"Within 10 miles of my home outside Aspen, Colo., are three rivers that fishermen travel to from around the world. It's paradise. During much of spring and summer, a rod and reel sit in my pickup, and at any time I may pull off the road to see what's biting. Sometimes I can throw out a line, catch a fish, throw out another line, snag a second fish and be back in the truck within five minutes.
When I have hours to kill, I plant myself on the river bank and try to outsmart the trout. It's fascinating to stalk a creature that is barely visible. Once my line is cast, one eye stays on the lookout for bugs darting on the water. If a trout grabs one, I quickly reel in my line, search my vest pockets for a fly that looks like the bug that got swallowed, tie it on and cast into the ring left by the leaping fish. If I use just the right motions, the little clump of silicone and feathers dances, and the same fish may strike again. When the catch is cut open, if the bug inside matches the fly I chose, I feel like a real fisherman.
Some days, everything comes together--the fish are hungry, and I'm carrying the perfect flies. That happened to me in Bend, Ore., in the summer of 1971. The fish were in a feeding frenzy; I even caught one on a back cast. I came away with 15 trout, the most I've ever brought in at one time. They all weighed less than three pounds. I've still never landed a big one.
My grandfather owned a hotel and fishing camp on Kennebago Lake, near Rangeley, Me., and my cousin, Jack Philbrick, and I used to spend the summers there. That's fly-fishing country, and we grew up hearing great fish stories.
When I was 17 and Jack was 14, we wanted our own story to tell, so we set out on Flat Iron Pond in search of Bruiser, a legendary big trout that supposedly had been netted twice but never brought in. We pushed off; Jack fished while I rowed. Suddenly, I noticed floating nearby a German brown trout that must have weighed eight pounds, dead of old age. Jack and I had the same idea.
We loaded the fish onto the boat, gutted it and took it back. The guests were impressed. But the glory ended when my grandfather, an old salt, didn't buy our story. 'Are you sure you didn't scare that thing to death?' he said. He knew this 'Bruiser' had been dead for a couple of days.
At least we had something to show after that trip. In 1972, I decided to make an expedition to Oregon with two friends, Chap Baylor and Jimmy Van Wyck. We picked out a lake on the map and drove the 800 miles in my truck, vowing that during our three-day trip we'd eat only what we caught.
When we arrived, the first thing Chap and Jimmy did was buy groceries--Spam, beans, eggs and bread. 'You're cheating,' I said, and reaffirmed my determination to survive on my catch. We fished eight hours the first day and didn't get a strike; I went to bed starving. By the next night, I was into the Spam.
On the return trip, I rode alone in the back with the boat. All of a sudden, Jimmy and Chap started to hoot and holler, looking back at me the whole time. Finally they handed over a brochure about the area that we'd picked up but had neglected to read. I still didn't get it. 'Look at it closely,' they insisted. Then I saw. The bottom of the back page read: 'Marine biologists are still trying to determine why the lake will not support a fish population.' " PRODUCED BY LINDEN GROSS