Add time zones, customs, and language barriers and it’s often escalated to a much higher level. All was going smoothly, until we confronted a check in agent who wouldn’t let us carry our rods on as we began the next leg of our travels after our cultural awakening in BA. She must have been having a ruff day. Our best “Spanglish” didn’t win us any consolations. Somehow, we diverted the discussion sufficiently to move forward, taking fate in our own hands. Had we not, a number of rods would have been splintered into carbon fiber toothpicks, that is if they showed up at all; fortunately only a minor blip, considering other potential mishaps.

By the time we met Ron, Chocolate Labs Expedition proprietor and his guides Diego and Eduardo we were ready to see a familiar face. Even in such a remote city as Bariloche, they easily stood out. On a grander scale, in Buenos Aires, street peddlers and merchants of various sensual pleasures annoyingly picked us out just as easily. I’ve found it pays to walk slowly in such situations. Wherever you travel, anglers are easily recognizable by those with similar pursuits, even without rods in their hands. Whether it’s the baseball caps, the ventilated shirts, or the raccoon eyes, regardless there is an aspect of herd mentality that’s noticeable.

Just outside of Bariloche, we traveled juxtaposed to the Rio Limay. Its invitingly clear currents immediately conjured preconceived images of Argentinean trout. From the main road, we detoured along one of its tributaries, steadily climbing. At the summit, we peered upon the Continental Divide, something none of us expected to encounter. The view was breathtaking, the road fittingly dirt, spiraling down through an uninhabited valley birthing yet another stream. They seemed to be endless.

Other than on the Limay we saw no anglers working the pristine waters we crossed that day. Entering San Martin and on into Junin sculptures and signs bearing silhouettes of trout was the first evidence of the areas summer bread lines. Just outside of Junin we crossed the Chimy Huin, another one of the more famous Argentinean waters, yet only one of a vast number we would cross this day. It was apparent that our brief stay would barely touch what Argentina offered in scenic vistas and waters to cast a fly within. Considering Chile’s snow capped Andes rose just a stones throw to the west where waters of a similar scale and prolificness flowed, a perspective grew that was somewhat inconceivable.

At the end of the long drive we entered San Humberto, home to the Rio Malleo, at least 30 some odd miles. The surrounding Lombardi Poplars exposed the properties whereabouts, as they did almost all estancias in the region. Behind its gated fence lay a well manicured lawn, meticulously landscaped with varieties of ornamental vegetation. Long legged Ibis patrolled the grounds for an unsuspecting meal, while the cackle of parrots filled the air. At the end of the driveway, the lodge looked richly inviting.

Being late we briefly met the proprietors before being escorted to the first of many epicurean delights and our first of many fine Malbecs. Although it was a snack to tide us until the evening meal, it could have easily sufficed until morning. It was readily apparent the eating in Argentina was an event, at least when it came to lunches and dinner. Dress was hurried as we prepared to sample the waters for the first time. It was what we had come for and anxiously anticipated from the time we left several days past.

The Rio Malleo was the perfect beginning to the trip. It’s a small piece of water when compared to many numerous liquid ribbons that dissect this fertile region. Ernest Schwiebert fished here on numerous occasions and wrote of its character often. The stream and the valley it meanders through is as picturesque a trout stream as you’ll find, especially with the towering presence of the Lanin volcano looming in the background. That first evening, those early apprehensions concerning distances traveled eroded as we stepped into the water.

The diversity of flyfishing options in the Neuquen Province is mesmerizing; from tiny spring creeks to waters equaling North America’s “Mother Rivers” presenting infinite opportunities. In our travels we caught many memorable fish, each of us left with our own fond recollections. For me, it was one fish that was more a testament to the Argentina’s elements than the fish itself.

This last day, winds blew from the put in, picking up where the left off from the previous day. If’ve your familiar with this country from a fishing perspective, you’re privy to it’s infamous winds. This day, they pummeled our backsides. Casting from the boat was tolerable, but they created persistent hardships on all the guides. With growing layers of dense clouds gathering to the west, the winds notched it up in afternoons waning light. The last fish of the day was a plump brown that exceeded most browns encounter when fishing home waters. As Ron tried to set the anchor, the brown propelled itself in the opposite directions of our drift quickly removing the fly line from the old Hardy. As the distance between us lengthened, the wind drove the belly of the exposed line far over the exposed stones of the river bank. In amazement we gawked as the growing tension from the driving wind eventually beached the sizeable brown. By they time we got to it, the fish was almost completely out of the water.

At the take out, we gathered. Mate’s, and beers were exchanged while boats and vehicles were loaded for the last time. Randomly one of us would scurry across the rocky shore for articles that the wind had carried off. We paused for a final photo before departing. A certain gratification permeated the group as we assembled, leaning into the wind one last time.

It was a quiet ride back to motel each lost in their own tired reflections of trout, rivers, shared friendships and a time that transpired much too fast. Back on the main road, the sky burned red in the western horizon before giving way to evening’s darkness; that blackness that’s only seen in such corners of the world anymore. Places where one can take stock of life with few if any. We’re fortunate to experience such solace, especially in such distant lands; a luxury none of us take for granted.