July 11, 2010
I became a member of the Team USA Fly Fishing Team in 1997. That was back when you didn’t compete to be on the team. It was what was considered a “Gentleman’s Team”. If you were a decent angler and had the connections you could be on. I made my connections in 1996 when the World Championships of Fly Fishing were held in Jackson, Wyoming. I didn't fish on the team that year, but like many Jackson Hole fishing folks of the valley, I gave hours of my time to help the foreign contestants learn the water and techniques to catch cutthroat trout. I also ran a fly shop right in the lobby of the hotel where all the international teams and contestants stayed during the competition. I sold flies and leaders and offered advice to contestants every morning as they set out on my home waters. (You should have seen their faces when they saw their first Chernobyl Ants!) I met many of the worlds greatest fly fisherman (even though I didn’t’ know it at the time) from the Czechs to the Japanese to the Irish and the Kiwis. There were twenty-two teams from around the world in total. It was an awesome experience and I made a lot of great international friends.
I guess it pays to be a nice friendly hard working guy, because during the winter of 1996-97 I got asked to be on Team USA for the World Champs to be held in Zakaopane, Poland. It was under one condition; I had to go two weeks before the competition and fish and learn the Polish waters from our host, Vladi Trzebunia.
Although I should have, I didn’t know of Vladi Trzebunia. Vladi didn’t fish the Jackson Championships. He was a long retired competitor of Team Poland. I should be known that when he competed for Poland, he became a worldwide legend. It was Vladi that introduced what is now referred to as “Polish”, “Czech” or “European Nymphing”. A method of nymphing designed specifically for catching European grayling that just so happens to also work superb on trout, whitefish, yellowfish, chubs and you name it. In 1989, with his (at the time) “secret” method, he carried Team Poland to a Gold Medal on the waters of Finland and also won the individual Gold Medal. Vladi was a World Champion and continues to be one of the best fly fishermen on the planet.
All this greatness under his belt, and Vladi Trzebunia generously offered to be the host of Team USA for the 1997 Fly Fishing World Champs. Why? Simple, because he wanted to improve his English.
I spent two incredible weeks learning from one the worlds greatest and in fact I still learn from him today. Vladi is one of those rare folks you meet and two minutes into the experience you know you’ve met a friend for life. Since that trip to Poland in 1997 Vladi and I have fished and traveled together throughout Europe and the USA. I have a long list of entertaining fishing stories and experiences with Vladi. Someday have me tell the story of the first time Vladi set eyes on the Madison River or when I caught the huchen while with Vladi in Slovakia.
I thought it was a good idea to introduce Vladi to start this blog chapter because in two hours I will be meeting up with him in Oslo, Norway. Vladi used to guide Atlantic salmon in Norway and now he is taking me to camp, fish and visit many of his old friends during the next ten days. I’m presently sitting at the Amsterdam Airport awaiting my flight to Norway. It is absolutely nuts here, more so than normal. Everything is decked out in orange for the World Cup Soccer Game that the Netherlands hopes to win today. It should be a very exciting day for all of Europe. It’s all real cool but I just hope Vladi's travels have served him well and he will be there waiting and for me in Oslo.