No. 1 on our fishing bucket list
Henry’s Fork Lodge in Island Park, Idaho has been described as one of the 100 places you must fish before you die. Even Dottie, whose first love is not fly-fishing, agreed it should be at the top of our fly-fishing bucket list. We put it on the list many years ago, shortly after our first-ever fly-fishing trip together, which was almost our last.
She wasn’t a fly-fisher when we married. It took me some time to convince her to try. One fateful hot July weekend several months after we were wed, she agreed to go with me to Rick’s Lodge on the Fall River, east of Redding. I’d never stayed or fished there, but heard it was a great place to fish.
It was hot and muggy when we pulled into Rick’s parking lot. The air was so thick with bugs it looked like we were in a snowstorm. I noticed that on the river, trout were feeding like hogs at a trough.
Dottie saw only bugs, holding her breath as we dashed for the reception office. One look at the tiny, spartan rooms (sans air conditioning) was all it took. She turned around and headed back to our car swatting the bugs away as she went. There, she turned on the A/C and refused to budge.
“But honey, look at the river. Fish are rising all over the place,” I shouted through the closed car window.
Her reply suggested that I’d chosen a place worse than Alfred Hitchcock’s Bates Motel in the movie “Psycho.” We left.
On the drive home, I didn’t have to ask what I must do if I expected her to go fishing with me ever again.
Her list, repeated several times so I would commit it to memory, included nice accommodations, room service, air-conditioning and good food; a Nordstrom’s nearby would be a plus. On the water, it could be neither too hot or too cold, and the bugs must keep their distance. A stream-side Starbuck’s somewhere along the way would be a plus. Of course, she expected to catch fish as well.
My quest since that day has been to find that perfect place.
In the meantime, I negotiated a compromise. As long as the food was good and lodging was reasonably comfortable, and the weather and bugs not overly oppressive, she’d join me for fishing trips. In turn, I agreed to alternating destinations, featuring things she liked most. Along the way, she became a pretty good fly-fisher and weathered some less-than-perfect conditions in doing so. I liked her vacation choices, and we always enjoyed the company of many good friends and travel companions.
But I never gave up trying to redeem myself for my original sin, bringing her to the “Bates Motel” of fishing lodges.
I visited numerous fly-fishing shows, met scores of lodge owners and read their brochures. However, that perfect “Camelot of fly fishing” remained just out of sight. But early in my research I heard about Henry’s Fork Lodge. It sits not far from Yellowstone National Park on the Henry’s Fork River, one of the greatest dry-fly streams in the world.
I showed Dottie the brochures. Even without a nearby Nordstrom’s, she agreed it could be the one. But there was one big problem. It was very expensive. In those early years, while we were both working and raising our four children, Henry’s Fork Lodge was way beyond our budget.
Year after year, we’d look at the latest brochure or magazine article only to decide it still was beyond our budget. It still is, but we decided this year to go there anyway.
No place will ever match the fishing Camelot of my dreams, but I hope Henry’s Fork Lodge will come close.
Watch this space.