By Chris Hunt
As I write this, I’m tucked into a cabin in Island Park, Idaho. We were chased off the lower Hen
ry’s Fork yesterday by high water, but found some willing browns in the nearby Warm River, a spring creek that runs generally clear, even after a spring snowstorm that hit the area yesterday morning.
We’re fishing around here today on some private water before heading north to Helena and, eventually, Craig, Mont., where we’ll rendezvous with some other friends for a couple of days on the Missouri.
It’s a road trip.
And I’ve learned a bit about road trips over the years. And I’ve developed a few simple rules that, easy to conjure, are often challenging to execute.
First, you have to like the folks you’re traveling with. There’s nothing quite so troubling as being tucked into an SUV that’s packed tighter than a tick with somebody who makes you wish you were riding strapped the roof rack. Or wishing you could strap them to the roof rack.
Second, your companions better share your mission. In this case, the mission is shaking off winter and finding some trout. I’ve been told over the last couple of days that I clearly had a tough winter—all I’ve done is talk about what it might be like in a couple of years to be a winter Texan. And, yes, this winter was brutal (here I go again). So brutal that I am seriously pondering what it might be like to plant my camper on the beach in South Texas sometime after Thanksgiving and tow it home sometime after Easter. To hell with winter.
But I digress. Shaking off winter. Finding trout. So far, we’re batting .500. Winter is clinging to the Island Park Caldera, but we did, as I mentioned, find a few beautiful fish. Rule Two is a work in progress.
Steve and Mike are great traveling companions. They’re the guys who don’t mind interrupting a conversation to turn up the radio when “Fat Bottomed Girls” comes on, and they can resume the discussion, which is often about fat-bottomed girls, when the song ends. Rule One is adhered to on this trip.
Third, you have to find road-trippers that can go with the flow. If the fishing sucks, or the weather sucks, they have to be able to take it in stride. Having traveled with both of these guys before, this one was easy. We’ve all been through slow days on “epic” road trips and have emerged out the other end, usually with the help of a tumbler of whiskey (or tequila, or rum, or … well, you get the idea) and some great stories about other road trips that included better fishing and better weather.
Rule Three. Check.
Fourth, silver linings are important. Mike had a tough day on the water yesterday, and I would have, too, if I hadn’t, in a fit of laissez faire angling, tied on a bright yellow Woolly Bugger, just because I wanted to see my streamer in the slightly stained water. Turns out, the browns wanted to see it, too. I got lucky. Mike? Not so much.
But when we got to the cabin and tipped the cover off the hot tub, my buddy’s stress visibly melted away, and the tough day spent standing in frigid water casting in bouts of wind and sleet was all but forgotten. Tomorrow is a new day, after all, and tomorrow, for Mike, started last night after his toes hit the 104 degree water.
Rule Four. All good.
Finally, leave your stress at home. This is a tough one, frankly, because we all have stress. Job stress, family stress … life stress. But these guys are pretty mellow, and, after all, this is a trip that’s meant to recharge and rejuvenate, not ruminate. I think it’s healthy to share your challenges with your buddies, gain some perspective, and then drop them like a hot rock and sing along with the stereo.
So far, so good.
I love a good road trip, and we’re off to a good start. Now… if the fishing cooperates, this has the potential to be one of those epic journeys we speak of when the next one doesn’t quite go as planned.
Chris Hunt is the national editorial director of Trout Media. He lives and works in Idaho Falls, Idaho.