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.

Monday, March 09, 2009

It's Over

Finally, it's over. HB 187 was defeated this morning shortly after 10am. The process works. There were a lot of people involved in this process and everyone role was integral to our successful efforts. No need to pour salt on any wounds remembering that we'll need to deal with this legislative issue in the future. To pull it off, it's going to need a collective effort from all sides. Given what will be at stake, it won't be easy.

We owe many people thanks, especially those representatives that voted to table the Bill, took the time to talk with us and consider what we had to say. We're going to need their support again in the future to get a Bill sponsored and supported. This is not going away, as much as we'd like to think it will.

Behind the scenes, there was a ground swelling grassroots effort. It was beautiful to see. As I wrote earlier, we came together as a community and worked tirelessly on a cause that effects us all. Lets not loose the cohesiveness that's come from this effort.

For now we can all go back to what binds us, fishing. Although we have the opportunity to fish waters we've never fished before, I urge all anglers to go out of their way to create relationships with those whose waters we now may fish. These relationships will be imperative to our success as we move forward. How we behave will go a long way towards passing a Bill that serves affected parties.

Finally, I've got some new friends out of this ordeal. This effort brought a diverse group to the table and tha now realize we're all on the same side regardless of how you fish or what you fish with. Even if we had not won, the camaraderie from this endeavor won't diminish anytime soon. It's even more solidified given the series of events that occurred this morning. To all, thank you! Collectively we couldn't have done it without all who contributed. Now the real work begins.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Third Times a Charm

The saga of HB 187 lives on. Friday Rep. Ferry played a strategy that’s become common during this process, bringing his patchwork piece of legislation to the floor just prior to its adjournment. This was the 3rd substitution. What’s new is language by Rep. Draxler. His injections changed the board from having one that had advisory capacity to a board with rule making authority, something we’ve been asking for since before the Bill was made public. There’s just one hitch; a simple little word that sets up the criteria for listing a river, the word and. Since the word and was used, in order for a body of water to qualify for addition to the list it must meet all listed criteria. Had the word been or, a said water would just have to meet one of the listed criteria. Bottom line, there few if any waters that will be acceptable. Rep. Draxler tried to amend this recognizine the implication of the language, but his amendment was not accepted.

Ten more pieces of water were added as part of the 3rd substitution. This is good, and now takes the list up to 40, 41 listed but one is listed twice (yet more confusion). We’re still far short of a reasonable list of waters, especially in the central and southern part of the state. Given the inclusion of and versus or, virtually this is all we’re going to get. If the Bill passes the House, which we’ll know by Monday, there may be some opportunity to add waters in the Senate.

Rep. Draxlers efforts weren’t all for not however, he was able to get the Board changed. It’s members would now be mostly comprised of those who recreate on our public waters. But, unless we’re able to get the language changed, this board will have little to do. Todd Bingham of the Farm Bureau was chomping at the bit to get this recent revision through the House and onto the Senate, now we know why. He lobbied hard all day Thursday and Friday to get this to the floor for a vote, but as we speak, Rep. Ferry late submission cost him, and again HB187 sits circled.

Having some time to read the Bill over the weekend has brought some other things to light. This is still a poorly crafted piece of legislation, even after Draxlers amendments, which are an improvement. However, the crux of the matter still falls upon the list; it’s arbitrary and capricious nature. It’s a list of random waters chosen based upon opinion, yet is far from inclusive. Regardless of how this Bill will affect the parties involved, its uncertainty creates inequality for all. Maybe that’s what good legislation is supposed to be.

With luck and hopefully wisdom, those in the Legislature will recognize the Bill’s shortcomings, piecemeal content and legal susceptibility. The House of tired of dealing with this given other very significant legislation that’s still to be dealt with. It seems obvious that interim study would at least give us something to work with. At this late juncture, that’s not likely to occur.

I look back at our first meeting with Rep. Ferry in January, and in frustration ponder the time we’ve collectively spent on this Bill. In that first meeting if he’d included us in the process as we asked, I can’t help but think we’d have been more constructive with our time. A number of the issues we brought up and questioned several months ago have been changed through conflict and divisiveness. It didn’t have to be that way, but unfortunately we weren’t the ones pulling the strings.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Resurrected from the Dead!

This morning I was feeling pretty good about the world, all things considered. Then about noon the e-mails began arriving. Rep. Ferry was attempting to resurrect his HB 187 from the depth of yesterdays defeat. Since he heads the House Rules Committee, I was pretty confident that he would be successful with his efforts.

There were several of us already at the Capitol when I arrived. Some had been there since the morning session. Just before 4pm after speaking with those we had the opportunity to reach, I looked out across the Capitols floor now growing silent, gazing across the sprawling rotunda cambers when a song from Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young began resonating through my head, “We are helpless, helpless, helpless, helpless…” If you’re in your 50’s, you know the song.

At four we scrambled to the balcony to watch Rep. Ferry bring his Bill back to life. Last I looked; he had 40” yas”, plenty to keep HB 187 alive. As the session came to a close, his Bill sits circled to later again be voted upon.

There is still hope that HB 187 will be defeated at this level. If not it goes to the Senate. We again need to circle the wagons, make phone calls and pound out emails. In doing so, it’s imperative that you be respectful to all parties regardless of your personal feeling. This isn’t about personal emotion, its about issues. Defamatory e-mails and phone calls do nothing but hurt our cause. Each day this stays alive, we need all the friends we can get, just sick with the facts:

1. Public input into the Bill has been very limited and not all parties have been involved.

2. The list of waters currently included have been arbitrarily derived. We need a reasonable list of waters based upon a specific criteria to quantify waters, not personal opinions.

3. At present, the board is an advisory board only, it has no power. Rumor has it that will change before it goes to its final vote in the House. So pay attention.

4. This Bill impacts 400,000 anglers, anglers that contribute 700 mil to the state’s economy annually. This Bill will erode these revenues and in doing so effect retailers, guide services, restaurants, hotels/motels, make no mistake. This just doesn’t effect anglers and those who derive there livelihoods from angling. .

5. The ability to post private property based upon the 150 yds and 150’ is confusing and will create an enforcement nightmare. When we lost the original clause after the 2nd substitution, we lost the provision that allowed us to wade through such areas.

6. The fact that this Bill has been substituted twice, amended numerous times, and being amended once again shows how flawed it is. We need to take a year, sentd this Bill to interim study and be apart of a piece of legislation that works for those parties that have a vested interest.

There is still a lot at stake here and we aren’t out of the woods yet. Rally the troupes. Contact your representative, your senator. There’s only 8 remaining days left to have an impact.