Fly Fishing, Pitch, and Salty Dogs: Hygge or Friluftsliv?

Ann’s focus on the Danish concept of hygge, which can be translated into something like “protected from the outside world” and which implies social coziness and comfort, triggered thoughts of her father’s annual fly fishing excursions.

North Park, Colorado.

Even before officially becoming a member of Ann’s Colorado family I was privy to stories about the notorious annual fly fishing trips her father and a couple of his long time friends would organize. These outings were long weekenders at a rustic homestead cabin nestled next to the Medicine-Bow/Routt National Forests in North Park, Colorado. For these outings, each of the friends was allowed to invite a guest to join them.

The ongoing marathon Pitch game.

You can imagine how honored I felt when I was invited to come along as a guest. Bear in mind that the other members of the fishing excursion were all old enough to be my father and had known each other for years. Note also that by default I ended up being the the chief cook, bottle washer, and bar tender for the outing.

My father-in-law and his former law partner: the two major players in organizing the fishing trips.

There seemed to be two core traditions that defined these trips. The first was an ongoing marathon match of Pitch, a card game that they played and gambled at for hours.

The card table was next to a window with a panoramic view of the beautiful valley of meadows, streams, and beaver dams – teaming with trout.

North Park view from the card table.

But the faux cries of agony at losing a dollar and the incessant poking of fun at each another seemed to make the fly fishing aspect of the trip somewhat incidental. At that table they appeared to be intensely engaged and clearly enjoying each others’ company. It was infectious, even though I largely remained a bystander.

The second (and concurrent) core activity was consuming an amazing number of Salty Dogs, a grapefruit and vodka cocktail that I quickly became quite adept at whipping out on demand during the boisterous Pitch games.

I am not sure why this was the beverage of choice, but evidently it dated back to the beginnings of these fly fishing outings and had become a ritualistic requirement. I should add that despite the stack of empty 42-once cans of grapefruit juice and spent bottles of vodka accumulated over the long weekend, these guys seemed to have had an amazing capacity to hold their liquor.

Catch and release was not a big thing then.

Admittedly the fly fishing part of the trip was the primary reason I was so excited to be invited to join the weekend outing. For the old timers this consisted of a couple of hours each day when they would hike down to the streams and beaver ponds to fish. It appeared to be like an obligatory task they had to do in order to get back to their Pitch game. Being on private property and adjoining a national forest, the fishing was not just good, it was fantastic. As you can see by the photo, catch-and-release was not big back in the 1970s.

While not bar-tending or cooking I spent much of my time alone exploring and fishing the small streams and beaver ponds in the meadows. Most of my efforts were devoted to trying to sneak through the willows and up the backs of beaver dams to where the wily fish may be waiting – and more often than not snagging my fly on a bush or branch behind me when I tried to cast. Given the beauty and magnificence of the surroundings and being so removed from any other human beings, I came to realize that catching a fish was sort of beside the point.

I’m sure that what I experienced while tramping through the meadows and willows was what the Norwegians term friluftsliv which is sometimes compared to the Danish idea of hygge. Friluftsliv translates to something akin to “free air life.” It is a Norwegian strategy of getting away from the stresses of everyday life by immersing one’s self in some outdoor activity, whether kayaking, hiking, swimming in a frigid lake, or snagging your fly on a branch.

In the end, the question of whether fly fishing, playing pitch, and imbibing Salty Dogs should be considered to be a hygge or a friluftsliv type experience is not clear-cut. On the one hand, the mutual respect and shared history of those boisterous Pitch players (all the while demanding their Salty Dogs) was a surprisingly uplifting (and hygge?) experience for me – something I still feel as I am writing this almost 50 years later.

On the other hand, just as uplifting after all of these years are my memories of feeling totally alone in the world and maneuvering my way through the willows in anticipation of finding that perfect beaver pond. Despite my dismal fly fishing skills, I would consider that experience to certainly fall on the friluftsliv side of things.

Who could ask for more than to experience the best of both worlds? So, to help smooth the way for your own pursuit of hygge and/or friluftsliv type experiences (you decide if either or both suits you) I am including a simple recipe for Salty Dogs.

Skål!! (the Danish/Norwegian/Swedish word for “cheers.”)

The infamous Salty Dog – Note: this is a modern version and much fancier looking than the ones I mixed using canned grapefruit juice and served in tumblers.

Salty Dog

  • Servings: 1
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This recipe calls for coating the rim of the glass with salt, although some have you put a pinch of salt into the drink itself.  Also, fresh grapefruit juice is preferred, but it is ok to use bottled or canned grapefruit juice, especially if you are making multiple drinks during Pitch card games


  • 4 oz fresh grapefruit juice
  • 2 oz vodka (or, if you prefer, gin)
  • Kosher salt for the glass rim (preferably Diamond brand)
  • Half slice of lime for garnish

Pour salt onto small plate. Moisten the rim of a rocks glass (or a highball glass if you choose) with some of the grapefruit  and gently dip rim into salt to coat lightly. Put ice in the glass (I use one large “old fashioned” cube) and add the grapefruit juice and vodka.   Add lime slice to rim and serve.

Recipe brought to you by and Andy and Ann.



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