Short casts: Scary fishing encounters, a fly fishing justice and Guatemalan billfish

Fishing with a black bear near Wrangell, Alaska

I’ve had the good fortune of toting a fly rod to some pretty intersting places around the world, and, as a result, have had some sketchy encounters, ranging from an arme

d flotilla of Sabine River catfish trotliners to grizzlies in Alaska and Yellowstone to a fairly curious 8-foot alligator on a redfish flat outside of Rockport, Texas. Once, on Prince of Wales Island in Southeast Alaska, a black bear and I came nearly nose to nose—I swear I could smell his fishy breath—while rounding a bend on a trail along a little coastal stream. I let loose with a surprisingly high-pitched scream and waved my fly rod at him, which was apparently enough to convince him to run off into the rainforest.

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Photo courtesy

I’ve survived them all with my sanity largely intact. But when I saw this the other day from a couple of Everglades anglers, I realized that most of my encounters have been rather innocuous. I’m not necessarily creeped out by snakes. As a kid, I caught garter snakes along the canals and bottoms of suburban Denver and sold them to the local pet shot for a dollar a piece. Later, when my brothers and I were a little older and my parents would turn us loose along the Sabine River bottoms in East Texas, we’d camp among the cottonmouths and copperheads, knowing full well that the best way to stay safe was to simply avoid them (avoiding a bunch of drunk trotliners is another story altogether). But I’m not sure I would have come away from an encounter with a 17-foot python with all my marbles in the same bag.

alt=”” title=”” />Hats off to these guys for not only staying safe, but for dispatching one of the most noxious invaders in the Everglades. Have you had any close encounters of the fishing kind? Share them in the comments section below, and I’ll draw a winner from a hat and send a TU t-shirt featuring original artwork from Dave Whitlock (we have them as big as XXL!) your way in the next couple of weeks.

Without getting political, it’s noteworthy that Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch is a fly fisherman. In fact, he used to fish with the late Justice Antonin Scalia, also a fly guy. Here’s hoping that Justice-in-Waiting Gorsuch understands that good fishing is never an accident, and that protecting our nation’s water resources are vital to the future of the craft he enjoys. There’s no doubt that issues pertaining to our country’s water resources will come before the highest court in the land during his time on the court, and those issues deserve sound, reasonable deliberation. Clean water shouldn’t be political. Protecting it should be a priority.

And, finally, as winter still firmly grips much of the country, I was drawn to this piece in the Boston Globe about Guatemala, where it’s nice and warm and the blue waters off Iztapa teem with billfish. Fly fishing for sailfish and marlin is an intense endeavor and success is hardly guaranteed. The good news is, even if the fishing is off, you’re in Guatemala. Swim-up tiki bars, pristine beaches, volcanoes and lots of history are all within reach. Sounds pretty good about now.

Damn that groundhog.

— Chris Hunt

By Chris Hunt.