Friday, August 31, 2012

The Weekend 10: The Best of Oz

As many of you know, I just returned from an extended junket to Australia--the government of New South Wales was kind enough to fly me down to Sydney the week before the National Recreational Fishing Conference and take me up the coast (and into the Great Dividing Range) to view a number conservation projects. I then had the honor of speaking to the country's recreational fishing leaders at the conference, which was conducted on the Gold Coast, just across the New South Wales border with Queensland.

Following the conference, I flew north to Cairns, rented a car and toured around tropical north Queensland for four days before flying home. I realize my visit to "Oz" was limited--geographically speaking--to the east coast, but I thought I'd share the best of what I was able to experience, with the idea that I'm definitely going back, if for no other reason than to see more of it. It's so big... so vast... and so diverse. Someday, I'd love to shoulder a fly rod and start walking across the continent.

Until then, here are 10 awesome Aussie assets I was lucky enough to see in August:

Thursday, August 30, 2012

20 Questions: Bjorn Stromsness

Bjorn Stromness
Bjorn Stromsness is a self-proclaimed bonefish junkie who lives in the bonefish capital of the world ... northern California.

OK, so, it's safe to assume that he's also amassed quite a few airline miles in order to reach the flats of the Bahamas or Belize. Thing is, the dude is hooked. He's got bonefish on the brain

I can identify, somewhat--although I've only chased bones once with frustrating results. For me, the lure of saltwater fly fishing is magnetic, even though I live landlocked in trout country and generally get schooled whenever I find my way to the salt.

Bjorn seems to me to be one of those guys who, once he finds something that turns his crank, throws himself into it without reservation. He doesn't claim to be a bonefish expert. In fact he claims to be just the opposite--a novice staring up the steepest grade of the learning curve. And I think that's what excites him most--a challenge he's yet to conquer... yet to master.

I dig that in a dude. If you want to master something--even bonefishing from temperate climes of northern California--you have to do it as much as you possibly can. If we all made that kind of commitment to the things we were passionate about, we might solve some of the world's biggest challenges. Like permit.

I hope to get the chance to meet Bjorn one day. Until then, the answers to these questions will have to suffice. Enjoy.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Jet lag...

Missing the family and contemplating
missed opportunity.
As I lay awake at 2:30 Sunday morning combing Netflix on my iPad looking for something new to watch while my family peacefully dozed away, just as they should, I realized that, just over 24 hours since I stepped off my fourth and final airplane after about 8,000 of traveling, I was still on Australia time.

I also realize that I had almost completely disconnected--and not entirely by choice--from a life that's grown hectic and complicated over the last year or so during my fortnight of travel. When I could find an internet connection that didn't demand the blood of my first-born, I was able to leave a few cryptic messages for my wife and for my boss, but for the most part, I was off the grid and clear across the globe exploring a land that has captured a corner of my soul.

I have amends to make here at home--and likely hundreds of e-mails to answer. I have responsibilities again. Duty.

But, as they say, tomorrow's a brand new day. Today, I thought I'd share a tale or two... and a few thoughts about a place that I miss more than I should and can't wait to get back to. That's likely going to be interesting news to a few folks, but it's fuel that will eventually prove my theory that fly fishers are wanderers, not meant to spend too much time in one place chasing one fish.

Friday, August 24, 2012

What Doesn't Kill You...

Yep... even the trees want their pound of flesh.
Yeah, for the record, I spent the majority of time in Australia watching out for critters with teeth. Or stingers. Or pungent burning tree sap. Or, and I'm not making this up, electric ants

What got me?

Predictably, the tiniest, barely visible culprit out there--sand flies that I endured while fishing the lousy-with-crocodiles mouth of the Mossman River. While I watched the water for movement and stayed well away from the edge of the murky drink, I was being drained of blood by a thousand little bugs that, if I hadn't felt their tiny little incisions, I wouldn't have even known were there.

Everything Down Under wants to kill you, from the obvious perpetrators to those a little less obvious. But more than that, as you wander the banks of a rainforest river in a driving storm, it's the creatures you don't see that really get you. They get into your head... they make you jumpy and tense.

The only crocs I saw were in a wildlife park. I didn't see a single shark. But both of those creatures had me on my toes as I waded the salt flats and cast to jungle perch in rivers cloaked in a deep, green canopy.

I've also been largely away from the Internet, which doesn't scare me. It's just that, for $8 for 15 minutes for something a bit more dextrous than dial-up, I couldn't justify the expense. And, believe it or not, some places I stayed had no Internet options at all (I know... gasp!).

So... I'm back in the country. I'm ready to report on the visit to Oz. Know that it was magical and amazing and both too long and too short all at once. Stay tuned... much more to come.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Weekend 10: International Air Travel

So... as this posts, I've finally managed to land in Australia--or Oz as the locals call it. I'll save the fun stuff for later. For now, though, as you head into the weekend, know that there are some good things about traveling half way around the world ... and there are some bad things.

Let's begin, shall we?

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

20 Questions: Quinn Grover

Quinn Grover
I knew it was time to ask Quinn Grover 20 Questions when I saw that he ventured all the way from his home here in Idaho Falls to the Lochsa River (it might be the most idyllic cutthroat trout river on the planet, by the way) in northern Idaho without a "real" camera.

Dude was relegated to snapping photos from his phone... and he still did it.

You might recognize Quinn's name from his posts over at Chi Wulff, which, if you're interested, is easily one of the most credible and well-executed fly fishing blogs on the Internet. That it's a collaborative effort makes it even better--finding quality content from quality writers and shooters isn't easy. If it was, we'd all have a little help, right?

Anyway, Quinn shares this hometown with me, and we've never actually met--my hope is that, after publishing this post, he'll track me, and a few other Idaho Falls bloggers, down and talk us into going fishing.

Until then, I'll have to settle for the answers to the questions below--I can tell already that I'm gonna like this guy.

On with the questions:

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Bert's

I've noticed lately that I've been writing a lot about bars. Maybe it's because, on my travels, I get to see quite a few of them. In the process, I get to soak up a good bar a lot like it soaks up the seeps and spills from pint glasses and tumblers. A good bar always smells a bit like stale beer--the unfortunate byproduct when tipsy revelers wander across wood floors. It sings with the sound of glasses tinkling together, either thanks to a toast now and then, or just to a harried barkeep rushing through dishes.

I'm clearly spending too much time in bars ... if that's possible.

I guess I've become something of an aficionado. A bar expert, if you will.

They Bert's employee that keeps the bugs in check on the
back deck. 
A few weeks back, on quick trip to southwest Florida to fish with a friend out of Matlacha (pronounced MAT-lu-SHAY), I wandered into an unassuming roadside joint called Bert's. It's a bar, plain and simple, with a little restaurant attached that specializes good, old Southern deep-fried seafood, most of which is caught in the waters right off the back dock.

I knew right away that Bert's was a real bar, not a plastic little offering that you might find up in Orlando or in the heart of any old Applebee's. This place had some history, some character. As I sat on a corner stool, I could pick out the regulars and the almost-regulars. They'd shout names across the room, lift a glass and grin as someone new wandered within range of the beer tap.

Yep... turtle races.
But like any good bar, it had its quirks. The band, for instance, was tucked into an odd little corner, and if you wanted to make a decent pool shot from the west side of the table, you better make sure nobody's coming out of the bathroom first--the cue could easily connect with some rather important soft tissue, and things could get ugly in a hurry if that were to happen.

And trying to make corner shot from the other side of the table isn't much easier--chance are, you'll be changing the song on the jukebox.

Every bar gives off a different vibe. At Bert's, in the heart of "old Florida," folks are pretty laid back. The first inclination of Bert's patrons, it seems, is to smile. Even as a wandering fly fisherman who spent his first day in Matlacha paddling a kayak through the mangroves ("Are you crazy, man? You should have seen the shark I caught just off the deck last week--I wouldn't get in a kayak if it was the last boat on the water"), the bar's regulars were welcoming ... interested in someone from "the outside."

And they told stories. Not directly to me, mind you, but stories among themselves that they didn't seem mind that I overheard. In three nights at Bert's, I knew more than I cared to about the lights-out habits of a number of the ladies, and was cursed with the information about a certain fisherman's, um ... rod ... that I would have rather not known.

"Just look around in here," one gentleman said to me as we sipped cold brews during an afternoon thunderstorm. "Every woman here ... wait ... yep, every woman in here has seen that thing. At least once. And I bet a couple of the dudes, too."

I laughed, bought the gossip another round and just took it all in. I like bars ... they are, for the most part, comfortable places that dole out manic moments of excitement and revelry and then return to what counts as normal in a place where booze is served and personalities gather to consume it.

And I like Bert's. If you ever find yourself in Matlacha, Fla., stop in and have a beer.

And don't say I didn't warn you about a certain fisherman.