October 05, 2021
By Oliver White
This article was originally titled "Adventures with Huckleberry" in the Aug-Sept 2018 issue of Fly Fisherman magazine.
I have a friend who claims I have a golden horseshoe up my ass. In many ways, I truly am the luckiest person I know. I’m able to make a living doing exactly what I would do if I had all the money in the world. That’s an incredibly fortunate thing, and I don’t take it for granted.
I also don’t think it could have been any other way. I’m not lucky in the silver spoon kind of way; I’ve found and made my own way through life. We are all lucky in the people we meet, and I have met more great people than most. I’ve also made the most of opportunities that came my way, and I’ve worked very hard. All of it has culminated in an incredible lifestyle. I’m able to spend an inordinate amount of time in remote corners of the globe, sleeping outside, stomping through jungles, wading endless white sand flats—all in search of something that drives me. We call it fishing, but it is so much more than just the fish. Fishing is the common thread that ties my life together, but it is so much more than the fish themselves. It’s the adventure, the travel, the exploring, the process, the people, the discovery, and yes, also the fish.
Last year fishing took me to 16 different countries. It’s hard to keep going like that, but in many ways I’ve fallen down a rabbit hole. When I tick things off my wish list, the list only seems to get longer and longer as I learn of even newer and crazier places and fish. I cherish this adventurous life and wouldn’t have it any other way. I had no intention of stopping, or really even slowing down. “Had” is the key word there.
I’ve recently found myself on a new adventure, one that is rewriting my playbook and opening up possibly the greatest adventure of them all—fatherhood.
I had my first son in December, and Beth and I named him Huckleberry Fellows White. The moment I held Huck there was a moment of clarity where my priorities in life were instantly shifted into an appropriate order.
Nothing could have prepared me for the level of emotions I tapped into. No matter what life I had planned, I knew there was a newer and greater chapter about to begin. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not going to stop traveling and fishing—it is as much of who I am as anything else. I have lofty ambitions of dragging Huck around the world and sharing my life’s adventures with him. I plan on showing him the world, and its wild places, every chance I get.
While in Bhutan in November (you’ll read that story in Fly Fisherman’s 50th anniversary issue), I was scheduled to get home only 12 days before Huck’s due date.
At the prompting of Huck’s mother, I wrote a letter to my unborn son. I had a lot on my mind at the time, and the letter was more emotional than I’ve ever really been. Bhutan is a Buddhist country and seemed like an appropriate place to be more reflective on my life and where I was headed, both figuratively and literally.
That moment started a tradition. I now try to send Huck a card or letter from every country I visit—Oman, Sudan, Lesotho (all future articles) have already been checked off. These letters will help me share my adventures and the world with him. Hopefully they will plant a seed of adventure and exploration with him. The world is magical, and experiencing other cultures has helped me become the person and the fly fisher I am today. Hopefully one day they will help him to understand what I do, and to understand me.
I truly look forward to sharing the world with Huck. It’s inevitable, but there is a pitfall I did not adequately anticipate: the desire to be home. Not just to be home with him, but to share all the places that I remember fondly from my own childhood. These are the places that shaped the person I am today.
Home for me is North Carolina. I was born in the western part of the state, and I’ve loved the outdoors my entire life. It wasn’t always fly fishing. I did it all: hiking, camping, canoeing, rock climbing, skiing, and mountain biking.
I always loved to fish. I remember chasing horny heads in the creek with a can of corn and a bamboo pole, and searching out farm ponds for bass. However, it was the small wild trout streams of the Appalachians where I cut my teeth fly fishing.
I look back over the last decade or more and remember some incredible adventures, but some of the most vivid fishing memories of my life are from my home in the South. I realize now that I’ve neglected these fisheries for a decade or more.
My brief time in fatherhood has produced an incredible amount of emotional growth, and an unexpected consequence—a happy accident if you will—is that I’m more excited than ever to get back to my roots and share all of my home waters and boyhood haunts with my own son.
I plan on taking Huck outside and showing him the places where I fell in love with the outdoors and fishing. I’m planning local adventures—float trips and camping, hiking into small streams in search of palm-size fish—with Huck strapped to my back. I want him to be there for all of it.
There is a whole new world to rediscover, and I can’t wait until he gets old enough to want to go on his own two feet, with his own fly rod to catch his own bass and trout and panfish. I hope he falls as deeply in love with wilderness as I have.
My calendar is filled with wild adventures and exotic trips. I’m still looking forward to all of them, but the most exciting things on my calendar now are my times at home with my family. It’s mild on the adventure scale, but meaningful in so many other ways.
I smile just thinking about Huck’s future moments of discovery where his passions are triggered. Selfishly, it means I’m going to be able to revisit and in many ways rediscover all the places and techniques that helped put me on this wonderful trajectory. I almost feel guilty for being able to experience this joy again. Almost.
Oliver White is a partner in two fishing lodges in the Bahamas—Abaco Lodge and Bair’s Lodge. He travels extensively, hosting small groups in exotic locations and guiding in the American West.