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A while back, I wrote in this space about combining a couple of my passions: running and travel. Many of you who are avid runners and travelers generously shared your own stories of running around the world. With summer upon us, and as our thoughts increasingly turn to the outdoors, I thought I would devote this month’s column to another favorite pastime which, like running, complements a love of travel: fishing.

It’s hard to think of an activity that is more universal, or more unifying, than fishing. People have been at it for thousands of years — for sustenance, for fun or just for peace and quiet. It can be done almost anywhere in the world, and almost anyone can do it. In millions of families around the world, including my own, fishing has been taught, generation to generation, forging a bond between old and young, the past and the future.

I got my start with my dad, and I still remember the first bass I caught on a lake in Texas. I grew up on the Gulf Coast with three brothers, and we all fished. Stretching from Mexico to Port Isabel on the southern tip of Texas, all the way around to the Florida Keys, the Gulf Coast is a fisherman’s paradise, with quarry ranging from redfish, snook and speckled trout to the mighty tarpon.

Many years ago, I took up fly-fishing, which requires somewhat different technique and equipment than conventional fishing. Casting with a fly rod takes a little getting used to, but once you get the hang of it, it’s a lot of fun. Fly-fishing goes back a long way and was chronicled in England dating back to Shakespearean times. Years ago, my family lived in London, and every Saturday during the summer, my young son and I would travel west to the small River Lambourn to catch brown trout. That’s where I taught him to cast, and I’m proud to say he’s an avid fisherman today.

In my travels, I’ve fished from Alaska to ­Patagonia (the southern tip of South America) and at many points in between. The fun of fishing for trout or salmon in their natural habitats is matched only by the humbling beauty of the surroundings. English author and angler Izaak Walton called fishing “the contemplative man’s recreation.” I tend to agree, but I would add that catching a fish is about more than standing still and thinking deep thoughts. Take the bonefish, for example. A favorite of saltwater fly-fishermen for decades, it is a silver bullet of a fish that is enormously strong, incredibly fast and nearly invisible on the white-sand flats it inhabits. Some of my favorite bonefishing is in the Florida Keys, the Bahamas and Belize. Then there is the tarpon, the acrobatic fishing equivalent of a fighter jet. Some of the best tarpon fishing in the world can be found in southwest Florida.

My favorite fishing is in warm weather, typically on saltwater flats or beaches. This kind of fishing takes place in shallow water and entails sight casting, or visually spotting the fish while they feed (akin to hunting). You either wade in the water or cast from a very shallow boat or kayak.

But like I said, good fishing can be had almost anywhere, from a rural pond or lake to the waters surrounding Manhattan. Wherever I cast a line, whether the Gulf waters of my youth or some location half a world away, what I remember most about any fishing trip is not the fish or the surroundings but the time spent with family and friends. Like travel, fishing brings people together and keeps them connected long after the equipment has been packed up. There is a continuity to fishing which struck me recently when I watched my son teaching my father to cast a fly rod. That’s why I fish.

If you flip to the back of this magazine, you’ll find the American Airlines route map. Pick just about any point on that map, and I bet there is good fishing nearby. So when I get the chance, I pack a small, four-piece travel rod for the road, just in case.

Wherever you’re going today, I want to thank you for flying with us. I wish you a great trip, and, if you’re a fisherman, tight lines!

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Thomas W. Horton
Chairman & CEO
American Airlines