I SHOULD HAVE LISTENED!

Below is another short story that was cut out of the final version of my book, Heaven on Earth: Stories of Fly Fishing, Fun & Faith. It originally appeared in the third chapter, “Where Can I Turn for Peace?” It’s a fun story. Hope you enjoy it! Here it is:

. . . . When my wife and I returned that fall to Moscow, Idaho for my final year of law school [summer of 2000], I resumed my quest to experience all of the local rivers. One place that I had seen, but never fished before was Elk Creek below the falls, which are a popular tourist attraction. Like Potlatch Canyon near home, Elk Creek is located in a steep and deep gorge, which I realized would be a chore to hike in and out of. Earlier that summer, I purchased a brand new Loop 7/8 weight fly rod primarily for steelhead fishing in Northern Idaho. I had little opportunity to use a fly rod of this size in Southern Idaho. However, this new rod and big grasshopper patterns sounded like a good combination to sock it to the trout of Elk Creek.

Shortly after our return to Deary and still a few days before classes began, I informed Kristin of my plan, jumped in Blue (our 1999 Ford Escort Station Wagon), and drove toward Elk River, the closest town to Elk Creek. After following the signs that pointed to Elk Creek Falls and reaching the parking lot, I grabbed my back pack and took my rod and reel out of its case. I even thought to myself: Maybe I should leave the rod in its case during the hike for safekeeping. Then I responded to my inner voice, Na! It’s just extra weight. The trail to the falls overlook is well kept and fairly easy to hike. However, upon reaching the canyon rim, the hike down the dusty steep trail became arduous and slippery. Nevertheless, I was committed and I carefully slid my way down the steep trail.

The Infamous Root Wad . . . Mind over matter baby!

To my chagrin, the trail was blocked by a huge downed tree. In order to make it to the river fifty yards below, I needed to skirt my way around the huge root wad. I carefully began to work my way around the obstacle with my front facing towards the downed tree, my hands holding onto the roots and my new rod at the same time, and my back towards the downhill side. Despite my cautiousness, I somehow took a false step and fell ten vertical feet below with my brand new rod still in hand. Upon impact, I was not really hurt, but my new rod snapped like a twig. Although only a short distance from the creek, I was now rodless and had to hike back out without catching so much as one fish for my efforts. Nor would I ever have the equipment necessary to catch a steelhead in Northern Idaho during law school. The moral of the story is: Listen to that cautious (sometimes nerdy) inner voice or you might just fall off a cliff and break your rod.
This is the last falls of a series of three. It’s definitely a beautiful place!
Never one to accept defeat easily, the following day, I again set out, this time with my five weight Orvis—in its case mind you—to conquer (or be conquered again by) the Elk Creek canyon. This time, I safely made the hike down into the canyon and it was worth all of the pain and struggling. As I suspected, the countless rainbows readily pounced on grasshopper flies. I noticed red spawning kokanees, which had come up from the Elk Creek Reservoir, but as before, they were entirely uninterested in my offerings.

Unforgettably, at the base of the lowest falls, in the shade and constant mist, I cast into the pretty run just downstream of the falls and a fish eagerly chomped my grasshopper imitation. Upon landing this fish, I noticed that it was a decent-sized brook trout, an unexpected, but beautiful bonus. Of all the fish I caught that day, this is the only one that I took a picture of. I still look at that picture often and remember the hard hike into that canyon, but also the great rewards that followed. Sometimes, the hardest things in life are the most worthwhile.

This is not the best photo, but I was stoked to catch this beautiful little brookie at the base of the falls.

There you have it, folks. Another moral to the story is that persistence pays off. Looking back, I’m glad I didn’t let that little mishap keep me from hiking back down into that beautiful place!

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