“Time is but the stream I go fishing in. I drink at it, but while I drink I see the sandy bottom and detect how shallow it is. It’s thin current slides away, but eternity remains.” -Henry David Thoreau
My brother Don and I are preparing for a flyfishing trip to Belize in August for Tarpon, Permit and Bonefish. As I mentally get geared up for a coming trip I tend to think back on the highlights of past trips. One of those which sprang immediately to mind was flyfishing with Jack Hemingway, son of the famous author Ernest Hemingway.
In the spring of 2000 I was invited to go flyfishing for Atlantic Salmon in Iceland by a good friend and outstanding flyfisherman, John Green. John and I had fished together numerous times in Scotland and I was looking forward to his company and his fishing stories. On the plane to Iceland from London John informed me that we were staying at a lodge whose guests that week included Jack Hemingway and his wife, Angela, as well as Orri Vigfusson, the ardent and innovative wild salmon conservationist. It promised to be a very interesting week and I had never fished the gin-clear water of northern Iceland.
While John Green was an accomplished Iceland salmon fisherman, this was my first experience with the tiny flies and the spooky fish in clear water. It took several days for me to get in the groove and hook and land a few of these massive, bright, hard fighting creatures.
But Jack was a seasoned vet of Iceland salmon fishing and tended to be high rod for most of the week. One of the things I remember most about Jack Hemingway is that he was never without a smile and a hearty laugh, and he never boasted about himself. I imagine it must have been difficult being the son of such a famous author and sportsman, but Jack was definitely his own person, having a myriad of adventures as a OSS officer in WWII and a keen conservationist and sportsman.
At the dinner table each evening we would hear stories that ranged from his famous father to his own adventure of parachuting into occupied France with his fly rod, just in case he came across a trout stream. Alas, he was captured and spent the remainder of the war in a German POW camp. Jack wrote two books, Mis-Adventures of a Fly Fisherman and A Life Worth Living, both about his life, family and fishing.
Our other companion for a part of that week was Orri Vigfusson. Orri was the inspiration behind the innovative approach to reversing the decline of the Atlantic Salmon through a program of buying out the net fisherman who, in their zeal to earn a living, were rapidly depleting the wild salmon stocks before they could enter the rivers to spawn. The abundance of North Atlantic netting, along with habitat destruction and pollution of the rivers, had over the decades between the 50s and 90s taken its toll on the stock of wild Atlantic Salmon. In addition, the increase in the number of seals and the spread of infections from salmon farms at the mouths of rivers were also a factor in the depleted numbers of fish. Orri’s efforts to mobilize the government agencies of various countries lead to an international effort to reduce the netting of wild salmon. (You can learn more about Orri Vigfusson and the North Atlantic Salmon Fund here.)
I am always amazed at the special people one meets while flyfishing. There is definitely something unique in the DNA of those who chase fish with flies and I am humbled to have been able to share that week in Iceland with three very special flyfishermen, Jack Hemingway, Orri Vigfusson and John Green. Sadly, Jack Hemingway passed away just a few months after our fishing trip. I’ll bet he’s still smiling and telling stories.
Jack’s obituary in the Guardian is worth reading as it gives good measure of a good man.
Tight Lines . . .
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