Yaw- AWn, stretch, scratch, repeat. I have awoken to a beautiful sunny morning in Innsbruck. I get to enjoy one last day with my lovely daughter. She's not awake yet, as we went to Lake Lans again last night and had a little cookout and fire. It went on pretty late, so I have a few minutes to share some coffee with you before she wakes up.
I am of course at the sad, reflective part of my trip. Every trip abroad is a revelation, and it takes time to chew over everything you've experienced. I like how life in a different country is like your own life but slightly skewed by the Butterfly Effect. . . A butterfly died millenia ago and so here, now, the cars and roads are smaller, the food, architecture and music are a bit different and peoples faces are a touch inscrutable. You go back in your time machine to the US and everything is normal. But if you take that same time machine to Australia then everyone speaks English, but with a funny accent, and all the animals are weird or dangerous. Take it to New Zealand and you're on the set of Lord of the Rings. Take it to Africa and who knows what you'd find, but I'm sure it's not the safari you're imagining.
And so time travel and the Butterfly Effect are real. It has already happened. All we have to do is go out there and experience it. The results aren't always happy either. Step off that machine in the wrong place and you'll find warfare, famine, drought, Ebola. You find that the alternate universe your daughter lives in isn't all butterflies and unicorns. Take the wrong time machine, like a couple couple hundred people did on Malaysia airlines and it gets shot out from underneath you, blown to smithereens by a conflict of which you are not a participant and you probably had no idea you were skirting. Imagine- your last thoughts would be about how uncomfortable your seat is, how bad the Hungarian man next to you smells, and that you wish you had the guts to chat up the dark-haired, dark-eyed beauty in the yellow flowered sari who boarded the plane after you and fixed you with a calm, enigmatic stare as she walked by. She probably doesn't speak English anyway. . .
So in the intervening week I've been running around the Innsbruck area, taking the tram to the top of the mountains, eating meals at small restaurants, and sneaking out to the bier gartens when I get a chance, to take notes and write a little. It has been very cool and rainy, which has put a damper on some of our plans.
Saturday we got sick of the cold and wet. The Inn Valley was solidly locked in fog, and storms hugged the mountain peaks in every direction. So we got up early and drove to Italy.
|Roman arena, Verona central square|
We set our sights first on Verona, home of the Capulet family and the setting of Romeo and Juliet by Shakespeare, the soap opera of its day. As soon as we had crossed the Alps and into the lovely Dolomites region of Italy the skies changed and the air warmed. By the time we reached Verona it was over 80 degrees and beautiful. I won't go on at length here; only to say that it is a lovely city with a Roman arena at its center, still in use, and not far away is the home of Giulietta- Juliet to you and I.
We were still feeling restless however, and one place kept simmering in our thoughts and boiling over in our conversation- Venice. It was only an hour's drive from Verona, and we could hear it calling to us. We had to go.
One of the pleasant surprises of this trip was that driving here is not as difficult as I thought. India translated the signage and helped navigate, and I drove like a crazed local rather than a timid tourist. We never got lost, even without a map of Italy. Miraculous I'd say, given my reputation.
|at the wheel in Italy|
Venice is everything you hear and wish and dream it to be. It is a carnival and side-show, It is Disney for adults. It is a carefully orchestrated spectacle as dreamed up by Las Vegas, visited by perhaps a million tourists daily. Three cruise ships were in port, towering over the skyline of the old city. Venice only stinks if you don't know what a salt marsh smells like at low tide. At high tide it simply smells of saltwater, leather and tomato sauce. Despite the crush of tourists, the occasional beggar, the Pakistanis and Bengalis pushing roses and knick-knacks in your face, Venice is everything you dream of- quaint, old, rich history, gondoliers, narrow alleys and canals with laundry fluttering overhead,good food if you search hard enough. It is the kind of place I could spend a week on just photography, searching every canal and back alley for the perfect lighting and forgotten piece of architecture. There are still buildings that are only reachable by water. I highly recommend you take your time machine there.
|with my daughter in Venice|
|St. Mark's square|
Which brings me back to the fishing. The Inn River has been blown out by continuous rain my entire visit. It is famous for its large grayling (Ashe) brown trout (Bachforelle) and Huchen. Huchen, or Danube salmon are believed to be a progenitor of brown trout and Atlantic salmon. I would have liked to fish for them.
It was not to be so. I don't fish these conditions at home, and the locals weren't about to take me out on what they saw as a fool's errand. Couple that with all the arcana of local custom and law and we ended up going to a high alpine stocked lake to fish.
|our little group|
I didn't mind either. The season for brown trout in the smaller local streams had closed the end of August. This lake we went to was stunningly beautiful, with aquamarine water, mossy dark forests, and steep mountains surrounding it. It was also full of fish. They cruised the shorelines in the manner of trout not used to seeing a lot of flies.
We hiked to the far end and I rigged up. Lawrence, the license holder from the local fly shop, had brought me a pair of cheap plastic waders to wear. I rigged up my rod, and because the flies and activity looked the same here as on the lakes at home I tied on a pair of flies without consulting my guide. I hooked up on my fourth cast. Everyone shouted encouragement from shore and India took photographs.
It was, of all things, a rainbow trout native to California. It wasn't huge, just a decent fish. I caught two more on successive casts, then a fourth before the fish got wise and moved off. Then my right leg sprung a leak and filled with glacial melt. Then it began to rain and so I went to shore, chatted with Lawrence, opened a beer. I took off the waders and Simon tried to patch them. Then he wanted to fish, so I handed him the rod and coached him a little. Simon has fly fished before but was a little rusty. It didn't take him long to start throwing loops like a pro.
The fish and the weather had other plans. The rain seemed to make them tight lipped and selective. We wandered back to a bridge over the lake near a chapel. Trout were rising in every direction. Mayflies that looked like Isonychia began to hatch and flutter. A herdsman with his cattle came through. He was wild looking, with his leather pants and vest, Tiroler hat and matted long hair. I resisted the urge to photograph him. You can't steal everyone's soul. Simon landed a small fish and then removed the waders and handed the rod back to me. I went to the other side of the bridge to where the casting was more open and a lot of trout were cruising.
It took some doing but I finally got a small trout to take on the dryfly (thank you John Sheets for your red quills). It was nothing I had ever seen or caught before. They called it a Seeforelle, but it was not a brown trout. It is some sort of sea-run species which they said gets very large. I caught another and then of all things an arctic char.
|Simon and the cows|
We then left and went back to Lake Lans. Simon and I cast around a little and nearly hooked up on two huge carp that came up for the dry fly. We cooked meat and vegetables and one of the rainbow trout over a brazier. Simon and India played a guitar and sang. It was the perfect way to end summer, and a trip to Austria.
Well, my coffee is done and I'm sure you need to get to work. I have to get ready to board my time machine.
Let's get after it.