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Editor's Notebook

Fly Fishing In Iraq

by Ross Purnell, Editor   |  January 30th, 2012 2

A few years ago I got an email from Joel Stewart who was serving in the military overseas in Iraq. He was catching carp and other fish on a fly rod in Saddam Hussein’s palace and elsewhere in Baghdad. Some fellow servicemen saw what he was up to and soon Stewart had a full class of would-be fly fishers out there in the desert fishing for unusual fish in surreal circumstances. At that time, Fly Fisherman did a news item on the “Baghdad School of Fly Fishing” and in the ensuing years the story has gotten longer and morphed into the book  A Fly Rod In My Sea Bag: Fishing Adventures in Baghdad During Operation Iraqi Freedom, 2005-2011 (Whitefish press, 2011). According to Stewart, 25% of the money earned by this book will be donated to Project Healing
Waters Fly Fishing
 so you may want to give it a look.

About the Book

On May 1st, 2005, a Montana fly angler-turned-sailor arrived in the desert nation of Iraq as part of a coalition of forces working to bring peace to a war-torn countryside. A naval officer assigned to the Multi-National Corps Iraq, Joel Stewart found himself based in Camp Victory on the grounds of Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein’s former Al Faw Palace. With numerous man-made lakes stocked by the former dictator with a variety of sport fish, in the down hours from a stressful job in a war zone, Commander Stewart did what any good fisherman would do — he went fishing. With the foresight to have packed a fly rod in his sea bag, in a desert oasis built by a brutal dictator, Stewart began an odyssey unparalleled in the history of fishing. As he discovered the strange fish inhabiting the lakes in the Camp Victory compound, he began to share his catches with friends via the internet. Others, fascinated by Commander Stewart’s catches, began to join him, and soon he was teaching numerous others how to fly fish. Thus, the Baghdad School of Fly Fishing was born, an angling club that remained in existence for the remainder of the time American troops were in Iraq.

From the many tales of fish caught and released and hooked and lost, to the struggles of finding fishing equipment and how numerous individuals and companies stepped up to the plate, to the growth of the Baghdad Angler’s Club, the story of fly fishing in Iraq will fascinate fishermen and non-anglers alike.

  • adult social network

    Thanks for the sensible critique. Me & my neighbor were just preparing to do some research on this. We got a grab a book from our area library but I think I learned more clear from this post. I am very glad to see such great information being shared freely out there.

  • Jason

    Joe Mercurio visited the palace for 2 annual fishing tournaments held on the palace lake system. He along with his sponsors donated thousands of dollars and thousands of pounds of gear, tackle, equipment, accessories, clothing and other necessary items for the troops to enjoy fishing while they were there. This is the same Joe Mercurio who runs the PTTS tournament your site is bad mouthing on its front page. You should do your research before you post slanderous and mis-informing videos about people who do more for our troops, our fisheries, the FWC and the economy of the fishing industry and Florida as a whole. Thank you for your service in Operation Catch Fish: Iraq 2008 & 2009 Joe!

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