Photo Courtesy of Henry's Fork Angler
By Chris Hunt
The Osborne Bridge over the Henry’s Fork in Island Park is unremarkable. There are no mighty cables suspending it over a vast expanse of ocean. No intimidating trestles that span a vertical chasm. No massive pilings driven hundreds of feet into dark water.
This modest span of humdrum concrete and asphalt is no engineering marvel, either. It’s downright average to look at. Boring, even.
But it spans perhaps the holiest stretch of trout water I know. And, because its surface is only a few feet above the river, there’s always just enough incentive for me—no matter the time of year—to slow the truck down and take a quick look over the edge at the stretch of fishy water on the upstream side. Usually, a second or two is all it takes for a rise ring to appear, or a fishy swirl to push frigid water. Just a sign… proof that they’re there … waiting for my fly, even if it’s months before I actually get to cast it.
Even in the dead of winter, this length of the Henry’s Fork will often flow free, providing watery refuge for fowl and fish alike. In high summer, as the short-grass meadows of the fabled Railroad Ranch end where the river begins, this stretch of river begs to tell stories to those of us who enjoy its divine visage for the split second it takes to cross it.
Bridges over trout water do that to us. They inspire brief moments of desire. Tiny reminders of what the day might hold if we were fishing instead of driving … wading wet amid snowmelt rather than sitting still behind a windshield.
Show me one angler who doesn’t slow, just a bit… just long enough to look for moving water, as the car crosses over a creek, and I’ll show you a poser—a phony fisher whose destination is more important than the journey. Show me one true fly caster who doesn’t tuck away the name of every stream spanned by bridges and crossed from the beginning of a drive to its end, and I’ll show you someone with misplaced priorities… a lost soul in need of a coldwater baptism.
Not all bridges are wonders to behold. But bridges over trout water grant us wonders nonetheless. They tickle our imagination and taunt our promises to arrive elsewhere at an appointed time. They grant us quick access to living water, whether it’s for a day, an hour or just the time it takes to drive from one side to the other.
Bridges over trout water are so much more than platforms enabling us unimpeded passage across otherwise impassible obstacles. They are portals to a world we love—entry points to our passion. We should pause at each crossing to take in that watery wonderland. We should anticipate those brief intermissions in our otherwise manic rush to get where we’re headed.
We should slow down.
Chris Hunt is the national communications director for Trout Unlimited.