Editor’s note: Periodically, we’ll pose questions to a ” fly-fishing roundtable” of TU anglers in hopes of spurring discussion among all anglers about all things fly fishing. This week: What was your best fishing trip ever?
The father-son North Woods adventure
I’m lucky. Very lucky. I’ve been around the world with a fly rod in hand, and I’ve had so many great experiences with some really wonderful friends. But my favorite trip of all time was the adventure I enjoyed with my son, Cameron, a few years back. For clarity, I have two kids — my daughter, Delaney, is much more of an angler than Cameron is, and she and I got to fish southeast Alaska for the better part of two weeks a few years ago. It was epic — absolutely amazing. But what makes the trip I took with Cameron just a hair more special is that, on any given day, he’d choose to do anything but go fishing with me. So I forced the issue and booked an 8-day trip to a North Woods lodge in far northern Manitoba to chase pike and walleye with him. When we arrived, the weather was miserable — rain, sleet … sideways snow. We had about four days of this iffy weather, and then, finally, the sun poked through the boreal clouds, and it was on. The fishing for giant pike was incredible, and Cameron dove into life at the lodge, making connections with the other folks who were visiting with us. During our stay, one of the guests learned that a dear friend back home in New Jersey had taken his own life. Needless to say, our new friend was despondent. Unbeknownst to me, Cameron, just barely 16 at the time, would wander over to our friend’s cabin a couple times a day just to check in on him, and to see how he was doing. Later in the trip, the guest came up to me and delivered some of the highest praise I’ve ever received. “You should be very proud of your son,” he said. “He probably saved my life this week by just being there and letting me share my stories and my tears. I’ve never met a kid with such a kind heart. You’ve done a great job with him.” I was obviously moved by the praise, and to this day, it’s my proudest moment as a parent. Cameron still doesn’t fish much, but he told me recently he’d go back to Manitoba with me any time I wanted.
— Chris Hunt
A father-daughter trip to the South Fork of the Flathead
Also from the lucky department, I’ve also gotten to fish many spectacular places around the world, and with more to hit on my list. Those won’t end. But the trip I’ll never forget was when my dad took me on my high school graduation trip down the South Fork of the Flathead in Montana. At the time, I loved to fish, but it certainly wasn’t a full-blown passion like it is now, so I was a little hesitant about horse-packing into a wilderness and fishing for a week. The pack in was long and made for many sore spots, but the scenery was incredible, and the solitude and views of our starry galaxy were out of this world. Then there was the fishing. Reeling in westslope cutthroat after westslope cutthroat was a thrill, and watching bull trout chase them occasionally also made for memorable times. The float was amazing and the food incredible. The only sad part was that it came to an end. I hope to get back there soon for another amazing float trip. Ready to go back, dad?
— Kara Armano
The Alaskan adventure
My typical response to the question is “the next one,” and there are many previous trips that would provide a great answer, but one adventure stands out. Perhaps the biggest reason is because it was a trip I had been dreaming about since I was a 10-year-old who had just realized the endless amazing opportunities to fish new places for different species. The dream finally became a reality in 2012 when the Outdoor Writers Association of America held its annual conference in Alaska. As a member of the OWAA board I “had” to make the trip. I reached out to fellow OWAA members and other friends to create a journey in Alaska before, during and after the conference that included: a motorhome; canoe; ATV; resort; raft; float plane; train; cabin; lodge and helicopter. The memories peaked with a helicopter ride to the headwaters of the Talachulitna River where we landed on a sandbar with minutes-old grizzly tracks. We kept a watchful eye as we inflated two rafts and then started our float down to the lake and back to the Tordrillo Mountain Lodge where the helicopter had taken off. It was a day spent with some of my favorite people on the planet in remote Alaska catching Dolly Varden and rainbow trout. Sockeye jammed the river and littered the banks where bears had left piles of carcasses. After a full day float we made it to the lodge where a special meal had been prepared to celebrate my 44th birthday. Hard to top realizing a life-long dream in such a place with amazing people on a birthday.
— Brett Prettyman
Idaho’s Wood River as a kid
For me, notwithstanding many memorable fishing ventures that involved bigger, more unusual, or more challenging fish in the years since, my favorite fishing trip involved an overloaded van, Nesbitt’s Orange soda breaks, moldy canvas safari tents filled with a legion of spiders, and not bathing for two weeks. Those are some of the salient details of a two-week vacation my family took several years running starting when I was 8 years old, during which we camped next to Idaho’s Wood River and I fished my brains out every day using cheap spin gear and salmon eggs or nightcrawlers dug from the streambank that morning. The river seemed chock-a-block with brook and rainbow trout then. My brother and I caught many, mostly under 10 inches, and toted them on forked sticks or stringers back to camp where we would clean them and our mother would roll them in flour or corn meal and fry them up for breakfast. Really, that was it for me, in terms of how I thought and felt about fishing — long, idyllic summer days that began and ended with a line in the river, trying to distinguish between a bump on the bottom and a trout’s grab, the breeze in the cottonwoods and the murmur of flowing water.
— Sam Davidson
It’s all about who you share it with
Really? That’s like asking a parent who their favorite kid is. The PC answer is “my home river, because I love it so much.” And I do love my home river. But…jeez. I’m gonna willingly fail the quiz and say there is no “right” answer, rather there are many “fair” and honest answers. There is nothing like the breath of the jungle in South America, and we are only beginning to understand that. Atlantic salmon are remarkable in every sense. Walking a virgin bonefish flat on Mayaguana shook my soul. Watching seven-pound brown trout tail like bonefish in the highlands of Tasmania was unreal. Feeling the muscly tug of a native Dean River steelhead is unlike anything. Seeing leopard rainbows wolf down mouse flies in Kamchatka was pretty sick. All I really have to say in this regard is that the world is very wide and there are amazing experiences to be had all over the globe. But “best?” Well, “best” is, when you boil it all down, really a measure of the people you share the experiences with and the beautiful, natural beauty you take in along the way. So my real answer is, the best fishing trips I’ve been on have always been less about the fish, or even the places, and more about the people I’ve shared the experiences with. And that’s how it will always be, in my humble opinion.
— Kirk Deeter
The forced march through the Trinity Alps
It’s hard to argue with the sentiments of Kirk and Sam. It really is impossible for me to pick the “best” trip, so I think I have to lean toward the most memorable. And that would most likely be a week-long backpacking trip I took as an 18-year-old in California’s Trinity Alps. My friend’s dad was leading the trip. He had put together an ambitious itinerary and did not understand the concept of “easy days.” I wanted to fish, but we spent so much time hiking that we barely had time to wet lines. I was constantly famished so when I did get to fish I kept and ate everything I caught. (But never exceeded catch limits, of course!) About midway through the trip we camped at a high lake above the tree line. It was pretty much devoid of fish and to add insult to injury that night we got hammered by a storm with rain and high winds. I didn’t sleep a wink. A few miles into the next day we reached a beautiful lake filled with fat brook trout. My friend and I begged his dad to let us camp there that night. Nope. We ended up putting in 12 more miles that day. When we finally got to camp as darkness fell I had the joy of experiencing my first “bonk” from lack of food. As I lay there in misery on top of my sleeping bag I thought, “This isn’t fun.” In hindsight, though, the extreme physical and mental demands of that trip are what made it so memorable and, ultimately, so rewarding.
— Mark Taylor