Toward the end of last year I received a forwarded email from a colleague in the industry. In it, a gentleman named Billy West who was stationed in Iraq asked about fly fishing for carp and other “rough” species. Billy said, “I am currently stationed in Iraq and I frequently take trips to VBC, (Victory Base Complex). There are many ponds full of carp, asp, and mangar. I was hoping you could line me out on what type of flies to use and where to get them. The ponds average a depth of six feet and in some areas the fish are fed bread crumbs and swarm the banks. I’m a new fly angler and am not really sure what to look for… Any insight is greatly appreciated. Thanks for your time, I hope all that snow is not keeping you off the water.”
Knowing that I was a carp junkie said friend forwarded me the email and asked what I knew. I told him that as much as I’d like to think I could help Billy out, I was in reality – a pretty poor carp fisherman. I might be able to fool a carp once a year in the South Platte here in Denver, but Bahgdad’s urban fishery? I wasn’t gonna pretend like I knew what I was talking about. None the less I gathered some fishing supplies, fishing magazines, and a pile of flies and sent Billy a care package. Call me crazy, but something told me the local Baghdad fly shop might not have what he was looking for and this dude really needed to fish.
I received a very nice thank you letter from Billy some weeks after that, but had heard nothing since then. Then last Friday I received an email from Billy with the picture shown here stating that he had indeed used some of the flies and caught fish around Baghdad until he was moved to a place in Iraq with no water. Go figure. The fish shown here is an asp, says Billy. It looks like to me like a cross between a snook and a bonefish or a whitefish and a tarpon. Hell, I don’t know.
What I do know is that I’ll probably never catch an asp – but am happy to live vicariously through Billy. The fact that a couple of flies that I sent a guy I didn’t even know helped him catch fish around the other side of the world and let me see a fish I didn’t even know existed. I’m assuming the flies helped Billy too.
That I think, is pretty damn cool.