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
I have had with Bryson I still can't help but desire for him that,
which 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 Wolf 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
The water was only about three feet deep but to an eight year
old this was pretty deep. I usually had an old 5' 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 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.
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 Greenwood