SI Vault
Jack Olsen
October 23, 1967
Expecting to find a sporting bonanza, the author and his wife travel to tiny Andorra and learn that, while there is no hunting to speak of, the fishing is just awful
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October 23, 1967

Off Season For Izards

Expecting to find a sporting bonanza, the author and his wife travel to tiny Andorra and learn that, while there is no hunting to speak of, the fishing is just awful

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"A little mountain goat for washing cars with."

We read on and on into the night. One passage got me so excited I could hardly read it aloud. It was from a paperback called In the Valleys of Andorra by Clara Vanderbeke, and it said, "In Andorra fishing is not just a pastime for grandpa.... Here it is a real sport; you have to make your way upstream and try to catch the fat trout with a fly as they leap through the snowy froth of the torrents...." Another booklet showed a beaming Andorran fisherman holding up "a trout of two kilos."

"How much is two kilos?" I asked my wife.

"Four and a half pounds," she said.

"We're going to Andorra," I said.

Flying the Atlantic, we passed the time by working out a schedule for our vacation in paradise. Both of us were highly curious about izards, so we scheduled an izard hunt for our first full day. On the second day we would switch to trout fishing in the high mountain streams. Rabbit and fox hunting would occupy our third day, and on successive days after that we would hunt wolf, bear and wild boar; shoot partridge, snow grouse and pheasant; fish the high glacial lakes and cast for big trout in the wider reaches of the river. We figured that after seven days of intense hunting and fishing we would be sated with the outdoors, and we would devote the remainder of our two-week vacation to observing the native folkways, bartering with the Andorrans for some of their handicraft and in general picking up the local color. My wife and I are always improving ourselves.

We rented a car and drove toward Andorra from the Spanish side, through a green-on-green valley watered by a foamy white-water stream fished by men in C�zanne hats and rubber knee-length boots, past children with pierced earrings and old ladies on bikes and grizzled men berating their donkeys. Now and then we would pass a Spanish bus festooned with burlap sacks of luggage on the roof and billows of black smoke coming out the exhaust; one would swear it was running on soft coal. All at once, with no visible change in the countryside, we came to a road sign announcing " Andorra." To my surprise, the modern asphalt highway continued slightly uphill through a valley choked with raspberry and blackberry bushes. We stopped at a customs booth in the middle of the road, showed our passports and were informed that Andorra la Vella, the capital of the principality, lay just ahead. We drove a few more miles through the somnolent countryside and suddenly came to the tail end of a line of traffic that appeared to extend all the way to Norway. The traffic would move a few feet and halt, stop and start, herk and jerk through a miasma of bluish smoke being thrown up by the hundreds of cars, most of which were as out of tune as Florence Foster Jenkins. As we proceeded thus into the heart of Andorra la Vella we could discern the reason for the snarl. On both sides of the street, as far as one's watery eyes could see, hundreds of shops displayed everything from deepfreezers to paper clips, all at bargain prices. There were $10 tape recorders and $4 umbrellas and $15 cameras and who knows what all. We had finally reached Shangri-la, and it turned out to be 14th Street. "Don't worry," I told my wife, whose jaw was hanging slack and whose face was ashen. "This is just a minor inconvenience. Anyway, we won't be in the town that much. We'll be up in the mountains catching trout and hunting izards."

She muttered something. "What did you say?" I asked.

"I said, 'Did you see those cashmere sweaters for $20?' "

"Izards," I said. "Keep your mind on the izards."

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