Hooked on Adventure

Pat and Rebecca DePole married in June 1994, on a mountainside in Telluride, Colo. On that day, Mr. DePole told his bride he could not promise they would live a prosperous life, but he guaranteed they would have an adventurous one. And, so, the adventure began with their honeymoon, when he took his new wife and her 9-year-old son, John, fishing in the Black Canyon on the Gunnison River.

As a native Texan, Mrs. DePole grew up fishing the state’s rivers and lakes with her grandmother, mother and sister. Her best memories are of how much fun they had together. When Mr. DePole asked if she had ever tried to fly fish, she replied, “Once, and it was the worst experience of my life!” Not one to be discouraged, he soon took her fly fishing in Utah and teamed her with a local angler who was a patient and affirming guide. By the end of the first day, Mrs. DePole was hooked on this fancy new way of catching fish.

Surprisingly, the quiet sport of fly fishing can be physically challenging. With a sport demanding both tactfulness and strategy, success invariably occurs not because of brute strength, but from patience and knowledge. Over the years, more women have taken up the sport. The DePoles recently traveled to New Zealand and their guide, Zane Mirfin, comments, “Mrs. DePole’s contagious positive attitude, coupled with her oversized enthusiasm for life makes her a true star on-stream.” That aside, she admits to often being overly anxious to get the fly onto the water. She describes her fishing style as a cross between letting the excitement get her lost in the moment, forgetting how to cast, how to retrieve and how to breathe. At other times, she has intense focus and determination.

Anglers must overcome endless obstacles including wind, back eddies, complex currents, fast water and overhanging limbs. Every angler dreams of landing the “big one,” but that is only part of the appeal of fly fishing. Even when hours pass without a strike, there is nothing more beautiful than standing in a remote stream, breathing the cool, crisp mountain air, while watching a bald eagle soar overhead. An angler’s sense of wonder in the presence of nature is hard to adequately describe. 

Mr. DePole immigrated to N.Y. from Italy as an 8-year-old with his mother and father. He grew up in the N.Y. area and worked at his family’s roadside fruit stand during summertime. Dr. Miller, a local veterinarian, who was a regular customer, befriended Mr. DePole. He was an avid fly fisherman and had a cabin on the world-famous Beaverkill River. When Mr. DePole turned 16, he was extended an invitation to go fishing. Although he had never been fishing, the chance to get away from the fruit stand for the weekend was very appealing. So, he accepted. He shares, “That weekend, I discovered fly fishing and single-malt scotch.” This set Mr. DePole on a life-long pursuit of fish-on-a-fly.

Admittedly, after 50 years of fishing, Mr. DePole offers that he is not a master, still making mistakes on this lifelong learning pursuit. Identifying the type of food fish are eating is particularly difficult when you must match a fly pattern resembling the real food. Typically, he tries to spot a feeding fish before casting, so it is not unusual for him to spend most of the time looking for fish, rather than blind casting. Mrs. DePole describes her husband’s style as “James Bond — smooth, effortless, always in charge and lethally accurate!”

Good places to fly fish were easy to find 50 years ago when the sport was new, but, according to Mr. DePole, many of today’s easily-reachable areas have been over-fished. For that reason, the couple finds themselves travelling to more remote, off-the-grid places in pursuit of the elusive fish. It often requires travel on foot, horseback, ox-cart, llamas, rafts, bush planes and helicopters. They believe these remote areas are some of the most beautiful places on Earth. 

Mr. DePole sold his aircraft HVAC manufacturing company and retired in 2007. Retirement gave him the flexibility to seek out even more remote fishing locations. Within a year, the DePoles left Plano and moved to Frisco. While Frisco remains home, they have since acquired a second home in Breckenridge, Colo., that allows them more time for summertime fishing and winter skiing.

On average, the DePoles will fish about 50 days a year. To date, they have traveled to 12 countries and more than 100 overseas fly fishing locations. They have also fished most of the desirable locations in the U.S. and Alaska. They both agree the Rio Negro region of the Amazon River is the most exciting and most unusual fishing location. Temperatures in the Amazon River region are hot and humid. While the surrounding rain forest is quite exotic and beautiful, it contains very large and dangerous animals, not to mention some terrible water microbes that can make you very ill. “Not only was I fishing, but I felt like I was being fished for by the Cayman alligators and the piranhas,” Mrs. DePole shares. As she reflected on things that could happen to them in such remote and, at times, hostile environments, she realized that worry is one sport you can never win. After that connection, she admits, “My life turned into a world of living color and I became aware that fly fishing was no longer a hobby, but an obsession, or, dare I say, an addiction.”

The DePoles’ plans for 2018 adventures include trips to New Zealand, Mexico, Argentina and, after years of discussion, a trip to the Bering Sea’s Kamchatka Peninsula in far eastern Russia. The Kamchatka Peninsula only reopened to foreign fisherman in 2012 and is on the top of most globe-trotting anglers’ bucket lists. It has been on Mr. DePole’s list for years, but Mrs. DePole has resisted, until now. Not to be overlooked in their plans, the DePoles’ son/step-son, John Williams, is getting married next January. Living in Denver, Mr. Williams also remains a passionate fly fisherman since catching his first trout at the age of 7 during a float trip in Utah with Mr. DePole. 

Fly fishing and traveling affords this adventuresome couple the opportunity to meet a very interesting combination of people and visit unique places. Along the way, the DePoles have made many incredible fly fishing friends from across the country who often join them on trips. 

It is a commonly-held belief of anglers that the attraction of the sport is the pursuit, not the catch. Mr. DePole agrees wholeheartedly, but he adds it is also the escape and the friendships that make the sport so alluring. It is the memories remembered, not just created. Mr. DePole and his best fishing buddy spent 30 years together fishing before he passed away 10 years ago. Some of Mr. DePole’s fondest memories are recalling their times together in pursuit of the next adventure. 

The DePoles acknowledge they have been blessed to have fishing be the vehicle that takes them to some of the most beautiful places in the world and that they get to share these experiences with the nicest friends. Reminiscing a bit, Mrs. DePole adds, “I pinch myself sometimes when I remember that this lifetime fishing trip began with some worms, a few cane poles and a grandmother who asked, ‘Do you want to go fishing?’”