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Journal of Dan T. Cook - Fly Fishing the Globe

Traveling 75,000 miles around the world in search of fish and friendship.
Follow Dan's journey here or use Google Earth to see his trip so far.

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September 6, 2008 - Location: Park City, Utah

Greetings from HOME! The trip has been completed! In total the adventure covered 25 countries, 27 months and over 75,000 miles. I caught 62 different species of fish, drank 63 different brands of beer and met hundreds of new people, many of which are now very good friends. I am truly fortunate to have made this journey. Before I can wax philosophical, here is the latest news:

Kenai with Leif and Stig
My best fishing buddy, Leif Milling, promised to meet up with me in Alaska at the conclusion of my trip. Not only did he keep his word, he also brought along his lifelong friend, Stig Norberg ("Mr. Northmountain"; Norberg = "Northmountain" in Swedish). With Stig's classic, picture-perfect casting and quick wit, we quickly formed an international version of the "Three Stooges."  I'm not sure who played which roles in the comedy act, but it was usually captured on film by Leif. The pictures below tell (most of) the story.

Prudhoe Bay
I was beginning to question the idea of ending my trip in Prudhoe Bay, at the very top of Alaska. It was 1,000 miles out of the way. The time spent driving up there and back could have been spent fishing with the Swedes. Or it could have been spent driving directly back to the U.S. and beginning preparations for the Fly Fishing Retailer show in Denver. However, I have always been interested in seeing that part of Alaska and since I had reached the southernmost point of road in South America, it only made sense to reach the northernmost point of road in North America. By reaching Deadhorse Point, the town that supports the oil drilling operations, I could then lay claim to a complete South-to-North transverse of the Americas. Finally, I figured I would probably only drive around the world 2-3 times in my life, so I decided it was worth the time and effort.

I said goodbye to my wonderful fishing companions and begin the journey north. On the first day I made it from Soldotna to the Yukon Crossing on the Dalton Highway. This place brought back many memories for me. I had stayed at the Crossing on both of my previous Yukon River journeys. I remembered that each time my boat came around the gentle swing in the river and I saw the bridge begin to appear, I felt a huge sense of relief. The crossing of the Dalton Highway marks the end of the most arduous and dangerous section of the trip. It also represented an opportunity for a hot meal and a phone call to the outside world.

I cooked up a bowl of soup and watched the mighty Yukon pass by. The river was 10 feet lower now than it was back in July. With less volume, there seemed to be a peacefulness about it, almost a gentleness that was not apparent when I was fighting 30 mph headwinds and 3 foot chop. My relationship with the Yukon is a very strange one: when I am on the river rowing my dory, my primary goal is to push myself until exhaustion so that at the end of each day I am closer to the end. At the conclusion of my river trips, I have accomplished the goal and "checked the box." For weeks after the end, the memories of the pain, frustration and exhaustion are still vivid and reinforce the notion of never doing it again. 2 years later, as I looked over the source of so many oar strokes, so many back aches and wrist pain, my first instinct was to begin planning another float trip.

Arriving in Deadhorse Point was a bit anticlimactic; the town is basically made up of hundreds of Quonset huts and temporary buildings. That being said...the vehicles that have been built to combat the cold and snow are pretty amazing to witness. The only purpose for the town is to support the 5,000+ oil field workers who brave the elements year-round (the high temperature during my visit was 40 degrees). But my needs from the town were simple; purchase a ticket on a tour to see Arctic Ocean and grab a celebratory beer. So I headed over to the Arctic Caribou Hotel to arrange the tour. The receptionist said that I'd need to speak with a security officer, which happened to be standing right next to her. Okay........  The security guard said that I could only go on a tour tomorrow, since they needed to do a security check to take me through the oil fields. I told him that I'd prefer to go today as I would need to leave very early the next day. I also mentioned that I had just spent the last 27 months driving around the world and would really like to end my journey at the Arctic Ocean. Neither he nor the receptionist showed even a glimmer of interest or intent to help me accomplish my modest request. No tour for me.

Full of disappointment and a bit discouraged, I decided to focus on goal #2: beer. So I drove over to the Prudhoe Bay Hotel and asked the receptionist where I could purchase a delicious, frosty Coors..... or PBR or what-have-you. Her response: "Nowhere." Turns out Deadhorse Point is a dry town. I suppose this is because all the oil field workers would spent every non-working moment drinking themselves into a stupor, since there isn't anything else to do.

Finding myself unable to complete my tasks, I cooked up a bowl of soup and took heed of my accomplishment. I had seen a lot and done a lot over the last 2-plus years. It felt pretty good. Then I turned the ignition on the truck and began the drive back down the Dalton Highway. As Ivy Baker Priest once said, "The world is round and the place which may seem like the end may also be the beginning."

Looking Forward
Now that my around-the-planet adventure has been concluded, my energies will be devoted to developing Rivers of Recovery (ROR) into the premier recreational rehabilitation program in the country. We have a long way to go, but even though ROR is still in its infancy, we have been joined by prominent, dedicated and supremely talented individuals. Our commitment to supporting our disabled veterans and their families is unwavering.

A few of you may ask, "So what happens to Fly Fishing the Globe?" In short; nothing. I will continue to keep this website active with photos and journal entries from my forthcoming adventures. As a matter-of-fact, I have already planned a few international trips (I have had quite a bit of time to think about this while I was driving). Additionally, I will be putting together a photo essay from my journey. I will include these images, combined with tales of my trip (there was MUCH that I could not include on the web diary entries) and details on how you can replicate parts of my fishing trip in a presentation that I will provide to interested groups. Please contact me if you would like details.

Lastly, I would like to emphasize that, in addition to learning about the world and its people, cultures and places, the goal of this adventure was to fish as much of the planet with a "do-it-yourself" philosophy. Having a guide stand over my left shoulder, tell me what fly to use and where to cast it defeats the very purpose of fly fishing for me. I'd much rather catch one fish completely on my own than 20 fish with a guide. For me, the satisfaction of fly fishing is in the 99% of what happens BEFORE hooking the fish. The trip and gear planning, the transportation and hiking to find the "right" spot, the lines and knots, the flies, the cast and the presentation. What is really comes down to is this: "It's not about the fish."

In the past, fly fishing was a sport enjoyed mostly by the financial elite. I mean.... the gentlemen fly fisher of the past used to wear a 3-piece suit for frick's sake! Understandably, there are still places where hiring a guide is a must. Mongolia, for instance...... as well as just about any fishing that requires an expensive boat. Beyond that, I believe that it is possible to be successful in fishing just about anywhere in the world. All it takes is good research and the confidence that you can handle the challenges ahead. What I have learned, and this is really the key to the "do-it-yourself" philosophy, is that nearly EVERYONE that you meet along the way will want to help you achieve your goal. It happened time and again on my trip and it will happen to you too.

So the next time you think about saving up $6,000 for a week's fishing at some famous international fly fishing destination, consider doing a bit of research, joining an internet fishing forum, getting to know the locals and doing the trip yourself. I promise that you'll be successful and, more importantly, each fish you catch will be more rewarding and you'll make many more friends along the way.

Finally, thank you for joining me on my Fly Fishing the Globe adventure. It is impossible to describe the experience, other than to say it was so much more than I ever imagined and that my world will never be the same again. Many thanks to all the people who helped me along the way—I will never forget your kindness and generosity. To my family—thank you for the love and support (and for dealing with my mail). To my friends—Thanks and I promise to stay in better contact now!

My travels have taught me this: There are infinitesimal differences in people, but essentially we are all the same.

pics:


It's Swede time!  Leif, Stig and Dan enjoying an adult beverage


Although most despise the Humpy, they are actually quite lovely.... with the right person behind the camera.


A grizzly on the Russian River; at first glance I thought he was coming for us....
turns out he was just pouncing on a sockeye.


Here I am facing down a black bear. Once the Swedes got on their air horns,
the bear knew who was boss and smartly retreated.


Stig and his silver from the outlet at Skilak Lake


Always working—that's me! Quite a departure from the work ethic I applied to my previous career.


A scene from the Anchor River.


On the move.... Stig and I returning from an unsuccessful visit to the Anchor.


A few drinks later...... we switched personas.


Fishing from a rock in the middle of the Kenai near Soldotna.


The Swedes poised to tackle the famed Russian River. I wouldn't say they pack light.


While fishing the Russian, I found a submerged log that appeared to be decorated like a Christmas tree. I dragged it over to the bank where we discovered 34 flies, ½ pound of lead and enough line to circle the Earth.


The madness of Milling. Many thanks to my good friend for meeting up with me 4 times on my
around-the-world journey. It doesn't appear to have affected him one bit!


A reunion with the Yukon River: I sat at this exact place just over 2 years ago.
Last time I arrived by river, this time by road.


The beginning of the Dalton Highway to Prudhoe Bay.


These are like mini-vans in Prudhoe Bay.... every body's got one!


"So your saying I can't go any further?" Here I am at the literal "end of the road."
The security gates marked the official end of my adventure. My gesture reflects the following:

    1. After driving ALL the way around the world, why couldn't they bend the rules just a little bit and let me see the Arctic Ocean?
    2. Why am I paying $5.73 a gallon for diesel here when there 25 billion barrels of oil directly under me?
    3. Why can't a buy a frickin' beer in this town?!?!?!?!
    4. All of the above.

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