If you haven't heard about acrobatic fly fishing, it is probably normal. Acrobatic is indeed not the usual adjective to describe our favourite fishing technique.
It all started a long time ago in my French Pyrénées; fishing these crystal clear waters for brown trouts, I always felt this feeling, this urge, to go and see behind that rock, behind that cliff, beyond that bend of the river that seemed inaccessible, that was more often than not, inaccessible indeed. I spent lots of time analysing very detailed topographic maps just to find a way to access those inaccessible stretches of rivers.
And surely I did access some of them. Surely too, I found myself in various positions, quite often precarious, climbing up or down rocks and small cliffs, steep slopes, holding my precious rod between my teeth while using all my fingers to hang on anything I could, just to access the inaccessible.
(Holding my precious rod between my teeth while climbing…)
I fell, I slid and, curiously enough, developed the automatic reflex to gently throw away my rod, at the first feeling of an inevitable epic fall. And until now I never broke a rod that way, too precious. And despite playing with the odds, I still feel I never crossed that fine and blurry line of personal safety. My aim is not to flirt with that line, it is just to go fishing, just there, where I just can't, or can. Telling my stories, I started to use that word to describe the access to my fishing spots, "Acrobatic". That's how my acrobatic fly fishing practice got its name.
Now I live in Myanmar; and that urge still urges me... And here in Myanmar, it gets a lot more complicated, a hell lot more. Fishing in Europe is pretty comfortable; you take your car, you drive until the access point, the GPS even helps you if you need, you get off your car, get dressed up in your outfit full of gadgets, then you fish.
Well, here in Myanmar, it is no like that, not at all, not even remotely.
Of course you can find bodies of water accessible by car, but the fishing experience is likely to be a little disappointing. Myanmar is still a country where lots of people in rural areas, but even in Yangon too, forage for food. Fishing is still very rarely a pastime, and among recreational fishermen, catch and release is a foreign concept, not practiced. In a place where a fish caught is a fish about to be killed, about to become food, more often than not for survival, the only way to find fishing grounds really worth is in remote inaccessible areas.
At least, that is what I think. It is possible though that this is an excuse, my excuse to explain my attraction to the inaccessible...
Myanmar emerging from a complicated and turbulent recent history, lacking basic infrastructures like roads and where conflict prevailed in most parts and still does in some, inaccessible fishing grounds are plentiful.
Where I was spending lots of time on detailed topographic maps back in France, here in Myanmar I spend this time on satellite imagery, looking for rivers and stretches of coastline that look inaccessible. Then I book a flight, then a motorbike, then I drive, trying to narrow in onto my objective, using those clues seen on satellite images.
If there are signs of human activity, like a patch of vegetation that seem to be different from its natural surroundings, then there must be a path leading there.
And from there, I walk in the bushes, in the jungle, through swamps and mangroves, on slippery rocks, on gorgeous remote beaches, in narrow canyons, until I find that body of water that appealed to my feeling, to that urge to reach that place, that one place only because it looked inaccessible.
(A path in a swamp…)
Sometime it is indeed inaccessible, but sometimes it is not. I fall, I slide, I bruise my body, but I keep going, I keep trying, my mind holding on that dream, responding to that urge to get there, my body holding onto anything it can, my teeth clamping into the cork that makes the handle of my precious rod. And I keep going. And what is inaccessible today might not be tomorrow. I don't fail, more honestly I don't admit I fail even if I do, I only claim my equipment is not good enough for today. So I'll come back tomorrow, or the day after... And I'll get there... I surely will.
In the end, it is possible that fishing might be as good or even possibly better in easier to reach places as in inaccessible ones. But it surely won't taste as good as it does when you fish beyond the inaccessible.
(Reaching the inaccessible, a small mountain creek…)
Reaching the inaccessible and going beyond it, in places where I know no-one has ever cast a fly before, knowing that each rock in front of me is a new rock, new to fly fishing, brings a sense of accomplishment and pleasure like no other. Fishing the inaccessible with a fly fishing rod is what I call acrobatic fly fishing because I put myself in those acrobatic positions, just to go fishing, just there, a little bit beyond, behind...
And I will keep doing it until I cannot anymore, even if people call me crazy, just because I love it, that's all. No excuse, no justification, I just love it.
So if you are looking for me, I might just be there, somewhere inaccessible, in some precarious acrobatic position, doing some acrobatic fly fishing...