April 16th, 2007

The Premiere OnLine Magazine for the Fly Fishing Enthusiast.
This is where our readers tell their stories . . .

Life on the Ranch
By Paul Greenwood, Salt Lake City, UT

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 area.

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 was.

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 elusive trout.

Paul Greenwood

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


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