Back, for a minute anyway, from some serious messing about in boats

Hey Folks. Whew, really has been a long time this time huh? Well, the thing is, I’ve spent far more nights beneath the moon and stars these last two months than I have with a roof over my head, and that situation not only fails to lend itself to making blog updates, it also tends to become addictive and self-perpetuating, at least for some of us. So – where do I start? Migratory spawning fish, in general, salt-run or not, are really a whole nother ballgame from “normal” salmonids. Just ask Paulino and the boys under the bridge every November and April on the Corc, Potamodromous and Anadromous ain’t all that dog gone different when it comes down to hooking the buggers with a fly. The main variable in that equation is always the same see; the fish have to be there. And this is exactly the problem with migratory spawners, lots of times when you’re there, they aren’t! And vice versa. This is something I have had to come to grips with over the last couple of months through thousands of miles of driving, hundreds of miles of floating, and possibly millions of Spey casts (ok, that last one may be an exaggeration, but then again, who was counting?). The thing is, these fish have their own agenda, and for the most part not only does it have nothing to do with eating, it is also extremely dependent on some sort of exactitude of conditions. The problem for us is, how that exactitude of conditions actually works is more or less a mystery. Long story short – high water, low water, high temperatures, low temperatures, lots of silt, little silt, big tides, little tides, clouds, sun, wind, calm, – we hit em’ all; and apparently we hit em’ all wrong. This is not to say that fish weren’t caught. Fish were caught. Steelhead, sea-run browns, lake-run rainbows, and lake-run browns all felt my finger and thumb around their tail along the way; but it wasn’t exactly what you’d call a slug-fest.

As always with road trips and float trips though it wasn’t just the fishing that sticks out in my mind as I sit here at my desk today and write. As with any long excursion of the sort there was plenty of good, and plenty of not so good, but with folks like Dr. Tweed and the gang alongside who understand the drill, the rhythm, and the silence of a thing like that, it is a pleasure in the end all the same. Along the way there were fossils and petrified trees, Tehuelche artifacts, and windstorms that threatened to sand blast the skin from our very faces. There were days that we floated for miles and miles, and days that we stayed in one camp and beat the runs to death. There was the day we snapped the oarlock, and the day we found the cave inhabited by the Puma. There was even a whole long night that we floated beneath clear skies and a beautiful full moon, rowing amongst reflections of the Milky Way and listening to our iPods as we navigated our way towards the sea. We explored abandoned estancias and saw the vestiges of what that life too was like in the buildings and equipment left behind, even tasting a bit of it in the fruit we picked from their still producing orchards. And, after running from the rising tides in Piedra Buena all the way to the Red Stag infested plains of Piedra del Aguila, I finished the whole damn thing up with wader-clad swim all the way across the Rio Limay Medio at full generation, wearing a backpack full of meat for good measure, then warmed myself back to life next to a raging brush fire built by Paulino luckily just in time for the occasion. And such is the life. Now it’s off to the North, not quite far enough to reach the majority of you all, (at least not just yet) but into the Amazon basin and more rivers, more country that needs to be explored. I have no idea what my connectivity will be over the next two months or whether or not I’ll be able to make any updates but will certainly do so if I can. In the meantime, since there’s a week or so between now and when I leave, all of you please write me an email to let me know how you are!

But now, to keep you entertained in the meantime, (I mean, what do you people do when you’re not reading this blog?) here’s another addition of “Stuff typed into Google that landed people on this website”, from the amazingly confounding data-maze of Google Analytics.

• “Only Interesting Topics” – I’m guessing this person spends a lot of time looking up trivia on the internet. The thing is, there’s just so much out there, and with a few simple keystrokes, there it is at your fingertips. How do you narrow it down? Well, you type “Only Interesting Topics” into Google of course! Duh! Honestly though, I’m glad to have been included. Most likely my blog was in the first ten results that showed up for this search, don’t you think?

• “One Interesting Topic” – Our guy is getting desperate here. The cubicle camouflage has worked its magic all too well, and he’s down to the very nitty gritty of the thing, searching for all he is worth, searching his little heart out, searching till it hurts, looking for the one thing, that one reason to live that will make his life have meaning once again, and discarding all that has come before. Just. Give. Me. One. Interesting. Topic! And still, somehow my blog is in the result list he ends up with. And. He. Clicks. On. It.

• “Brook Trout Skype” – I can see it now; Tweed and I are walking up the Rio Shaman into the Cordillera and the brookies are all logged on in a massive river-wide chat session. “They’re rounding the bend. The ugly one is already wearing those goofy rubber pants. The other one has one of those long bendy things. OK, everybody! No matter how much it looks like a juicy swimming morsel of food, DON’T EAT IT! DON’T EVEN SWAT AT IT!!!” Actually, seriously though, what was this person trying to Google, and how did they end up here?

• “Cattle Round Up Jokes” – Ha! That’s a good joke in and of itself. There can certainly be some jokes that get passed back and forth once the round up is done, but trust me, no one is joking much during the actual process of the work. Speaking from first-hand experience here, cattle round ups are not what they look like in the movies. It’s more like riding a twelve-hour hunter-jumper set up while paying only peripheral attention to the direction of your own animal, since the cattle themselves require the majority of your focus. This one is fairly easy to track, although still, I think the searcher must have been disappointed. There was a round up that I posted about, the one I did with my friend Tizo a couple of years ago up above Estancia Tres Valles, and there was a joke in the same post, but the two things weren’t related. Hope the poor fellow got a laugh out of the whole it anyway though.

• “How Make Homemade Table Saw” – Geeze. I have no idea! We should probably ask Philip or one of the other Voghs.  I’ve scrounged and scrounged through the whole friggin’ history of this site and cannot for the life of me figure out how this one works. Must be Google’s just playing jokes on people, like that news post they did April 1st about the new “Google Nose” smelling app for Smartphone’s. I’m so disconnected from what’s going on in technology up there these days they actually almost got me with that one. Almost.

• “Just Another Day Post Office Music” – Awesome. I can totally see why someone might type that in, especially if they were in the middle of a long hard day of actually working at the post office. There’s got to be tons of good music that comes up from such a search (hehehe) and I’m sure they could easily find what they were looking for. I just hope it wasn’t gangster rap though, or anything else that might have had the potential to incite violence (you know how those postal workers are). Seriously, how many pages of results did this person have to click through before they ended up here?

• “Patagonian Tube Animal Sex” – Oh boy. Here we go again. Tube flies, all kinds of animals, Patagonia, sure, we’ve got you covered. But as far as I can tell the word sex has never appeared in the content of this site until I typed it here just now. Can’t wait to see what that attracts next time I look at the reports…

• “What Constitute the Theory When Writing a Report on Bench Work?” – No clue bro.

• “The Fly Fisherman Justin Witt” – So I’ve been reduced to that. I can remember my life before, sometimes anyway, especially if I’ve had a glass of wine or am half asleep, or watching a beautiful sunset that allows me to have forgotten where I am for just a moment. There was the “Goofy Looking Kid with a Bowl Cut” Justin Witt (I even have pictures of him), the “Student” Justin Witt (grades may have had something to do with the fact that this is all we’re left with now), the “Son”, or “Brother”, Justin Witt (I wish I saw my family more often, but they stubbornly continue to live more than five thousand miles away from here), The “Flipside of Pain” (don’t ask), or even “The World Wandering Sporadically Employed Vagabond Reader, Fly Fisherman, Beer Drinker, and Sometimes Writer of Short Stories, Poems, and Novels” Justin C. Witt (the by-line from one of my earliest published works in a smallish New York Literary Journal, hence the middle initial). But now,.. just this. The Fly Fisherman. Justin Witt. Oh well. I imagine there are worse things one could be reduced to in this world.

• “Legendary Patagonia Fishing Guide” – Honestly I do like this one better. But still, come on….

• “Gaucho Knife Fight” - Now, that’s a good one. It may be that the poor fellow who initiated this search was simply looking for some entertainment. Let’s hope so anyway. Because if there is one thing you don’t want to do ladies and gentlemen, it is get into a knife fight with a gaucho. What is a guacho, you ask? That’s a good question, and while the answer these days might depend somewhat on who you ask, I’ll break it down like this: Historically, gauchos were nomadic cowboys, working here and there across the estancias and vastness of the Patagonian landscape, with nothing but their horse, a few dogs, their tiny satchel, and a penchant to move when they decided a change of venue was in order. There aren’t as many of them now as there used to be, but believe me, they’re still around. When they get into knife fights though, it isn’t something that generally lasts long enough to become a paying enterprise on cable television. One of my friends in Rio Pico, Mario Riasnianski, worked as a radiologist in the tiny hospital there (which is named after his mother) for many decades before becoming a fly fishing guide full time. While he has many wonderful stories about the medical history of that region and its people which I won’t go into here (not even the one in which he catheterized a woman who was giving birth in the back-country with a sterilized peacock quill), when it comes to the gaucho knife fight stories he says the losers only ever came in with one of two wounds. The ones who were alive had been sliced across the back of the knee so as to sever the most important ligaments and tendons of the leg, and render the fellow unable to continue the dispute. And the ones who were dead had been stabbed just to one side or the other of their sternums, with the knife blade angled in between two ribs and straight across the top valves of the heart. You see, that’s the thing about gauchos. They’ve spent their entire lives with that knife in their hands, using it in the killing and taking apart various large mammals that are anatomically very, very similar to human beings, and as a result they can probably picture the mechanical inner workings of your body better than your family doctor can. Seriously guys, gaucho knife fight – only takes a half a second or so, but a very, very bad idea.

• “The Party is Well Under Way Now and We’re Starting” – Of course! Why wouldn’t it be/we be? I mean, what?

• “Christmas Creek Rio Pico” – Ha! Good try. The way this one works is like this: When we find new water around here that makes us happy and to which we would like to return, we give it a name. Much of this new water of course already has a name, something the gauchos call it or the Tehuelches called it before the gauchos where there, but we don’t much concern ourselves with those names. We like our new ones. I mean, what’s in a name, anyway? With or without people giving streams their names, the streams are there, flowing along like always, and they themselves really couldn’t care less what we call them if you ask me. But it cracks me up to see this search, because it means that some poor soul who saw a photo of a fish, in this case likely an enormous brown trout with a tiny spring creek in the background, thought that Google, of all places, might be a good place to find out where it was that we were fishing. Sorry pal; we named it Christmas Creek because we found it Christmas day, and if you want to fish there, you’ll have to ask me personally where it flows.

• “Wild Bunch Legal Leather Chaps” – Is this some sort of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid meets The Village People fetish? More importantly, actually MUCH more importantly, what the hell does it have to do with me?

• “Hilux Fishing Truck” – I didn’t previously realize that the Toyota Hilux was a fishing truck. Most of the photos I have seen of them in the media have shown Taliban drivers and huge bed mounted machine guns being fired by insurgents at my infidel brethren in Afghanistan. But I like this new picture better. The Hilux is definitely the four wheel drive tool of choice for those of us plying our trade here in the Andes, so why not? Too bad they don’t sell them in the states.

• “Little Piranha Juvenile Delinquency in Peru” – It’s a ongoing problem. Every year the newly spawned toothy little critters in the Amazon get uppity, and think they have every right to barge right in on the most tender parts of whatever hapless mammal falls into the river. Meanwhile, the elder Piranhas, many of whom engaged in such unseemly behavior throughout their own fingerling years, find themselves with only the second rate morsels of innocent flesh, but rip them from the thrashing skeleton of the still alive innocent creature they are devouring all the same. Such is modern piranha culture. Actually, the “Little Piranhas” are apparently a gang engaged in violent acts of crime on the streets of Lima. I tested this search myself, thinking “Google’s nuts”, but we were the 18th result in the list, after a couple of news articles about the gang, the lyrics from an “Old Dirty Bastard” song, and a bunch of other nonsense. So,… Hello? Google? WTF?

• “Quail Beekeeping” – Now see that sounds interesting. I’m into all kinds of goofy intertwinings of activities. I like quail. And bees. So why not? If the person who did this search is reading – could you please get in touch with me and let me know how it is I can combine the two?

• “Capybara Body Parts” – GOOGLE! Buddy! Seriously! I’m going to switch over to Bing if this keeps up! This has gone too far. Please explain yourself.

• “Lioness Eating Testicle” – I gotta go, again, before I laugh myself to death here…

On Mojo, and other interesting topics from the reports of Google Analytics

Google Analytics is one of those things that presents itself in my life as both a blessing and a curse.  I described this dynamic in an article I wrote for Pareidolia a couple of years ago, but the topic has since matured some, and the more farcical face of the subject has since presented itself.

This blog sees a lot of traffic.  An astounding amount, to me, since my intentions in creating and maintaining it have always been and remain simply to keep the people I know in life relatively up to date on what I’m doing down here, a necessary step due to the fact that I live more than five thousand miles away from the majority of them.  But the fact remains – more people visit this website every month than visit the websites of my outfitting business here in Argentina, my marketing company up in the states, and my non-profit organization combined, by a factor of many, many times.  So I continue to wonder; who are these people?

Google Analytics provides some clues.  By looking at the map of where in the world people were when they accessed the site, how long they spent on it, what pages they accessed, and what they were searching for when they landed, I can come up with a sort of vague idea of who they are.  The problem is that the picture this data paints looks weirder than a snake-turd.

So, in an effort to straighten the paths of information flow out a bit, and perhaps provide these folks with what they were in fact looking to receive when they ended up visiting this site in the first place, I will list here are some of the things typed into search engines over the last month or so which ultimately led people to spend time reading content on the blog, and my comments/thoughts on those same, sent from this end of the report:

  • “What is Mojo?”

This one is actually pretty good, although it is hard for me to imagine how my blog was thought by search engines to be an appropriate reference with which a user might answer the question.  Wikipedia defines Mojo as: a magical charm bag used in hoodoo, which has transmuted into a slang word for self-confidence, self-esteem or sex appeal; and Webster’s Dictionary says it means: a magic spell, hex, or charm;  while an online Urban Dictionary describes it as: Self-confidence, Self-assuredness. As in basis for belief in one’s self in a situation.  I’ll take those as a starting point, but true Mojo is so much more.  And when I say true Mojo, I am talking about fly fishing Mojo, which as far as I am concerned is the only Mojo worth discussing or defining here.  Fly fishing Mojo is an energy, or an alignment of energies, that comes and goes based on nothing more than its own clearly animate will.  Some people, like my friends Paulino and Hernan, seem to have it all the time.  You can’t keep huge fish off their lines.  Others of us from the mere mortal castes experience only rare days of it, but through infrequency it remains a memorable event each time it occurs.  The worst though, is reverse-Mojo: those days when you couldn’t buy a fish even if you had the cash, which you don’t, or when every fish that takes the fly somehow manages to escape without being hooked.  I’ve seen my friend Zachariah Tweed literally roar with frustration after too many hours in this space, and my heart went out to him as he did, because I know it.  So that’s my take on Mojo folks, for those of you who were searching.

  • “Barfy hamburger”

I’m not really sure where to begin with this one.  I mean, yes, I did write those words in an earlier post, because I thought it was funny that there is a brand of Hamburger here in Argentina called Barfy (I mean, that’s funny, right?). But what the hell were you searching for?  Up in the states I remember enjoying Bubba Burgers, which are similar, but I sure don’t remember getting up from the picnic table with a full gut one day and searching for their website.  Plus, if I had, and somehow ended up with a page that had “Just Another Day in the Florida Panhandle” as its title in the search results, I can’t imagine a scenario, no matter how many beers I’d downed with the burgers, in which I would have clicked on it.

  • “Big male tube”

 I’m not even gonna touch that one.

  • “Circus poodles 2012”

Ok, it’s true I have a fly I call the Circus Poodle.  So that’s there.  It comes in various year models, all pretty similar, and has worked pretty well on certain brook trout I can remember, especially in the Rio Shaman.  But could that have been what they were looking for? How would they have known about it?  And why the year model?  All I can come up with is that there must actually be some sort of sick poodle slave trade for the traveling circus market; breeding and selling poor little poodle puppies into lives of clown-surround servitude, and I am sorry if I attracted that species of attention even inadvertently.

  • “Deep orange brown petrified wood”

Now that is specific.  We’re not talking about your run of the mill orange or brown petrified wood here, but a sample which is both orange and brown, and deep on the orange side of that scale (or possibly on both sides).  Glad I could be of help there.

  • “Fishing all day long”

Alright…. Well sure, I’m all about it.  But as a Google search?  Why not just go fishing?  All day long?  What are you doing in front of your computer?

  • “Justin Witt, vagrant”

Now this one I love.  I’m actually thinking of having business cards printed with this as my title, or maybe even making T-Shirts and hats.  It will be a simple design, just a solid color, and the words across the front.  Probably in my favorite creative font, Times New Roman.  Then if I’m ever killed in a single Hilux accident out on the Pampa somewhere, or drowned in a river, when the Gendarmes find me they’ll jot the words down in their carbon-paper reports, and in another two hundred years one of my cousin’s great-great grandkids doing genealogy research on the family will find it and think “Huh, I had a vagrant in my family tree?”

  • “Patagonia wife tube”

What the hell?  I can see a couple of possible routes this search might have taken to arrive at the blog: one through my discussions of tube-flies, and the other through the repeated use of the word Patagonia throughout.  The wife part though, much less the connection of the three, Google just pulled out of the posterior regions of their already mysterious algorithm.  But then the guy hung around and read the blog.  Hmmm….

  • “Super cheap shorts”

Well yeah, I mean, who doesn’t like super cheap shorts?

  • “Why trout are so massive in Patagonia?”

Now there’s a relevant question.  Good on you brother!  Why are the trout so massive in Patagonia?  I probably didn’t answer this through what you found in your first search and visit to the blog, but since I’m sure you’ll be back, here it is – Population density, or, rather, lack thereof.  And I’m not talking about the trout.  I’m talking about people.  Thankfully our region of Patagonia down here still has a human population density that is lower than the Sahara Desert’s.  Once you get outside of town there’s just nothing but mountains and pampa as far as the eye can see in all directions.  And that, is what allows the trout in our rivers, lakes, and streams to do exactly what they do best when left alone – which is to prosper.  Sure we’ve got little fish too, it’s important to have little fish if you want to have big fish later on; in fact a healthy system generally has a whole wide range of fish-sizes; North American types near cities have just gotten so used to carbon-copy eight inch stockers with their fins worn off that they’ve forgotten this.  It’s like Walter Wetherell says of New England in Save the Fountain, “Stocking fish has been going on so long now in this part of the country, it’s become part of the natural order of things, so you have to step back a bit to realize how odd, how truly bizarre the whole business is.”  Now granted, the point can be made that our Argentine trout aren’t native, and as such were stocked in these waters at one time or another.  But that was a long, long, time ago.  And now with so much water and so few people to pollute it, steal it for irrigation, over-fish it, dam it, or otherwise screw it up, the trout have exactly what they need to thrive, namely space, and a limited interference from mankind.  That’s all they really want!

  • “Wood wool for cows”

I’m trying to picture what that looks like, but I’m coming up blank.

  • “Yerba bruja plant”

Now that sounds cool!  I don’t know what it is, but it translates to something like “Witch’s Herb”, which would have to be something good.  I don’t have any though.  So I guess you’ll have to look elsewhere.

  • “Where is Jurassic Lake Argentina?”

This one always cracks me up.  And there are lots, and lots of versions of it.  “How to get to Jurassic Lake by car”, “Jurassic Lake GPS coordinates”, “Cheap access to Jurassic Lake”.  The list goes on.  But Jurassic Lake is the made up name another outfitter gave to our very own and very real Lago Strobel, one of the more famous lakes we fish in Santa Cruz province, in an effort to try and reap the benefits of publishing gratuitous fish-porn online without generating an increase in fishing pressure on the lake itself.  This was unnecessary, because due to the lake’s actual physical location, unless you know what you’re doing and have a hell of a four wheel drive vehicle, several gate keys, and a lot of patience, you can’t get there from here.  The first time Tweed and I drove the Toyota in we were in 4-wheel drive low for three hours making the last twelve or so kilometers happen as we crawled over boulder after boulder until my arms got worn out; effectively driving in a form that people in the states pay to watch on cable television.  But the searches continue.  And I imagine the always will.  The fish in there are just that friggin’ huge!

  • “Winnie the pooh compares streams to rivers”

Gotta love that one.

  • “Tyrannosaurus look like?”

Huh?  Kinda big, green, maybe had feathers; I’m not sure!  Never really seen one.  Who are you people again?

  • “The home office fly fishing”

I can relate to that.  I guess you can see this in my last post, describing the battle-station where I oscillate back and forth between the laptop and the tying bench all winter long.  Was it any help bud?  Drop me a line and let me know; I’m glad to be of service any time.

  • “Poet from Patagonia”

I’d best not let this one go to my head.  A couple lines published in obscure literary journals probably doesn’t quite qualify me for the position described.  Feels nice though.  Thanks!

  • “Patabonia technique”

I’m laughing too hard to keep typing…

That’s all folks!  Shoot me the news when you get a chance; I look forward to hearing from everyone soon!  Also, as an alternative option, I have now activated the “Comments” capability here on the blog for each new post.  So, comment away!

~Justin