Flyfishing with Hugo Chavez

Well, not exactly.  You see, in October 2010 I was invited to go saltwater flyfishing for bonefish (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bonefish), Permit and Tarpon at Los Roches, a group of islands in the Caribbean 80 miles offshore from Caracas, Venezuela.  Los Roches is a National Park  (http://www.losroques.org/) covering some 860 square miles, is one of the most pristine undersea environments in the Caribbean, and is part of Venezuela, hence the Hugo Chavez connection.  We didn’t fish with “El Hefe” but his presence was definitely felt in every part of the lives of the Venezuelans we met during our 7-day fishing trip.

The group of ten I went with were mostly New York financial services executives and business professionals.  I was invited due to a cancellation caused by the banking meltdown (unfortunate for him but great for me!).  We flew into Caracas and stayed at a Hilton near the airport, which is just along the coast.  There is no other way to say it, that coastal section of Caracas is a bonafied slum, next to one of the several “barrios” within a metropolitan area of over 5 million people.  We never did get a tour of the “safe parts of the city” as the tour driver didn’t want to drive around with a car full of Gringos, too dangerous for us and  him he said.  Instead we had a few beers at the bar and the next morning we boarded an internal flight to the islands of Los Roches.

Having heard many fishing stories of how elusive and difficult it is to find and catch bonefish, I was ready for a week of aggressive pursuit and few but meaningful results.  Boy was I wrong!

The shallow flats surrounding the islands of Los Roches are teaming with bonefish and numerous other species of saltwater game fish.  In fact, the amount of baitfish (small fingerlings that the bigger fish feed on) on these flats were the densest I have ever seen on a coral reef.  All due to the fact that Los Roches is a National Park and fishing is strictly controlled.

Since we were there in October when the tides are higher, the gigantic Tarpon and secretive Permit were in abundance.  To say my arm got tired pulling in bonefish may sound like a fish story, but it’s true.  We caught upwards of 20 bonefish a day in the 3-5 pound region and several much larger.  And my first Tarpon on a flyrod was a real thrill. 

When you spend 7-days in one location mingling with the local people you get a good feel for what their life is like.  And in one sense they are quite fulfilled, after all, petrol (or gasoline as they say in the US) is free, or nearly free.  It’s the way Chavez controls the people, co-opting them with nearly free petrol in return for their votes and support.  Neat trick if you can do it but it only works when your country is blessed with a large supply of oil and you have worked hard to keep your people uneducated and focused on the basic necessities of making a living.

In terms of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, don’t talk to these people about self-actualization or their next start-up business; they are too concerned with the basics of survival – food and shelter.  But, the people living within the Los Roches National Park have a pretty good life; seafood, tourism, and they are far enough from the main centers of crime and corruption to feel safe.  Do their kids have a future that will be better?  That I don’t know.

Would I go back?  In a nano-second.  Mostly for the abundant fishing opportunities, but also for the chance to swim and fish on one of the last remaining unspoiled coral reef island chains in the Caribbean.

Tight Lines . . .

About johnrchildress

John Childress is currently Visiting Professor in Strategy and Culture at IE Business School in Madrid and a pioneer in the field of strategy execution, culture change, executive leadership and organization effectiveness, author of several books and numerous articles on leadership, an effective public speaker and workshop facilitator for Boards and senior executive teams. In 1978 John co-founded The Senn-Delaney Leadership Consulting Group, the first international consulting firm to focus exclusively on culture change, leadership development and senior team alignment. Between 1978 and 2000 he served as its President and CEO and guided the international expansion of the company. His work with senior leadership teams has included companies in crisis (GPU Nuclear – owner of the Three Mile Island Nuclear Plants following the accident), deregulated industries (natural gas pipelines, telecommunications and the breakup of The Bell Telephone Companies), mergers and acquisitions and classic business turnaround scenarios with global organizations from the Fortune 500 and FTSE 250 ranks. He has designed and conducted consulting engagements in the US, UK, Europe, Middle East, Africa, China and Asia. Currently John is an independent advisor to CEO’s, Boards, management teams and organisations on strategy execution, corporate culture, leadership team effectiveness, business performance and executive development. John was born in the Cascade Mountains of Oregon and eventually moved to Carmel Highlands, California during most of his business career. John is a Phi Beta Kappa scholar with a BA degree (Magna cum Laude) from the University of California, a Masters Degree from Harvard University and was a PhD candidate at the University of Hawaii before deciding on a career as a business entrepreneur in the mid-70s. In 1968-69 he attended the American University of Beirut and it was there that his interest in cultures, leadership and group dynamics began to take shape. John Childress resides in London and the south of France with his family and is an avid flyfisherman, with recent trips to Alaska, the Amazon River, Tierra del Fuego, and Kamchatka in the far east of Russia. He is a trustee for Young Virtuosi, a foundation to support talented young musicians. You can reach John at john@johnrchildress.com or john.childress@theprincipiagroup.com
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One Response to Flyfishing with Hugo Chavez

  1. Pingback: Destination Flyfishing: The Good News and the . . . | John R Childress . . . Rethinking

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