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Fly FishingAfter re-rigging the primary rod, Dean Butler walked over to the corner of the boat where I was sulking, “Mate, that was a f*ckin’ killing machine….it would have gotten us one way or another.” He stopped short of saying “Don’t worry about it,” but then forgiving screw ups wasn’t in his nature. Dean was probably right, though. Even if everything went exactly as planned, the 400 lb. blue marlin that had snapped my line moments earlier would have found a way to elude capture. I just wished I had seen the line wrapped around the butt of the rod. On the bright side, I did have a monster blue marlin on my fly rod – for half a second.Aside from reminding me to ALWAYS clear the line from the rod, that day off the coast of Vanuatu also provided me with something else: perspective. Dean Butler is arguably the best marlin fisherman in the world and I definitely wanted to do right by him, but other than that, I could only be thankful for my predicament: there I was in a veritable paradise spending each day on a boat with a crack fishing crew, chasing one of the meanest, fastest and most difficult fish to catch on a fly. At the end of each day, I would head back to the room, throw back a few icy cold beers and then go out to a nice restaurant for a delicious meal. And the best part? I was only 7 months into a 27-month fishing trip in which would take me around the world, introduce me to people who would become close friends, take me to places that I had only read about and, most importantly, educate me on how much of the rest of the world lives. On this trip I would catch all 5 species of Pacific salmon in Alaska; land a barramundi and 30 other salt water species in Australia; stalk big rainbows and browns in New Zealand; hunt bonefish, trevally and sharks in New Caledonia; fail at marlin on the fly but succeed with tuna and wahoo in Vanuatu; scarf down copious amounts of cognac and lard while catching flounder in Russia; be blessed with magnificent taimen and lenok in Mongolia; land Atlantic salmon and arctic char in Norway; catch an “Id” in Sweden; find trout and grayling in Europe; sneak into Jurassic Lake for monster rainbows; manage a solitary sea run brown in Rio Gallegos; fish my way from Tierra del Fuego to Colombia; get skunked at the world-famous Tropic Star Lodge in Panama; venture into the depths of the Mosquito Jungle for tarpon; strike out at Isla Holbox; manage a tiny rooster and a yellowtail on the Baja and, finally, conclude my adventure at the end of the northernmost highway in North America. This is not to say that there weren’t a few “downs” to go with the “ups.” I ran into a little bit of trouble in Norway. For some odd reason, a rather unpleasant family of 5 was intent on pushing me out of my fishing spot, even going so far as to throw their lures with oversized treble hooks to within inches of my kick boat. When the 60ish year old patriarch began yelling “Get out of Norway!!!” repeatedly in a staccato fashion, I got off the water to confront them. Suddenly they didn’t speak English nor did any of them have a name that I could report to the authorities. Who knew that xenophobia was rampant in arctic Norway??? I’m pretty sure the erratic behavior was due in large part to vitamin D deprivation caused during the Winter.The highlights of the trip are almost too numerous to choose from. Was it camping at the Cape Peron, Western Australia without a soul within 2 hours and the Milky Way seemingly within grasp? Or was it traveling through the country-side in Mongolia, apparently the first white person that some of the astonished youngsters had ever seen before? Was it enduring the Trans-Siberian Highway, with its bone-jarring surfaces and an average speed of 30 mph for 1,400 miles? Or did it have to do with fishing….running a half a mile downriver after a 60 lb. Chinook in Chile, landing it and then having it escape my grasp before I could photograph it? Was it casting to a huge roosterfish on the Baja only to have another rooster, 1/100th the size, swoop in and take the fly? Perhaps it was releasing a meter-long taimen caught on a size 12 grayling nymph and 3X tippet on my last day on the Delgermoron?Actually, the greatest accomplishment of this trip had nothing to do with destinations or fish. It was, strangely, borne from the only TV news report that I had seen during the previous 12 months. The piece was about two Iraq war veterans, both severely injured as a result of IED explosions. Despite multiple amputations and severe traumatic brain injury, one of the veterans looked into the camera and said something remarkable: “I am still the same person I was before.” That put a lump in my throat and I immediately knew that I had to do something to give back to our soldiers. From that inspiration came Rivers of Recovery (ROR)—a nonprofit organization that provides disabled veterans and their families with rehabilitative fly fishing trips. In 2008, Rivers of Recovery hosted 20 participants–13 individual veterans, 2 father-son combos and a family of three. The results where extraordinary. The hypothesis that fly fishing can assist in rebuilding confidence and self-esteem and facilitate a reconnection to the outdoors–and to family–was proven beyond a doubt. Of course, this only makes sense to fly fishermen; we go fishing for a reason—it makes us feel good! To see the veterans tackle the complexities of casting and to witness their resilience, optimism and courage was inspirational. To receive their gratitude was humbling. Many vets suggested that the ROR trip was the only appreciation they have received for their sacrifices. Some said their experience allowed them to relax and re-focus on their rehabilitation. Others discovered a new sport which allowed them to forget their stresses and that was oblivious to their disabilities. One said that it was the first time he was able to sleep without sedatives since he returned from war.I’ve come to realize that fly fishing isn’t so much about the fish. For me, it is about everything BUT the fish: The preparation, building the flies, tying the knots, reading the water, picking the spots, making the presentation. If I do everything right, sometimes I’ll catch a fish. As evidenced by Dean Butler in Vanuatu and many others who have shared their fishing secrets with me over the years, the generosity of knowledge and spirit defines fly fishing. This unspoken tradition is an integral part of the Rivers of Recovery program. When you realize that sharing knowledge of a skill or taking them to a beautiful river results in making someone happy, you have achieved the essence of fly fishing. So perhaps fly fishing is simply about making someone feel good. Sometimes that someone is you—sometimes it’s someone more deserving