I have this secret place that I love to fish. I call it, “The Mini-Madison” because when I first fished there, it reminded me of my favorite river, the Madison, except instead of being “the fifty-mile riffle” like its namesake, this area is only 50 yards of excellent holding water containing exposed boulders, plunge pools, nice runs, and big brown trout. This special place has been my favorite fishing spot for over ten years now and I have caught some of the best trout in my life in its hallowed waters.
However, the last few years, I have really struggled to catch fish at the Mini-Madison. For a while, I thought the fish, which are mostly beefy brown trout, had wizened up to me. And then one day, I saw firsthand that there was a better fisher than I hanging out in the area–a big fat otter the size of a Labrador retriever–and I figured he was Playing for Keeps. At that moment, I realized that the fish were just not there anymore. After so many years of good, reliable fishing, this was a hard pill to swallow. I fished the Mini-Madison quite a few times this past spring both before and after my father passed away last March, but I did not move a single fish. I seriously questioned whether my days of good fishing at the Mini-Madison were at an end, but yet I still went in hopes that things would change.
Then, over the 4th of July week, as I wrote about in The Old Yellow Rod, I found my Dad’s Yellow Fiberglass fishing rod, which is the rod that he used the first time that we fly fished together back in 1999. Right after Dad passed, I had searched high and low for that rod, but just couldn’t find it. My brother’s father in law found it in my Dad’s trailer where I had looked before without success. I was so happy to find this treasure.
The following week, during my daughter Eden’s birthday party, I was talking to my youngest son Ben about fishing and he instantly wanted to go. He excitedly pled, “Let’s go fishing Dad!”
I responded, “Tomorrow,” but at the age of two, Ben does not quite grasp the concept of today/tomorrow/yesterday. He just wanted to go fishing right then and was disappointed that we didn’t get to go.
The following night–despite the lack of success at the Mini-Madison–I just had the feeling that the fish would be biting. I told my wife Kristin, “I’m going to go fishing at the Mini-Madison.”
She responded, “You’re taking Benjamin! You promised him.”
“Will you come with us? I don’t dare take him by myself.” I pled. “I may need your help if we get into trouble.”
Kristin really didn’t want to go, but finally gave in and said grudgingly, “I’ll go, but it’s not for you, It’s for Benny!”
I grabbed the baby backpack and Kristin and I took Benny to the Mini-Madison. As I suspected, the river was running picture perfect as I had seen it so many times before.
I commented to Kristin, “Tonight is the night. I know the fish will be biting.”
I strung up Dad’s Old Yellow Rod and tied on an olive Peanut Envy. Kristin helped me get Benny into the backpack and then onto my back. The river bottom was so slick that I had to be extra careful. I cast to every small hole as I carefully made my way out to what I call the “Long Run.” Upon arrival, I cast up between two boulders a few times with no follows, but on the third cast, I had a vicious strike. When I set the hook, the brown blasted out of the water and we knew we had a big one on. Benny giggled with glee.
I hollered to Kristin, who was sitting on the bank, “Video this!” and she used my iPhone to capture Benny and I slowly making our way over to the bank with a nice bend in the rod.
In my excitement, I yelled, “We got a big fish Benny! And on Dad’s Old Yellow Rod!”
When we reached the bank, Kristin took some excellent photos of me and Ben and our fish.
Kristin said to me, “That’s a monster!. You knew tonight was the night, didn’t you?”
“I sure did.” I responded.
I’m happy to report that since this glorious July evening, I have fished the Mini-Madison numerous times–always with the Old Yellow Rod–and it is back and good as ever. Each trip, I have brought numerous sizable browns and a rainbow to hand. One morning, a good friend, Scott Johnson, and I brought as many fish to hand as I did all last year. This sudden comeback has been both a surprise and a pleasure, “Oh me of Little Faith!”
Some may chalk this comeback to pure coincidence or happenstance, but not me. I believe that things happen for a reason. For so long this secret spot has been my sanctuary, a place of peace in a troubled world. And this year–with the loss of my Dad–has been particularly hard. When I needed it most, I found Dad’s fly rod and suddenly the Mini-Madison is back fishing as good as ever. It’s almost as if the Old Yellow Rod has magical properties, but I know that’s not it.
Today in church I heard a quote from Thomas S. Monson that captures my thoughts on the matter:
Our Heavenly Father is aware of our needs and will help us as we call upon Him for assistance. I believe that no concern of ours is too small or insignificant. The Lord is in the details of our lives.
No, I don’t believe that any of this is a coincidence. Keep fishing with faith, my friends!