“Many men go fishing all of their lives without knowing that it is not fish they are after.”
—Henry David Thoreau
Rivers call out to me.
They have for years now, melodically enticing me to escape the thoughts and cares of the world and slip into the peace of a stream — fly rod in hand.
Prolific writers with infinitely more gifts have described the mesmerizing effect that fly-fishing on America’s waters can produce, and I’m here to testify that I unequivocally agree with all their sentiments. For me, there is simply no place on God’s Earth that relaxes and clears my mind more than working a river in search of trout.
Of course, the demands of daily life — running a business, raising a family, coaching youth sports — result in not having many opportunities to answer the call of the river. We all make choices about how we spend our time; we’re perfectly comfortable with our priorities and are not complaining.
Yet, there are those glorious occasions where the urge to answer the call of the river is so strong that you drop everything to make it happen. Fortunately, our family was able to create one of those occasions this summer when we visited my parents’ cabin on the bank of the south fork of the Payette River in Lowman, Idaho.
A week of fly-fishing and exploring the natural beauty of central Idaho near the Sawtooth National Recreation Area was just what the doctor ordered for me personally. If the trip would have been a doctor prescription, the medicine would have been called “Clear the Mechanism.” I can picture the prescription label now: Take one “Clear the Mechanism” each day for a week, preferably in a gorgeous natural environment, and your mental batteries will be fully recharged.
All vacations are designed to transport you away from the daily grind, but nothing quite erases the mental chalkboard like fly-fishing. The south fork of the Payette doesn’t sport monster trout like you might expect in Idaho, but there is enough action for a dry-fly, catch-and-release enthusiast to get a fix.
This year’s fishing was special because it marked the first time our sons, now ages 11 and 9, were old enough to safely stand up and work the river on their own. They were thrilled to haul in their own catches, and their casting progressed nicely each day. They still don’t necessarily understand the difference between an elk hair caddis and a yellow humpy. But the boys admitted to having more fun than they expected — and they showed more patience and interest than we expected.
Any visit to the Idaho cabin is also special when my parents make the trip with us. The cabin has served as a labor of love for my parents, with them completing different parts and adding on other parts, including a garage over the years. My parents experience their own personal version of “The Good Life” when they are at the cabin, just as the Kinkade painting hanging on their cabin wall describes it.
If you’re in need of a “Clear the Mechanism” moment and you have the inkling, head to the river with fly rod in tow. Many have said that fishing often isn’t about catching fish. Fishing offers the opportunity to disconnect. It offers silence and solitude. And as author Norman Maclean so eloquently put it in his novel, A River Runs Through It, fishing offers shelter where “… all existence fades.
Dan Francisco is an El Dorado Hills-based public relations consultant to the high-tech industry.