The Baghdad Angler’s Club and School of Fly Fishing

Combat Zone Fishing

An unexpected fishing trip began in a very minor way. In early 2005 Joel Stewart, then a LT in the Navy, was issued individual augmentee orders to Iraq. Prior to reporting in theatre, he attended integration training at Fort Benning in Georgia. Not knowing what to expect, he packed a rod and some tackle on a whim in his sea bag. Never used in Georgia, it proved to be a very fortuitous move when he arrived in Baghdad. He was stationed at Camp Victory, the sight of the Republican Guard headquarters and several of Saddam Hussein’s palaces. Surrounding all these buildings were man-made lakes, which LT Stewart discovered, were full of fish.


LT Stewart began catching a number of different species, only one of which was familiar to him, the common carp. The rest were a mix of native species and imports from Europe and eastern Asia. All were in the same family as carp and were able to withstand the incredibly high water temperatures of the shallow desert lakes. He cast standard warm water patterns and even came up with a couple of new ones to “match the hatch” in a very unusual place for a fly angler. His long rod and tailing loops drew attention and soon he found himself introducing the sport to fellow service members. That was the beginning of a 5-year endeavor that became known as the “Baghdad Angler’s Club and School of Fly Fishing”. With the help of volunteers and donations, thousands of troops were exposed to fishing in a place they least expected it, a combat zone.

Stewart wrote a book about this unique adventure, A Fly Rod in My Sea Bag. Now a Commander, he continues to write about his global fishing adventures as he continues to serve on active duty in the Navy on his website: