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Lessons from the Boat

Fishing for the fun of it

Published in the June 2022 Issue Published online: Jul 07, 2022 Discover Idaho Falls: Parks and Recreation, East Idaho Outdoors, Outdoors Matt Hyde
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WITH MY PROFESSION, I HAVE THE OPPORTUNITY TO HEAR FISH STORY AFTER FISH STORY.

“The one that got away,” or “you should have been here yesterday” are common openers. In the end, fishing stories are exactly that—stories. Well, here’s one of mine.

Most fly fishermen know about the salmonfly hatch on the Henry’s Fork of the Snake River. The salmonfly, or pteronarcys californica, is a three-inch insect that hatches from the first week in May to the first of June. In a matter of a few days, they break from their nymph stage to adult stage, then they mate, lay eggs and die. During this time, fish literally gorge themselves on the insect. And if you’re lucky enough to be on the water during this time, it is quite easy to catch fish.

This was one of those days. I invited three of my six daughters with me. Kenzie, Macy and Mailey, or tenderly known in our home as numbers two, three and four.

When I go up to the Henry’s Fork, I usually call Dave’s Jubilee and order the salt and vinegar chicken and buy two bags of cheese puffs. We then drive to Warm River Bridge and feed the fish with cheese puffs and keep the other bag for the float. We have found over the years the fish at Warm River Bridge love cheese puffs the best.

After setting up my fly rod with my favorite salmonfly pattern, “The Pterranasty,” we floated down the river. The fishing was good. We caught quite a few. I then noticed cheese puffs floating down the river and realized my little number four was divvying them out. Two for her, one for the fish. Two for her, one for the fish.

As we got closer to a spot that I knew held a few larger fish, I focused on helping Kenzie, our second daughter, make the right cast, hoping she could set the hook on one of these bigger fish. Sure enough, the big boy came out to play.

This 24-inch plus rainbow came up out of the abyss, mouth wide open and engulfed her fly. With all my excitement, I politely and calmly informed her to set the hook. (All cards on the table, I yelled, “SET! SET! SET!”) The fish took the fly, went back into the abyss, and by the time I could get up and grab the rod, the fly floated back up to the surface. Our fish got away.

As I was again politely informing her that all she had to do was lift up on the rod, she turned to me with tears in her beautiful hazel eyes and said, “Daddy, you’re not making this fun.” Oh, how those words pierced my heart.

Henry David Thoreau said it best: “Many go fishing all their lives without knowing that it is not fish they are after.”

McKenzie said it second best.

After 45 years of fishing, I can offer this advice: Don’t focus on the fish. Make it fun. Make sure no matter what you do, it’s a great story that will awaken their enthusiasm and your joy.

It isn’t about how many you catch or how big it is. It’s about finding fun in the journey.

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