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Living in Hungary, a country as flat as a draftsman’s table, I usually do my trout fly fishing in neighboring Slovakia, Slovenia or Romania. Romania has some of the wildest mountains in the Carpathians, with streams bearing both wild and stocked trout and grayling. It also has a desperately poor rural economy.A few summers ago my wife and I were in western Transylvania fly fishing the Bistra river, a freestone stream that follows a valley into some of the highest peaks of the South Carpathians. This region is reached only by shepherds and mountaineers. We skunked out on our first day. Hiking back to the village we saw why. The local shepherds spent their days fishing for trout with long bamboo poles baited with caddis larva on stubby carp hooks. The idea of “catch and release” makes about as much sense to the local people as bulimia. Trout are free meat.We decided to hike further into the mountains on our next attempt. About every hour or so we stashed a few cans of beer in the streambed so that we would be able to enjoy a cold brew on our hike down. Our second day of fly fishing was as unproductive as our first. A few grayling nipped at my klinkhammers, but no trout. Around mid afternoon, standing in the middle of the stream, we suddenly were surrounded by dozens of goats, followed by an aged, toothless Gypsy goatherd. “Catch anything today?”“Nothing. Are there any trout left in this river?”“When I was young the river used to have trout the size of my arm, but now its all fished out.” The goatherd reached into his tattered rucksack and pulled out a pickle jar filled with three-inch long sculpins.“Plenty of these fish, though. Dinner!” Most shepherds lived their entire lives on a monotonous diet of mamaliga, Romanian cornmeal porridge served with sheep cheese, and the prospect of some juicy minnows made the old man’s eyes light up. I didn’t see any rod, net or other equipment, so I had to ask how he had caught them. The goatherd reached into his coat pocket and pulled out a rusty old fork. He then proceeded to wade into the stream, bent over, and slowly shuffled upstream, systematically stabbing at the gravel bed until, with a shout of victory, he held up a fat minnow impaled on his fork.“Aha! More fish soup! Come up to the camp and try some!”It was late in the afternoon, the fly fishing had been a total loss and the prospect of hiking higher into the mountains to dine on muddlers and mush wasn’t exactly what I had in mind for the evening. I said goodbye to the old goatherd and started down towards the village. About a hundred meters down the path I heard a shrill whistle. I turned and saw the old goatherd waving at us. His old voice boomed down the mountainside.“And thank you for the beer!”