Mary Smiley – Owner and founder of Angler’s PassportMy first experience fishing was as a small child with a hand line on the Brandywine River where I grew up. It wasn’t until I moved to California to finish my undergraduate degree in 1977 that I picked up fly-fishing, which is my preference these days.
After graduating with my BA degree, I worked for 13 years in art museums first for The Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco for 3 years and then at the Berkeley Museum, part of the University of California, Berkeley for 10 years. I worked in various capacities at the Berkeley Museum ending up in the photography department, which fed my other addiction, taking pictures which then became part of my profession.
I managed to feed my addiction to fly-fishing by trading my photography expertise for room and board at lodges and going on exotic trips worldwide. My first international fishing/photo trip was to Australia’s Great Barrier Reef with the legendary Les Eichorn, who was in desperate search of a world record black marlin on the fly. My job was to shoot 16 mm color movies of this for Les. We spent two weeks on board a 50’ boat off the coast of Cairns, Australia in September 1990 and although we got tons of great footage, no world records were broken.
My next adventure in June of 1991 took me to Russia’s Kola Peninsula to photograph a new lodge on the Umba River. This was in the very early years of Atlantic salmon exploration in Russia and prior to the collapse of the Soviet Union. An amazing trip to say the least. These Atlantic salmon were fresh in from the ocean, some so chrome bright they still had sea lice on them. I managed to shoot lots of great photos and also caught the biggest fish of the group, a beautiful thirty-three pound buck fresh from the ocean.
I no sooner returned from Russia, but had two days to repack for a month long trip to Alaska’s Alagnak River for more photos and fishing for Chinook, sockeye and chum salmon as well as grayling and rainbow trout, Arctic char and Dolly Varden. So, you get the picture now. I fished and photographed to my heart’s content.
In 1998, I finally settled in southwest Montana where I can now walk to the river to fish. Montana has been home for the last 12 years and the birthplace of Angler's Passport, with a heavy emphasis on New Zealand fishing, which is my specialty of all destinations. I’ve been to New Zealand at least 17 times and go every year at least once or twice. I also take groups down to Baja Mexico fly-fishing for dorado, sailfish and striped marlin and offer trips to some of the most spectacular destinations on earth.
My great passion for fly-fishing and traveling has given me the perfect pallet from which to work my magic. I enjoy helping others organize their trips almost as much as taking them. When I walk into my office each morning, I don’t feel like I’m going to work, but going to plan a holiday for someone, which they will never forget. It’s a small club of people who can honestly say they love what they do for a living and it makes them very happy. I am, for sure, one of them.
Update: August, 2010 - I will now be spending winters in SW Florida and summers in SW Montana so give a shout if you are coming to my area.