Throwing Darts at Maps by Mark Usyk

I punched the time clock and made the comment, “Here goes another 8 hours I’ll never get back.” Later on it hit me on my lunch break. Flipping open a new fly fishing magazine which I’d covertly slipped into the shopping cart the night before while Holly scanned the ground beef packages for just the right amount of fat content, I flipped the next page and was met with a two page photo spread of a beautiful bending river and a drift boat frozen in time, the sun setting just above a long mountain ridge in the background. In the top left corner was something about naming the river and winning something or other, and the name of the last months contest and its winner. I studied the picture. I obviously had no clue what river it was, only by the landscape could I tell that it was somewhere out west. And then it hit me. If this river was such a popular place to fish that you could merely print a picture of it in a magazine and hundreds of anglers, possibly thousands could recognize the spot, then I had no interest in fishing it! How screwed up am I as a fisherman?

I want to travel to far off places and fish epic and exotic waters no doubt. I love to dream about waters I’ve never seen and to catch fish I’ve never held nor even heard of. But I want to do it where others have seldom tread, not where thousands of others can say “Oh yea, I’ve been there, I go every year. Let me tell you the best places. You’ve got to eat at this restaurant too.” No, I long for the Alaskan rivers that have no names. The jungle tributaries that are merely blue lines on seldom looked at maps and that no pictures exist of. The northern Canadian remote lakes that no one knows filled with living missiles full of teeth and scared by savage attacks of their own kind.

I’m not saying to go fish famous rivers like the Henry’s Fork or the Deschutes is something I would pass up given the opportunity. I’m just saying it’s been done. I’m not saying that I would scoff at a fishing trip on Alaska’s Kenai or Yukon rivers. No, I’m just saying there are others that I have never heard of that I would pick first…simply because I know less about them. My problem is I’m an explorer. Always have been. The books I read as a youngster and continue to read today are part of the problem, or the solution, however you look at it. Stories of adventure in far off remote and exotic locations. If I was going to plan a great fishing trip, I would much rather throw darts at a map on the wall. I’d aim for places like Africa, South America, Northern Canada, and Mongolia. Exotic places that would take planning, flying, 4 wheel drives, float planes, horses, and days of travel by foot just to get close. Places you could hardly find anyone to guide you to. Places you’d have to find on your own.

I’m fairly sure, about 99% sure that I’ll most likely never see these places in person that I have no idea where they are yet, but one can dream. It’s what we do! It’s what keeps me stringing up my fly rod! The unknown! The chance for adventure around the next bend. The idea that you think you know what lies beneath the surface but in reality you don’t! It’s where our stories come from. If you’re my age you remember the choose your own adventure books we selected from the shelves of the school library. That’s what fly fishing is. A chance to choose your own adventure, go your own direction, away from the typical, the normal destinations. I’ve been fishing the same stretch of water for a couple weeks now because it’s convenient and close to home. It’s time I break that habit and pick a different spot, different water. New explorations. Maybe it’s also time I start putting money away for some crazy fishing trip so that I might possibly get to do just one before I find myself too old. My advice to you would be… Where have you always wanted to go? Every day you wait are days lost, days you’ll never get back. Gather your gear. Call an important meeting with your fishing buddies. Throw darts at a map. Get living.