Al Campbell, Field Editor

October 13th, 2003

Random Thoughts on the Idaho Fish-In
By Al Campbell

The drive from Rapid City, SD to Lowell, ID takes about 14 hours. By the time I arrived, I felt like a cow had kicked me in the backside and was nearly deaf from listening to loud music to keep me awake. I drove the last 70 miles of twisting road in the dark, windows open to keep me almost cold and well awake. It was worth the trip.

The fly tying tables in the Rumpus Room are a great idea. We were able to leave our tying stuff there without losing anything or worrying about it. I'm always happy to be involved with a group of honest folks. There is a wealth of knowledge available in that room to anyone willing to learn. A lot of learning did occur, and we all grew because of it. Learning is at least a third of the reason to go to a Fish-In.

Meeting other people is at least another third of the reasons to go to a Fish-In. Meeting new people has an enriching effect on the mind and spirit. You quickly learn that we are all very different, and yet we are all bound together by a common theme. It is impossible to attend a Fish-In without some sort of gain in mind and spirit. The amount of gain depends on you and how willing you are to share time with others.

I got to fish with a lot of new people. I made a point to do that. I met new friends and shared time in the evenings with old ones. Some of the people I fished with were fairly new to the sport and others were very skilled. I am very impressed with the quality of people who attended, and feel FAOL has the best people reading it that anyone can find. Old and young alike, we have a fantastic brotherhood going here. Remember that when the cold winds of February howl and the shack-nasties start eating away at you and your bulletin board comments.

I was very impressed with a lot of people, but would like to take the time to mention one very special person first. Cole's Uncle Kurt probably impressed me the most of all. It is rare indeed for an uncle to take the responsibility for a young person for a whole week, but even more rare for a person to go so far out of the way to fulfill a young person's dreams the way Kurt did. He traveled a lot more miles than I did to make that happen, and I'd say it was worth a pot of gold to one special young person. It was special to those of us who observed it too.

There were a lot of people I wish I could have fished with. Conversations around a tying table or campfire are great, but fishing with someone is a better look into the soul of that person. I barely scratched the surface of all those who attended, and I made a point of fishing with new people each day. It might take me a decade to fish with everyone, but by then there will be new faces to add to the list.

Some of the folks who attended were gourmet cooks. It wasn't just the great barbecue either. The delightful delicacies served up by the campfire crowd from a Dutch oven were impressive and tasty. It's interesting to learn more about other people's interests and hobbies. Where else could golfers, black powder gurus, biologists, PA's, writers, students and more come together under a common theme? A campfire has ways of opening up insights that otherwise would go unobserved. And hey, that 'Z' guy picks a mean guitar too.

By the way, I didn't do all the instructing either. I got a bit of help concerning a sloppy backcast from one of the most graceful casters I have ever observed. I think he was a bit hesitant to say anything, but I'm grateful he did. I cast fairly well, but sometimes it takes the observations of someone else to correct a problem you can't see behind you. I bet my double haul will be better next year. Thanks Steve Z., for the observant tip. I accept it with gratitude.

The last third is reserved for the other intangible and tangible things you gain from a Fish-In and sharing time with other people. It is comprised of jokes, conversations over meals at the diner or around a campfire, laughs and mishaps. It's baring your soul a little and letting others get to know something about you that otherwise would be hidden. It's watching a young guy catch a trout on a fly and knowing you have just observed a first.

It is watching a guy fill his waders with water in one slip of a foot, and sharing the laugh after making sure he is all right. It's the graceful arch of a well-executed cast, and the backlight on a bent rod that makes the rod and line glow. It's the red slash under the jaws of a cutthroat trout and the brilliant colors of a cold-water fish. It's taking a few moments to watch a salmon tend a spawning bed, knowing that nature has a way of tending for itself if we don't interfere. It's a rattlesnake on a trail where you wouldn't expect to find one.

It's the smell of cedar and fir mixed with pine, and the sound of water tumbling freely over a rugged river bottom. It's the delicate beauty of a deep, glass-calm pool that only a rugged river can provide, and the rugged beauty of a place that hasn't been tamed. It's wild turkeys crossing a campground on their routine morning walk. It's the puffed neck feathers of a mountain grouse defending its territory. It's a smile and warm handshake from someone you just met or someone you haven't seen for a long time.

For all these and more, I'm grateful I was able to attend the Idaho Fish-In. My spirit has been enriched and my faith in mankind renewed by those who attended with me. My soul has been enriched by a landscape that was created by a hand that knew rugged country has a renewing effect on the body and soul. My mind got a break and that had a good effect on a tired body.

To everyone who contributed to the Fish-In activities, I'm grateful. I enjoyed meeting each of you. I look forward to the next meeting, knowing I will gain much more than I give. It was and is treasure money can't buy. Until our next meeting friends, God Bless and take care of yourselves. ~ AC

Previous Al Campell Columns

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