fishing for words

(and tossing out random thoughts)


one thing to do when not fly fishing this winter

Even though there is no fly fishing in Yemen (and even if there were you probably wouldn’t want to go), I was pleasantly surprised to see that the rather unassuming Salmon Fishing in the Yemen was recognized by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA) with three Golden Globe nominations for: Best Actor in a Comedy (Ewan McGregor), Best Actress in a Comedy (Emily Blunt) and Best Motion Picture–Musical or Comedy. A pretty big deal for a movie that pulled in less than $9 million in the U.S.

Salmon Fishing in the Yemen is one of those stories about unreasonably good-looking people surmounting challenges to fulfill a dream thought absurd, and one of the best examples of a “feel good” movie. I enjoyed it despite issues with some of the fly fishing scenes, which is okay. Fly fishing is essentially a plot device (in both the book and movie) to explore love, separation and loss and ultimately, inspiration and faith. It’s refreshing to see a balanced portrayal of an Arab character and his Middle Eastern country, and the likable cast does a great job bringing a not-quite-over-the-edge spark of screwball energy to their characters. (I would suggest that Ewan McGregor and Emily Blunt haven’t been duly awarded for their trade craft.) The direction of Lasse Hallström offers beautiful landscapes as a supporting character.

In a nutshell, the attempt to bring fly fishing to the Yemen River is the quixotic* quest through which the characters search for contentment. A bit like fly fishing itself.

So, this winter, instead of justifying your lack of fishing with excuses of brutal cold, iced guides and the simple lack of a rational reason to fly fish in January, sit down with that beer or scotch, and enjoy. You can even tell your significant other that this is a film with fly fishing that they may actually enjoy.

*Yup, I worked “quixotic” into two posts in a row.


fly fishing: a great equalizer

Be honest. This is often the way we imagine it could have happened. Standing in a river in early May, maybe June, the fish are still eager and maybe still a bit stupid. The spot you’ve chosen offers a clear cast to riffles only half a dozen yards long. The weather is cool enough to encourage the wearing of that old, long-sleeve flannel shirt. The bright sun is blocked by a classic wool walking hat; the one that lends the wearer a certain swagger. The patches of aspen, peaking out between the Jeffery and piñon pines, are once again covered with bright green leaves.

It wouldn’t be too difficult to cast from here, and you consider it, but you are new to the sport and the desire to properly and softly present the fly requires a few more steps. The trout slowly and quietly slurp Baetis duns. You check your leader, eyeing its length and looking for any nicks or knots that would give away your fly as a fake.

You cast the fly into a seam you think will carry it past the closest edge of the feeding fish. The fly slips around one rock, then another. To keep the drift realistic, you lift your rod tip to keep as much line off the water as possible. Everything looks and feels right. The fly disappears, and without thinking, and an imperceptible pause, you set the hook. If time allowed, there’d be a debate as to who was more surprised, you or the fish.

All of this positioning and decision-making doesn’t take as long as it seems, except that it takes great effort to ensure that everything is perfect for the woman watching from the bank. She sits on a checkerboard blanket, the remnants of a picnic scattered about. Her classic beauty competes with the trout for your attention. She smiles, impressed, as the rainbow trout glistens in the sunlight, before you carefully return it to the water.

However, unless you’re luckier than the rest of us, reality is much different…even for better-looking people, particularly those who’ve just learned to cast a fly.

Ewan McGregor took Hollywood actress Emily Blunt fly fishing – and she ended up catching his dog.

The Crieff-born actor was in Scotland last year filming Salmon Fishing in the Yemen, about a fisheries scientist who tries to bring the sport to the Middle East.

Ewan was showing off his newly acquired casting skills to Emily…

He said: “All the actors stayed in this beautiful little house. They had a pond down at the bottom of the garden and some rods and both Amr Waked, who is also in the movie, and I had learnt to fly fish.

“We were showing off because we were trying to impress Emily with our fly fishing skills – ‘Look, you do it like this, don’t bendy our wrist, no, that’s right…’

“And she caught my dog who was running around behind. She hooked him. She didn’t catch any fish but she did catch my dog.”

– via