Cutthroat trout are special fish. On the Big Horn River where I live, in the Big Horn Mountains of Montana, these fish are so special fishermen can not keep one if they are lucky or smart enough to catch one. We Indians can keep one, but we paid for that right when we agreed to give up nearly all of the State of Montana 125 years ago and to quit picking on the settlers as they stole our land.
I have been trying to catch a certain cutthroat trout for nearly four years. It lives in the depths of a vortex in the river where the water swirls in a forty-foot-wide pool. The pool is deep, 20 feet in the middle. I know this fish because it has a deformed dorsal fin, probably the result of nearly being caught by a bear or a fish fight. I have watched this fish grow from 10 inches to more than 30 inches long. Whether it is a he or she is unknown. What I do know is, it is now a smart monster.
This fish does not eat when the sun is up. I know this because during daylight I have put everything from flies to worms in front of it. Most of the time it slumbers so deep in the pool it can not be seen. But just after dawn, and in the shadows of the Big Horns at dusk, I sometimes can see it lying four to five feet below the surface in the current, stationary, as the vortex swirls around it.
This fish and I have aged together over the last four years. I knew the fish was there when I left on my last motorcycle ride around the world in 1996. I had walked down to the river before the sun came up to fish that "one last time" before I started off on a journey that would take me to the ends of the globe, as far as I could ride a motorcycle north and south around the world. I like to fish almost as much as I like moving through the wind on a motorcycle -- chasing perfect roads -- and I wanted to fish once more before I set off on a dedicated ride where I would not fish, just focus on riding and staying alive.
The fish was small that morning, less than a foot long, but as the sun came up I could see it's white, deformed fin slowly moving back and forth in the dark water.
For nearly an hour I tried to catch the fish. Nothing worked. Finally it swam deeper and was gone. I went home empty handed. It was time to leave. The sun was up, I needed to close up my house, then ride five hundred miles north by sunset. There would be no fish for breakfast on this dawn of my last day home. I would not be back to my home in the next four years.
Over the next year I often thought about that fish. My thoughts focused on why I had not been able to catch it. Should I have used a different lure or fly? Maybe some high tech stuff like synthetic glowing eggs that smell? Or a jiggle worm made of plastic? Fishermen in Alaska had given me some special "Alaska fish catchers" along with some Yukon Jack fishing tips. As I rode my motorcycle back and forth across the backbone of the Rocky Mountains south towards the end of the earth in South America, I thought I had it figured out. Back in Wyoming I made a detour and back to the Big Horn River I went. Another morning, the same fish (but bigger) and different bait. Again, no fish in the frying pan. So much for Yukon Jack and Alaskan fishing secrets. Frustrated, I got back on my motorcycle and rode to the bottom of the earth, Ushuaia, in Argentina, and then up to the top of Norway and the North Cape, as far north as you can ride in Europe. There I met Norwegian fishermen. They shared some novel ideas and techniques on how to land my elusive cutthroat back in Montana. We talked during nights as bright as daylight that were filled with Laplander swill.
Finances caused my motorcycle trip around the world to halt so I came back to the United States and sold some photos and articles to prevent me from having to eat sand and push my motorcycle as I passed through Africa. During that unscheduled stop, I again waded into the Big Horn River, both at dawn and dusk, this time armed with ammunition from Norway. Mr./Ms. Cutthroat was not fooled by any of the Norwegian gizmos. I suspect the fish laughed at my efforts to tempt it. I saw it twice, but both times it ignored my foreign presents.
This spring, after having survived Africa, Asia and Japan, then Los Angeles rush hour traffic, the first thing I did after unsealing my little house in Montana was set the alarm clock for 3:30 a.m. I wanted to be standing in the fringes of the vortex on the river as the sun came up. Mr./Ms. Cutthroat was about to learn why sushi is so common in Japan. The Japanese have some pretty good techniques for landing fish and a few had been passed on to this wandering motorcyclist.
Standing in five feet of cold water up to your armpits at 4:00 a.m. is not pleasant. It is like riding a motorcycle through Germany in November in the rain. You can do it, but you have to love what you are doing. I have done both, but prefer the motorcycle ride because it usually takes some time before the cold water finds my unit hiding under a layer of Gore-Tex or PVC. Not so in five feet of cold water on the Big Horn River when the sun has yet to rise above the tree line.
Sometimes I think the fish chuckles as I stuff a yell into my clinched fist while wading out to where I know it is lurking. It probably thinks, "Here comes the Indian eunuch again."
This year the fish was huge. It had obviously moved up the food chain from flies to fry. It was the same fish, I could tell by the twisted and bent dorsal fin, but in April it must have weighed nearly 10 pounds. Life had been so good its belly was swollen or it was holding hundreds of eggs.
The Japanese may know fish, but not Mr./Ms. CutThroat of the Big Horn River in Montana, USA. After an hour of my best Rising Sun presentations the fish made one full back and forth move of it's tail -- now the size of my hand -- slipping deeper into the water and out of sight. I went back at dusk, only to see it rise minutes before my shriveled unit and blue legs said "Enough!"
Summer 2000 found me being pulled by several forces. One was money: I needed to fulfill some of my contractual writing obligations, and pay bills. Another was love and lust, the love of what I do best, ride motorcycles, and my lust for two-wheel wandering. I have a map of the world on the wall, at eye level, next to my bed. At night, before I turned off the light, I found myself looking at places I had not been -- Bhutan or Taiwan. I also looked at places where I liked having ridden, like the Alps of Austria, Italy and Switzerland, the South Island of New Zealand and parts of South America.
As I traveled around the world over the last four years one of the things I often heard from other motorcyclists was, "When I retire I want to do what you do, go see different places on my motorcycle." I smile, wish them the best, and offer to help them if I can, but deep down know they will never do it. When they retire they will be too old to do what I do. Even now I am starting to feel the creaks and cracks of bones I used to ignore when I get out of my sleeping bag in the morning.
When I ride into a town past a motel, I find myself wishing to use its fresh sheets, bed, channel clicker, air conditioning, telephone, shower with hot water, toilet (with toilet seat, and toilet paper), and locks that work. Upon retirement my motorcycling friends, at best, will sign up for a guided motorcycle tour for more money than I spend in six months to ride a motorcycle for two weeks somewhere on the globe. I am not saying that is bad. Actually I think it is good, they are living their dream within their limits. I do know they will not want to travel like me, sleeping on the ground behind some gas station in Argentina in a tent while trucks roll in and out all night because I have to manage Argentina on $1,000.00 for the month it takes to see a major part of it. Wanting to do what I do and how I do it will have dropped from their want list.
Another force that was pulling on me this summer was more Indian, cosmic, or mystical. One journalist friend of mine in Germany calls it "Indian hocus pocus," because he can not understand or relate to the forces. Maybe I spent too much time making faces at religion, UFO's or Ying and Yang to explain the calling of those forces. I will just refer to it as my Indian spirit.
I know that at this point in life I should be smoking on a big Cuban, swilling fine wine and watching the stock market. I have a long closed trunk filled with handmade suits and several diplomas to prove to me that I was trained to be doing those things at this point in life. The fact that I am doing none of them makes me wonder if maybe there is something out there pulling me away from things that are bad for me. I do believe that was I born 160 years ago I would be pretty much the same inside, a wanderer chasing the sun. But instead of riding a motorcycle around the world I would have been riding a horse around North America (ducking U.S. Army bullets), and trying to figure out how to get across borders.
Late this summer I decided to accept an invitation for a motorcycle rendezvous in Katmandu. Nepal is nearly halfway around the globe from the Big Horn Mountains on the Crow Indian Reservation. In the Big Horn Mountains we have the "Little People," some people we Crow Indians do not talk or write about. The media wants access to these people, but the Crows have been adamant. I support the Crow Tribe in that decision.
In the Himalayas where I am bound there is Yeti. Everybody knows where Yeti lives, what Yeti is, and in five or 10 years there may be bus and motorcycle tours to the "Caves of Yeti." Before those tours start I want to make contact on my own.
The earth is small, about 24,900 miles around, most of it being water. I'll fly over the water and ride a motorcycle across the rest. Some have done similar global romps on 125 cc motorcycles, others on 50cc Vespas. My friend and hero Dave Barr humped a Harley-Davidson 83,000 miles around the globe, and Dave has no legs. Ted Simon, a Brit who knew not TDC from GPS, flogged a Triumph around the world in the 1970's. Another hero of mine rode a Henderson around the globe in 1913-1914.
This will be my third motorcycle ride around the earth and I will do it on several different motorcycles. One is more than 50 years old, another designed more than 50 years ago, and a third one an Autobahn screamer. I plan to taste the continents on motorcycles manufactured on those continents, like a 1947 Indian Chief in America, an Indian (Enfield) through India (Indian roads by an Indian on an Indian?) and an Amazonas through the jungles of the Amazon.
"I'll take a quick ride, for love and lust," is what I thought when I woke up two months ago and saw Nepal on the map before my feet slid off the bed. My plan is to jump on a bike, go back to Brazil, then a fast run up and down the European Alps a couple times, jump over to India, ride into Nepal, hire a couple Sherpas and tell them to take me to the Yeti Cave. Catch Yeti in a few photographs, write a few Yeti stories, get back on the motorcycle, swing through Bangkok, then over to Taiwan (where I hope to have some knock-off Yetis made for 2001 sales at K-Mart), and finally back to the United States. Maybe I will stop in Japan and let those sushi guys know what Mr./Ms. CutThroat thinks of their gear, or I may slide through New Zealand where there are supposed to be some pretty good trout catchers.
This much I know: In April or May of 2001 I will again be nipple deep at dawn in the icy water of the Big Horn River as the red rays of sunrise chase night west around the globe. I have six months to figure out what I have been doing wrong, absorb new advice from Asian fish catchers, and wait for Mr./Ms. CutThroat to lose their edge.
When I do catch the fish I will let it go. It has outgrown any frying pan I own, and should be left to roam the Big Horn River from the depths of its home in the vortex. It has earned its freedom. In the meantime I will hunt Yeti, which I have a far better chance of catching than the Big Horn cutthroat trout.
July 27, 2000, Going Out Again - 'Round The World
October 4, 2000, Why Another Long Ride, The Plan, and Mr. Fish
October 10, 2000, the beginning, in America on an Indian
November 6, 2000, AMAZONAS-Tamed By Beasts in Brazil
November 22, 2000, Monster Cow, Wolpertinger and Autobahn Crawling Across Europe
December 22, 2000, Enfield 500 Bullet, India Motorcycle Dementia, Ozoned Harley-Davidsons and Gold Wings
December 25, 2000, Yeti on a Harley-Davidson, Nepal By Enfield, No Carnet Sexpedition
January 1, 2001, Haunting Yeti
January 25, 2001, Monkey Soccer, Asian Feet, Air 'em Up: Bhutan and Sikkim
February 12, 2001, Midgets, Carnetless, Steve McQueen on Enfield, Bangladesh
February 20, 2001, Higgledypiggledy, Salacity, and Zymurgy - India
March 20, 2001, Road warriors, sand, oil leaks - meditating out of India
April 8, 2001, Bike Cops, Elephants, and Same-Same - Thailand
May 1, 2001, Little Bikes, Millions of Bikes, Island Riding - Taiwan
May 15, 2001, Harley-Davidson, Mother Road and Super Slabs - America
June 8 , 2001, Crossing The Crazy Woman With A Harley-Davidson, Indian, BMW, Amazonas, Enfield, Hartford, SYM, Honda
January 1, 2002, Donged, Bonged, and Gonged - Burma
January 20, 2002, Secrets of The Golden Triangle - Thailand
March 31, 2002, Bear Wakes, Aims Green Machine Around The World
April 10, 2002, Moto Cuba - Crashes, Customs and El Jefe (Fidel)
May 20, 2002, Europe and The Roads South to Africa
June 10, 2002, Morocco Motorcycling, Thieves and Good Roads
July 30, 2002, Russia – Hard and Soft, By Motorcycle
August 30, 2002, USA – American Roadkill, Shipping Bikes and BIG DOGS
September 30, 2002, Good Times Roll Home, Riding With Clothes On, Team Green - USA
November, 2002, Mexico By Motorcycle - Gringos, Little Norman Bad Cock, and Bandits
March 2003, Laos by motorcycle - Guerrillas, Mekong Beering, and Plain of Coffins
July, 2003, Alaska by motorcycle – Deadhorse, Fish Story and Alaskan Bush
January 2004, Angkor, Bombed Out Roads and Dog Eaters - Cambodia
April, 2004, Minsking, Uncle Ho and Snake Wine
August 2004, Around The World Again, 1st Tag Deadhorse
February 2005, Colombia To The End Of The Earth - South America
January 2006, My Marriage, Long Strange Ride, Montana Nights
May 2006, Cherry Girls, Rebels, Crash and Volcano - Philippines
September 2006, Break Bike Mountain Ride – United States
March 2007, Kawasaki Cult Bike “No Stranger To Danger Expedition” - Thailand and Cambodia
November 2007, Lone Wolf Wanders: Bears, Moose, Buffalo, Fish
April 2009, Global Adventure Roaming: Burma through the USA to headhunters on Borneo
February 2010, Adventure Motorcycle Travel: Expedition to Alaska, then Java
Copyright © Dr. Gregory W. Frazier. 1999- All Rights Reserved.
Thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author,
and not necessarily Horizons Unlimited