Ex-plo-ra-tion – To travel (in a little-known region) for discovery. To examine (something) carefully; investigate. Doesn’t it just send chills up and down your body to relate that word to your flyfishing adventures. It does for me. I can’t help it. I once conducted an experiment. I would ask fishers if they were given a choice of two maps; one with a possibly finding a pot of gold or the other, finding new, unfished waters with a possibility of finding fish, which map would they choose. Every time it was the unfished waters. What is it about discovering something never before experienced by anyone else in history that keeps fishers (climbers, sailors and so on) on the prowl for that undiscovered treasure?
I have always been on the lookout for something new or untried before. In my youth, I used to love climbing (snow and rock). I had a mountaineering mentor in my cousin Steve Marts who led me to such heights (literally and figuratively) in some really memorable climbing trips. First ascents in the Cascades (Washington) and Sawtooth Mountains (Idaho) plus other outstanding climbs. I have to admit that I was not near the climber that Steve was but I would follow him anywhere. I met such interesting people who had the same desire as I for climbing. That is where my desire for new and challenging adventures began. There is an indescribable feeling of being someplace where few if any humans have ever set foot. After some very close calls while climbing, a family, and new found hobbies; hang gliding in the very earliest days and fly fishing, climbing slipped away from me. And after a few reality checks with hang gliding, I sold my kite for a drift boat and fishing has guided my traveling and exploring since then.
I have to admit that explorations end up way less than expectations most of the time. But you cannot show me an adventure-fisher who, after say 10, consecutive, disastrous explorations, wouldn’t sign up for the next fishing trip that is to unknown waters, where there are stories or theories or guesses of a run of anadromous fishes entering its home streams at certain seasons. I have searched over maps and books that offer up pearls of information about rivers in the Northwest and Alaska; tropical waters up and down the Yucatan, Belize and Venezuela; and the Bahamas and I have never been disappointed in a trip even if it turned out fishless.
I do understand so many anglers who really cannot get away for “maybe” fishing versus a known quantity. But they depend upon the flyrodders who are always searching for a new run or river or lake or saltwater for outstanding angling for their clients. I don’t know any fly-rod guides who don’t want to find new places to fish.
Just let a guide tell me that he has wanted to fish a specific piece of water for a long time but has never had the chance (and then the magic words) “would you like to check it out”. Sign me up!
What is it that governs a lot of (maybe even most) fly fishers to find places to fish where there is only him or her-self and maybe a friend or two: Even if the possibility of catching a fish or two may be remote? I’ll tell you what I think it is. It is more than mere curiosity and it goes back centuries to a time when the first fly fishers were showing up on rivers to fish without crowds on the banks and with feather and fur creations they’ve tied to try to fool fish into eating it. It goes back decades when flyfishers were trying to unlock the secrets of fishing a lake with a fly. Anglers, now, don’t realize how new, successful lake flyfishing really is. When I started flyfishing lakes in 60’s there was really very little written about it. I remember being questioned while fishing in lakes while I was in a prototype float tube. They would ask if I was walking on the bottom. They had never heard of a tube with a seat in it and propelling myself with swim fins. Then, it was “written” that true flyfishing was done in rivers and that lake fly fishing was for old fogies trolling in a row boat. Float tubes were not a part of a flyfisher’s equipment then. The food sources were just starting to be studied and how it related to fly fishing was fairly new.
It was an exciting time to be a part of discovering new patterns that could be flyfished in lakes. I even kept an aquarium on my tying desk to observe stillwater aquatic food sources for fish. It was the same with saltwater. Flyfishing in the salt is only a generation old and more is being discovered every year. This was all exploration; flies, casting, equipment and destinations. This is still going on with new saltwater destinations presented every year. Look what has happened to jungle fishing in the last two decades. Absolutely awesome fisheries have been explored and made possible for adventurous fly fishers. This habit or addiction to exploration for new waters and fish is not something that is taught. For those who already look for new destinations or runs know all about this. It is something you decide to do or it never enters your mind.