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A Summer To Remember

A couple of weeks ago my parents came out to visit me. I was able to take them around the Henry’s Fork and the Tetons to show them what I have been doing here. As they were leaving, my mom told me how much she enjoyed seeing me in an environment that brought out the most in me. I can’t help but agree. Not only has Eastern Idaho given me the outdoor outlet I need, but the Henry’s Fork Foundation has given me a purpose I can get behind.

The folks and I enjoying a float down lower Harriman

I feel blessed to have been put in a position where I feel like I am contributing to an effort that benefits not only anglers but the overall environment around Henry’s Fork. Most of my time has been spent out in Harriman State Park installing temperature monitors and collecting data from them every week. I have floated, biked, and walked to the loggers, spending a lot of time just to get data. Despite this time in Harriman, I find myself going out there after work with a rod in hand and a hopeful fly selection that often turns out fruitless. During these times, at work and on my own, I have had some experiences I hope to cherish for as long as I’m alive.

Worn in HSP temperature monitor

Bird in flight

As I rode my bike out to Big Bend, my mind was buried in thought. It was about 6:30 in the afternoon and I had to get the data off this final temperature logger. It had been a long day, but longer than it should have been. That was on my own accord, so the logger couldn’t wait until the next day. I was riding along and a persistent, deafening bird call sucked me out of my mind and back into the present. I looked up to see a long, curved, and slender bill attached to a bird in flight. It became very apparent it was not happy with my presence. Its shriek pierced my ears and raised my heart rate. I found myself standing up to push past this bird as quickly as possible. What a territorial bird that one was. I kept pedaling to reach my logger and soon forgot about the interaction. It didn’t even cross my mind that I would have to return the same way.

With the data from the logger housed safely on my phone, I was feeling better every foot closer I got to my car and, ultimately, my bed. As I got within striking distance of the bend that the bird inhabited, the shriek came again. I wasn’t happy about it, but I knew I just had to get out and around the bend. Yet the bird kept getting closer, and the shriek became shriller. Rounding the bend, I noticed a smaller version of the same bird on the trail running away as quickly as possible. It quickly became apparent that this was the offspring of the parent that was practically ready to dive-bomb me. The problem was that the young one headed in the same direction I needed to go. My only choice was to pick up the pace toward the young bird, get it to move, and then try to get out of its territory as quickly as possible. Obviously enough, mama didn’t like this move. She followed me for a long time before finally letting me live.

As it turns out, this was a Long Billed Curlew. They are quite amazing creatures that use their highly modified bill to dig for worms and bugs in the mud. Despite their smallish size, they can become highly aggressive during nesting season and have been known to attack predators like coyotes and even humans who get too close to their offspring. Mama Curlew let me off easy, and I am ever grateful that she did. I hope her brood grows up tall and strong.

Enjoying the sunset

Fish in hand

What is a better way to sum up the summer I’ve had so far than an anecdotal tale about the fish I caught on the Ranch? Now, at this point, I’m sure you’re thinking this goes like any old fish story, and you’re probably right. The reason people have fished the Henry’s Fork for 40 years and still come back is for the very experience I’m about to talk about. Still, I think it’s important to note that it was not a 50-fish day or even a 10-fish day that did it. It was this single fish after days of getting skunked that made me deeply and eternally fall in love with fishing.

The sun had already dipped below the horizon and all it left was a gold and silver shimmer on the water that turned it into a mirror. It was that perfect time of night where fish are easily seen rising yet, of course, they weren’t. We had spent a few hours getting into some fish who ultimately stuck their noses up at us, and the action seemed to be fading. It was shaping up to be another night where we left empty-handed. I had made my rounds on either side of the river and now I was getting ready to call it. I couldn’t complain, really. Getting to be outside in a beautiful place while watching the sunset will forever make me feel lucky to be alive.

Then, when I least expected it, a fish started rising about 30 feet offshore practically beckoning me back into the water. “No stone left unturned”, I thought as I waded back in.

It felt like the world enveloped me. This fish was sipping at the water and every time I tried to get close enough to cast, it would push a little further downstream and a little further away. I would try to get a cast out but who am I kidding? I’m barely a 50-yard caster. My only choice was to follow it. I would get closer, and it would keep moving away. Finally, I just stood there to watch. Its black head would emerge from the molten gold and disappear only to reappear seconds later. It then nudged just close enough for me to get a fly down to him (with no drift I might add)! I wasn’t over-excited, and the fish didn’t hit the fly with the force of the gods. It pushed the fly down and I picked my rod up. It just felt correct.

I think this relates to my experience as a whole here in Idaho because just as there are a million ways to catch fish, there are a million ways to live life. But, for whatever reason, my time here in Idaho has just felt correct. I feel this assurance deep in my core that I am on a way of life that is meant for me. It feels as meant to be as it did to catch that fish, and yet I know none of it was planned for me. I don’t believe in fate. Luck is always involved. I got lucky catching that fish just as I got lucky landing this internship.

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