Peter Gorinsky, a globally respected authority on tropical fly fishing who introduced countless friends, family and clients to the wonders of nature in Central and South America, has died in San Jose, Costa Rica at the age of 80.
The son of Caesar Gorinsky, a Polish cattle rancher and half-Atorad tribeswoman Nellie Melville, Gorinsky was born along the Berbice River in Guyana’s remote interior on December 6, 1941. His maternal grandfather was HPC Melville, a renowned Guyanese pioneer.
As a boy, Gorinsky developed an insatiable love of nature and closeness to animals, taming all kinds of Amazonian creatures as he wandered barefoot on his family’s frontier ranch. He studied gemology and lapidary stone carving at Idar Oberstein in Germany; a collection of exquisite orchids he carved in semi-precious stones are part of his legacy, the fruit of his knowledge and passion for orchids. On an exploratory trip in Guyana, Gorinsky discovered an Amazonian orchid which has been named after him – Phragmipedium gorinskyii.
He eventually settled in Costa Rica in the early 1970s to pursue his passions. He was multilingual, taught fly-fishing, amassed a large collection of orchids – preferring the rarest, miniature species – dabbled in oil painting and maintained hives of several types of native and honey bees.
An early proponent and ambassador of eco-tourism in Costa Rica, he trained some of the region’s first fly-fishing guides, helped manage a floating lodge on the Rio San Juan and founded his own fly fishing outfitter in 1972. He was among the first to catch several species of Amazonian fish on a fly rod. The fish were his partners, he liked to say, not his adversaries.
His pioneering fishing exploits across the Americas were celebrated by filmmakers and featured in newspapers and magazines including The New York Times, Esquire and Sports Illustrated, among many others.
His tenacity, generous spirit, and ingenuity, born of a childhood on the South American frontier, knew no bounds. A friend once observed Gorinsky, then 70-years old, restrain a 10-foot boa constrictor with a single jab of his wooden cane. He survived snake bites, boat and car accidents and multiple heart attacks, optimism forever on his side.
Gorinsky was a legendary and enchanting storyteller, with a twinkle in his eye as he wove fable and fact to captivate his audience. His enthusiasm, good cheer and infinite if arcane knowledge inspired the constant flow of visitors to his modest hilltop home in Escazu, overlooking the Costa Rican capital of San Jose and far-off volcanoes. His parrot, Barbara, greeted guests. The ebb and flow of friends and family at his “Inshallah” home marked his life.
A natural teacher, he was always eager to share. In 2015, Gorinsky co-founded the Costa Rican Association of Fly Fishers, CRAFF, to introduce others to his beloved sport and to conserve the resources he enjoyed so much. His ‘special place’ was along the banks of the Rio Savegre, in San Gerardo de Dota, Costa Rica, where rainbow trout swim beneath rare quetzals, a bird which he would watch in awe as he cast his fly with hallmark grace.
He is survived by sister Marta Ware (Jeff), brothers Luke (Cheryl) and Marc (Caroline), half-brother Caesar (Marie-Louise), several nieces and nephews: he supported the families of many of his helpers as well as his adopted son Carlos Chavarria, of Escazu, who is now an accomplished fly-fishing guide himself.
El Colectivo 506 thanks journalist Dave Sherwood, a friend of Peter’s and of his family’s, for facilitating this information.