Meandering Angler: Guides can make all the difference

At first, I couldn’t tell who was more excited, him or me.|

Dottie and I were standing in front of Henry’s Fork Lodge, ready for our first day of fishing as our guide, Joey Maxim, pulled up. His truck was emblazoned on both sides with the word “MEND” in foot-high letters. I thought it was an ad for a fishing outfitter.

Joey seemed like an affable young man. He carried on a pleasant conversation with us as we headed for our eventual launch point on the river. I was curious about MEND, but, Joey’s enthusiastic description of the pending fishing, got all my attention in the moment, so I held the question for later.

Fishing guides are, by nature, optimists. Joey was no exception. He was assigned to us by WorldCast Anglers of Victor, Idaho, the outfitter where he has worked since 2018.

As we shoved off the bank and Joey started rowing us downstream, Dottie informed him that it was my birthday. I saw his face light up. He promised he would make it a very special day.

We hadn’t gone very far when he pointed toward the bank to a spot within casting distance near some trees overhanging the water. “Put the fly under those trees as close to the bank as you can get it,” he said.

I managed to get it close to where he pointed. Before I could take a breath, the water under it exploded and a very large trout sucked it down.

At first, I couldn’t tell who was more excited, him or me. Then I heard the whooping and yelling. It was Joey. His face was a picture of pure, unrestrained joy. He was genuinely happy for me, and because he was able to give me this gift on my birthday.

It’s normal for guides to enjoy helping their clients catch fish. They love fishing and guiding or they wouldn’t be doing it. But Joey’s happiness was so infectious, I felt carried along like a guy who’d just hit a walk-off home run.

A little while later, Dottie hooked a big, beautiful fish, receiving nearly the same joyful reaction from Joey. He was making our day of fishing more fun than any we’d had in a long time. And it wasn’t about the number of fish we caught, but rather the way he had all three of us celebrating each catch.

I wondered how, working day-after-day, he could maintain such an enthusiastic attitude. Surely, even catching fish can become routine if it happens often enough.

Only later, over a stream-side lunch, did we learn why fishing, and life in general, were so precious to Joey. The revelation began after I asked about the word “MEND” on his truck. He said it had to do with an accident he had in 2011 when he was 16.

He was a highly accomplished high school scholar/athlete bound for West Point when he nearly died in an auto wreck. He made it to the hospital but in an unresponsive coma, kept alive by a machine. His lungs were collapsed and spinal cord was damaged. He wasn’t expected to make it. His parents were told that even if he did survive, he might never walk or talk again.

The story of how Joey made it back from near death to rowing us down the Henry’s Fork River was both fascinating, inspiring and painful to hear. His miraculous recovery was preceded by a long, induced coma, followed by months in the hospital, heavy drugs, painful physical therapy and battles with depression and doubts about whether he wanted to continue living.

His story is captured in a documentary film entitled “Mend,” which won an award at the Telluride Film Festival, and can now be found on the Orvis company website,

Dottie and I were fortunate to fish with Joey for two days. We didn’t watch the documentary until after the second day. Knowing him made the experience even more meaningful. We understood why “MEND” was boldly printed on his truck. As parents ourselves, we understood what his parents and family went through, their horror and despair, and then later great joy when he not only recovered, but graduated from high school and later from the Western States Guide School.

Our two days fishing with him will always have special meaning to us. He is a remarkable young man.

If you ever get the chance to fish in Idaho or Wyoming where Joey works, contact World Cast Anglers,, and ask them if Joey is available. We guarantee that you will have a joy-filled day.

UPDATED: Please read and follow our commenting policy:

  • This is a family newspaper, please use a kind and respectful tone.
  • No profanity, hate speech or personal attacks. No off-topic remarks.
  • No disinformation about current events.
  • We will remove any comments — or commenters — that do not follow this commenting policy.