“We just can’t keep you away from here,” was the cheerful greeting I got from the man behind the counter as I walked into Idaho Angler at 7:30 a.m.
“Good morning, Dale.” I said, lifting my cup of tea. “You are in the exact same spot where I left you yesterday morning.”
“Yeah, Dale has a secret hideout on the second floor storage room where he sleeps.” Said, Jake Thacker, fellow guide and colleague. I didn’t see Thacker at first. He was hidden behind the full display of fly rods as he checked out the latest Patagonia hip packs available.
“I should have a bed up there. It would make getting here much easier.”
“We will have a little sign on the door up there…” Jake said, lifting his hand up to the imaginary sign in front of him, as if reading it, “…It could say ‘Dale’s Room’.”
“You would be the shop’s house elf.” I added. Thacker started to laugh while Dale gave me a look as if to ask, “what the hell is a house elf?”
All kidding aside, it’s a good thing we have someone like Dale who is reliable and willing to be at the fly shop so early. In fact, one by one our entire team of guides trickled in to prepare for the day… starting with Dale and Thacker, followed by myself, then Erik Eikanger, Tom Governale, and Tim Mansell. The Idaho Angler team was arriving early and in full force, because today was the big Mission 43 Women Veterans Fly Fishing Event.
Mission 43 was created so military spouses, or anyone who has served in the military, can succeed in Idaho through the pillars of education, employment, and engagement. Each pillar of success is paired with personal advisors that can help individuals succeed in acclimating to civilian life after the military. Furthermore, civilians are encouraged to join Mission 43 alongside their military family members. For more information, follow this link: https://www.mission43.org
With rods and reels assembled, the Idaho Angler team was ready for the day. Women from Mission 43 started arriving and it wasn’t long before all parking around the shop was packed. Although I am new to the team, it was apparent to me this was a well-oiled machine. Jim Goodman had arrived to help Dale get licenses ready for the women who didn’t already have them, while Thacker Governale and I set them up with waders and boots.
Idaho Angler manager, Tim Mansell, was going over the day with the coordinator of Mission 43, Brad Blair. Brad himself discovered the organization at a time when he most needed it. With the help he received, he is now dedicated to the success of Mission 43 by running the events. Brad had already set up a large red flag were everyone was to meet up after all the gear was squared away.
“You ready for this?” Mansell asked, as he placed yellow strips of tape to his fly rod.
“I am, but what are you doing?” I asked Tim, as he strapped another one of his Lamson Velocity fly rods with the yellow tape.
“This is so I know which fly rods are mine.” He said, his gaze shot over to the group now forming in the yard in front of the red flag. That’s when I realized what Tim was looking at. A row of ten Lamson Velocities, all with the new Guru reel and Scientific Angler fly line, were lined up and ready for the casting lesson.
“Oh…” Was all I could muster when I discovered the conundrum.
“Well you are welcome to do the same, only not with yellow tape.” Tim smirked, tucking the yellow tape out of my view.
Fifteen women were properly outfitted with waders, boots, and belts as they practiced their overhand cast on the grass. Each guide, including myself, worked with individuals to get the casting portion down before heading to the river. Laughs were being heard all around as some struggled to properly lay out a fly line. Seeing the struggle from afar, I ran over to Sarah, who was not applying enough power to her back cast. A quick adjustment made strides, and by the end of the session she was properly laying out a nice presentation that could easily fool a handsome hatchery trout.
As everyone gathered for the picture before we headed off to the river, I caught up with Sarah.
“How do you feel about your cast?” I asked.
“Actually, pretty good.” She said, with a tinge of wavering confidence.
“Well, from my point of view, you made the biggest stride out of everyone in developing your cast.”
“I did?!” Sarah said, with a smile.
“Yeah… But you also started as one of the worse, so you really had the furthest to go.”
“Ooooooh!” She said, laughing.
“I’m kidding, and hey! You can cast a fly rod now.” I said.
“Yes I can!” She admitted, before the group photo.
It was now time for the best part of the day: time to go fishing. A convoy of vehicles headed to Barber Park and I was right behind them. I was also able to gather back the very fly rods that were mine from the group. All I had to do was remember who I handed my rods to before casting… Sarah was one, and the other was Margee.
Barber Park is one of the most popular places to fly fish, so I was a bit concerned that it may already have a number of anglers fishing the stretches we were about to overrun. As soon as I stopped my car, I hopped out and ran to the river to see if there were any other anglers on the water. I figured if there were any others, I would do my best to explain what was about to happen around them, and that our time would be limited. Etiquette on the water is an important policy for Idaho Angler, and seeing no one on the water meant we were in the clear.
The women followed their guides to the water, while I drove my three to the other side of the bridge to have river-right all to myself. Margee, Sarah, and Heather held their fly rods as we walked to a spot that looked promising. With all three right next to me, I quickly explained nymphing and got them all into position to fish.
Across the river I could see Thacker and Eikanger doing the same, with Mansell downstream from them. Governale joined me on river-right, walking further downstream as we fished. Together the team of Idaho Angler and the veterans of Mission 43 easily consumed every portion of the stream that make up Barber Park.
Sarah, Heather, and Margee were all nymphing on what I would consider promising water. The water-loading technique is a lot different than the overhand cast in fly fishing, but each one picked it up fast. The time spent working on the overhand cast made water-loading simple.
Cheering could be heard from Mansell’s group downstream. A glance over suggested a fish was being caught, but they were too far away to tell for sure.
I was sure to explain the process of covering water when fishing, pointing out where we started and where we were headed after thoroughly fishing a section of water. One of the worst things you can do is stay in one spot on the Boise River. The river can be tricky at times, offering up great holding water with no fish in it. And no matter where we fished, it seemed that was the case.
With the number of anglers we had on the river, you would think someone would have been into a fish at that point, but nothing was happening. As a guide, for me, this is very stressful. I want my clients to catch fish, and I do everything in my power to make that happen. On the slow days, I have to be ready with other things to make the day better, and today was going to be one of those days.
Sarah did have one opportunity when her indicator shot under, and in a fraction of a second I could see the flashing of a fish trying to spit the hook.
“Set the hook! Pull back! It’s a fish, it’s a fish!” I screamed, but it was too late.
“Sorry, I wasn’t looking.” Sarah said.
“That’s when they like to eat…let that be a lesson.” I said, with a laugh.
“I will.” She said.
Both Sarah and Heather were out of the water with frozen toes. As they warmed up on the bank, I went over to Margee.
“How are you doing?” I asked.
“Doing good, but no fish. I may have missed one though. My indicator went down for a sec.”
“Did you set the hook?”
“I did, but I was late.”
“Darn. Looks like Sarah and Heather are done, and it’s almost time to get off the water.” I said.
Margee looked back and saw the other two chatting.
“Yeah, I’m ready to get out, I just didn’t want to be first.” She admitted, before handing me her fly rod and getting off the water.
You would never know that a fish was not caught. Margee, Sarah and Heather were still enjoying the day with laughter as we walked back to meet with everyone. The weight of not catching a fish was starting to lift with the joy of a good day regardless.
“Would anyone like a snack?” I asked, getting back to my vehicle.
“No.” Was the unanimous answer. I shuffled in the cooler and brought out the snack.
“Whoa, wait. You said a snack, not a chocolate bar.” Sarah said.
“You want it then?” I asked.
“YES!” She said, with Heather and Margee also accepting the “snack”.
“It’s not about the number of fish caught…This is what makes be the best guide.” I said, and my students agreed.
It wasn’t long before the entire crew of Mission 43 were back together again and reminiscing about their day on the water. Us guides were also chatting about the day. It turned out it was one of Mansell’s clients who had hooked a fish, but it popped off before they got it to the net.
The organizer of the event, Brad, came back around and thanked us for our services. We all went and said goodbye to our individual clients before gathering our own gear together and calling it a day. The Mission 43 event was a success, and the next one will be the men’s fly fishing event. We are looking forward to that in a few months.
It is often thought that one has to be at rock bottom in order to receive or ask for help. Not true. If you are doing just fine but would like to further your education, are looking for better employment, or are simply seeking the camaraderie amongst a fellow military family by attending events like the fly fishing outing, it’s easy to get involved with Mission 43. You never know what you may discover. https://www.mission43.org