As a young mechanical engineer of 27 years and father
of one, I have been spending a lot of time lately
finding ways to get back to the way it was. I have
always been a fisherman. I have grown up with a fly
rod in my hand and fished the waters that fly fishing
was intended for.
I have a four year old boy, Bryson that is now about
ready to make a serious go of following the family trade.
I have been prepping him the same way that I was as a
toddler. Bait fishing from the bank and trolling spinners
from the family aluminum deep V. He was able to catch his
first fish at just over two years old and is now ruined
for life. (You all know what I mean.) With the success
that I have had with Bryson I still can't help but desire
for him that, what I had growing up.
My grandfather taught me to fly fish. He was an old rancher
who lived in the mountains of Island Park, Idaho and worked
the Flying R Ranch. For those of you that don't know where
that is let me share that the ranch was only a short horse
ride from Henry's Lake, the Madison River, Henry's Fork and
many other fishing holes I care not to mention. (Locals
thing) Heck, we were only a 20 minute drive to the Yellowstone
River in the park.
I didn't realize it then, but I had the childhood that movies
were made of. Chasing elk through the high country on horse
back, being chased by moose when too close to their babies
and watching osprey out-fly the eagles in competition for
fishing holes. On a number of occasions we were chased out
of camp sites because a bear just wanted a closer look at
what was for dinner.
By the time I was 16 I had moved 16 times. I have lived
over most of the country and fished many of the waters
that are mentioned regularly by fly fishermen at the
shops. But nothing could compare to what I grew-up with.
I usually spent most of the summer with Grandpa working
the ranch and helping doctor cows that were sick, feeding
the horses and helping Grandma with the yard work around
the ranch house. The best part of the day was after lunch
when I was let loose from chores and allowed to venture
off and do what young boys do best. I have got myself
into and out of a number of pickles and even caught a
number of fish along the way doing it.
Grandma and my Mother took my two younger siblings and I
to Warm River regularly. On a warm summer day we would
float the river on old inner-tubes and have a picnic. I
would play in the water for a little while until I noticed
a hatch. At eight years old I knew that when the fish were
rising to put on a Royal Wolff and head for the beaver dams
that covered the tributaries of the Warm River. The mayfly
hatch broke one afternoon and like clock-work I grabbed
another sandwich, fly rod and a handful of new flies and
waded across the river to the first beaver dam about 20
yards up the next tributary.
The water was only about three feet deep but to an eight
year old this was pretty deep. I usually had an old 5 foot
rubber raft or inner-tube to take along. Grandpa always
laughed at my ability to lay down across the inner tube
on my back, sneak up to the front of a beaver dam and cast
a fly under cover of the dam and surrounding willows. This
was before the days of float tubes. I was chasing brook trout.
I usually only got two of three of the buggers out of each
hole but there were literally hundreds of beaver dams in the
On this particular day, I had just tied on my first fly and
thrown one cast when I heard a rustle in the willows next
to me. On another occasion I had an unfriendly encounter
with a skunk in this same area. Duely taking notice, I
reeled in and moved to the edge of the inner-tube to
position myself for an emergency get away from what ever
was there. To my utter surprise a baby moose poked his head
out through the willows. He was only a few feet from where
I must have startled him because the defining bellow that
came from him scared me to death. The little guy tucked his
head away and disappeared. That was when I heard it! A black
boulder was crashing through the willows and heading toward me.
I leapt from the tube, threw my rod to the opposite bank and
swam like crazy.
Momma moose leapt over the beaver dam and landed right on top
of my tube. To her surprise as she landed on it, it flew into
the air and landed on her head. She thrashed and trampled that
tube till it was deflated and stuck in the mud. This diversion
gave me time to swim out to the main current of the river and
make it safely back to the picnic area. Shaken, stirred and
scared spit-less, I ran to the car and locked myself in.
Grandpa didn't believe my story and was upset I lost his
fly rod. I thought I was lucky just to be alive. It took
a couple of days before I could muster the courage to venture
back with Grandpa and his 30-30 to retrieve the fly rod. After
he pulled the tube from the mud he finally believed me.
Now, these things are just memories. The ranch is now gone
and turned into cabins and forest ranger homes. Grandma and
grandpa retired a few years later and bought cabin across
the street from the Henery's Lake Fish Hatchery. I miss
having the horses and the limitless access to open country.
I miss getting in trouble and finding ways out of it. Fishing
and the adventure in trying to catch the big one has made me
the happy man I am today. I hope that even-though the ranch
is gone my boy will be able to find his own adventures like
I did. So far he does pretty good without any encouragement
from me. My wife complains of bugs and creepy crawlies being
brought into the house and how he has to keep a cup of worms
in the fridge for his next outing with Dad.
I keep telling my wife that if she lets me buy him a cane
rod I can put a stop to the worms. That will be a tough sell
since I just got a new 3 weight Sage.
I feel like a little bit of a failure as a father for living
in the Salt Lake City suburbs working a 9 to 5 and not back
on the ranch. The truth of the matter is that I don't fish
enough. But I do look forward to hearing the fish stories
from my boy as we brave the wilderness in search of the
Best of Luck to all of you. Remember it not the "Big One"
but the story that goes behind it, that we all chase. ~ Paul D. Greenwood