"Juan de los Perros," he said in Spanish. "John of the Dogs."
"Where'd he ever get a name like that?"
"I am not knowing that," the bellboy said. "His real name is Juan Clotet, but we all know him as John of the Dogs. He is shoot dogs when he is a small man, I am told, but I do not ask him because I am afraid."
In any case, John of the Dogs had consented to take time out from his busy schedule to guide us into the woods at 3, and one must understand that we were very lucky people to be able to go fishing with el mejor pescador d' Andorra, the best of the best. A nice tip would not be unwelcome.
That afternoon we met John of the Dogs, a dark little man with a grubby mustache and stark black hair and a stub of a cigar sending up clouds of smoke like the battleship Missouri. He had the manner of a sawed-off Anthony Quinn. His voice was gruff, his teeth were snaggled, his breath would have offended the Winged Victory of Samothrace, but he plainly knew his business. Did we want to find some large trout? All right, then he would return later with the canes of the fishing. A few hours before dark we were off. John of the Dogs directed us to a place one mile up the road from our hotel, handed me a spinning rod with a silvery Mepps spinner on the end and pointed out a dark pool, directly behind the Andorra la Vella power plant, where he said there were large trout in abundance. There were also tin cans, wine bottles, empty containers of Vel and Duz, an old boot and a "Super-bombe Insecticides Parfumerie" in abundance. John of the Dogs disappeared upstream in a cloud of smoke and insouciance.
On my third cast I snagged the Mepps on an underwater entanglement and broke it off. I hastened upstream to find the guide and get a replacement. Thirty minutes later I was still picking my way through the brambles and rocks looking for John of the Dogs. He was gone. Disconsolately I went back to the flat rock where my wife and a new lady friend from Andorra la Vella were playing gin. I sat and watched the only game in town. John of the Dogs returned in an hour or so with seven small trout. "I would like to present these fish to your beautiful wife, to these fish," he said, and once again I realized that I had hired a man who thought we were making a 10,000-mile round trip for the sole purpose of amassing trout meat. "Thanks, Juan," I said. "You have done your work well."
That night, as we made plans to depart Andorra, who should show up but the smuggler—a genuine, bona fide contrabandists right out of the third act of Carmen. In so many words, he informed us that all other guides were humpties, that he was the only person of Andorra who knew where the big trout were hiding, and that he would take us the following day, provided we paid him well enough and did not identify him to any of the French or Spanish authorities. I promised to describe him as a six-footer with red hair and gold teeth, and he said that would be sufficient to throw off anyone who got on his trail. All during our conversation he kept casing the lobby and tilting his head to one side, as though he could hear the faint jingle of handcuffs in the distance, and he finally dissolved into the rainy night with a promise to pick us up late the next day.
En route to the top-secret fishing hole, the smuggler turned out to be one of Andorra's most voluble players. He never used one word when 10 would suffice. He opened up by telling us that shameful things were happening in his beautiful homeland. Once upon a time there were hundreds, maybe thousands, of contrabandistas, all of them joined in warm camaraderie, but now there were perhaps only 50 in the whole country. Back in the good old days they used to smuggle cigarettes and tobacco and jewels and watches, but now they were reduced to hauling 15 or 20 miniature Japanese television sets over the mountains, walking at night and sleeping by day and finally making a rendezvous with a truck on a country road in Spain. One had no idea what 30 kilograms of Sonys did to one's back, and for this one would only make $100 or so for three days' work.
I asked the smuggler if he had ever been caught, and he said that the French douaniers had nailed him 20 years before. "I was carrying auto parts," he recalled, "and I threw my load and my pistol down the mountain when I saw them coming out of the bushes. I explained that I was merely taking a walk in my beloved mountains, but they told me that somehow I had wandered into their beloved mountains and would have to go to jail. So of course I broke loose and ran. They had guns but they did not shoot. The French never do. The Spanish customs guards will shoot to cover up their stupidity—Pfui!—but the French guards pride themselves on not shooting." After that, the smuggler said, he concentrated on smuggling into Spain, leaving the French work to others. "It is too difficult," he said. "The French douaniers are too wise. Now they use clever dogs to track us down. The Spanish use dogs, too, but they use stupid dogs. We just drop a little pepper on the path and the dogs lose their interest."
By now we were almost to the Spanish border ( Andorra is only 18 miles from one end to the other), and the smuggler showed me where to hide the car alongside the wooden footbridge crossing the Gran Valira, the biggest river in the country. Swearing me to lifelong secrecy, he said he would direct me to a pool where he himself had taken a four-pound trout, and he would show me exactly how to fish for the big ones. "Here is the key that opens the door to all grand trout," he said, and handed me a silver-wrapped wedge of "La Vache Qui Rit," the-cow-that-laughs, a soft French cheese. "You put a little ball of this on the end of your hook and the big trout go mad," he added.