Foldenhour's 14-year-old nephew, Alex, spent
the first Friday of his Spring Break wondering why.
Why wasn't he in Florida? On a beach? Why wasn't he in
his family room playing video games? Why was he
sitting and shivering on an upturned plastic pickle
bucket in the middle of the St. Croix River all alone
staring at an ice hole?
"There was," he said, gazing at my fly tying vise
later that evening, "nothing going on."
This sent the Afton Ace on a short tirade. "Nothing
going on? Why there were bald eagles flying over. Down
the ice were hundreds of geese flying in and out.
Below was a whole world of activity. Crappies and
bluegill, walleyes and sauger, pike and channel
catfish, all swimming around. All of that incredible
insect life coming to life. Don't talk about nothing
Ah, so here is Foldenhour playing the role of
Professor Henry Higgins of the grand outdoors in this
odd production of "My Fair Nephew!"
The kid was moved. He worships the ground his Uncle
Foldenhour walks on, and is coming to realize there is
a whole different world outside of his comfy suburban
Des Moines home. Whether it's the timing or pure
coincidence, Foldenhour and Alex are taking this "Take
a Kid Fishing" thing to the max.
For Foldenhour, it's more than fishing. It's hunting
wild turkey, whitetailed deer and asparagus; seeing
glimpses of eagles - it's the outdoors and life far
beyond the thumb games of the young and innocent.
Evidence of this transformation, in fact, was a list
taped to the cabinet door of Foldenhour's kitchen -
this kid is, even at this age of blossoming, a
confirmed list maker - noting his wishes for an
upcoming birthday, Christmas and Hanukkah.
Besides his moments on the St. Croix, and later on
Mille Lacs and West Lindstrom, the kid is getting a
24-hour Spring Break education on wild turkey hunting,
chasing deer, and all of the other things shown on
Foldenhour's favorite outdoors channels. It's working.
A quick glance at the list indicates the awakening.
1. Wild Turkey Call.
As we chomped down a chicken and artichoke heart
pizza and sipped some delicious red wine, Alex watched
with deep interest as a strip of rabbit pelt became a
fly. Moments later a grouse feather magically became
another type of fly, both coming with instructions on
how to fish them for spring bluegill.
2. Deer Stand.
3. Ladder to Deer Stand.
5. Bow. (Mom, it's called a compound.)
6. Insulated boots (this was duly recorded after his
long, long day on the St. Croix ice).
Alex was a willing and eager student. He was quickly
creating lists of ingredients and steps for the making
of each of the flies.
"Those are called 'recipes,'" I told him.
"Yep, same as with food."
Along with the flies came the stories. Old tales told
between friends. Stoking a fire in the wood stove amid
the laugher. We have some good ones, and Foldenhour is
a fine story teller. Meaning, of course, there is some
fine tuning and embellishment along the way.
And, just like Eliza Doolittle under the tutelage of
ol' Professor Higgins, Alex soaked it all in. Between
Foldenhour's story on my mistaking the mating call of
grouse for a pre-dawn heart attack and my sudden
disappearance over the back of the canoe in the BWCA,
Alex was motioned over. "Wanna tie one of these?"
"Wow! Can I?"
He pulled up a kitchen counter stool to watch over my
shoulder as I started the thread, and several moments
later we were looking over a simple and completed fly.
"Now it's your turn," and we traded places.
Alex had no sooner started when he said, "But, I'm
Now that put a whole new spin on things. These are
moments when you thoroughly appreciate the talents and
patience of teachers. While you couldn't fathom a more
willing student, try teaching someone how to do
something completely backwards. I would show him a
step, then Alex would turn the vise around to mimic
what I had done and unwrap the step. Both of us had
hands of thumbs. Finally it came down to this. "Alex.
I'll show you how to do it, then you do it just the
"Doggone it," snapped Foldenhour, "you're making a
liberal out of him!"
"I'm already liberal, Uncle Matt," said the kid
"What does politics have to do with this?"
"It's just the thought," said the Ace.
Somehow we made it through our first fly, then he
tied a second on his own. He was quick on the uptake,
and was eager for more. We tied a second, then a third
As a fly emerged we'd talk about how it was fished,
which would then lead to another story.
Such as the morning on a nearby lake when we paddled
onto some bluegill you might expect to catch in a
mature and under-fished farm pond, when our fly rods
arched and bounced to a point where we simply had to
take a break to rest from the action.
Moments later we were paddling mysterious Fox Lake
near Willow River, where we tied into some sassy bass
and even spunkier bluegill. As the tales emerged Alex
kept his head down and his wrists slowly spinning
thread onto another bare hook shank. His flies were
improving, and after each was tied it went into a fly
box that had somehow magically appeared.
Finally it was time to turn in, and in the morning as
Bon Bon readied eggs before the boys headed off for a
day of fishing, I happened a glance at Alex's list.
7. Fly tying kit.
8. Fly rod.
Like ol' Higgins said, the kid has promise! ~ JW