#1 on our fishing bucket list


Henry’s Fork Lodge in Island Park, Idaho has been described as one of the 100 places you must fish before you die. Even Dottie, whose first love isn’t fly fishing, agreed that this should be at the top of our fly fishing bucket list. We put it on the list many years ago, shortly after our very first fly fishing trip together, which was almost our last.

She wasn’t a fly fisherman when we got married. It took me a while to convince her to try. One hot and fateful weekend in July, several months after our wedding, she agreed to accompany me to Rick’s Lodge on the Fall River, east of Redding. I had never stayed or fished there, but heard it was a great place to fish.

It was hot and muggy when we pulled into Rick’s parking lot. The air was so laden with bugs it looked like we were in a snowstorm. I noticed that on the river, the trout were feeding like pigs at a watering hole.

Dottie saw nothing but bugs, holding her breath as we rushed to the reception desk. One look at the tiny, spartan rooms (no AC) was all it took. She turned around and walked back to our car, picking off the bugs as she went. There she turned on the air conditioning and refused to move.

“But honey, look at the river. Fish are coming up everywhere,” I shouted through the closed car window.

His answer suggested that I had picked a worse place than Alfred Hitchcock’s Bates Motel in the movie “Psycho.” We left.

On the way home, I didn’t have to ask what I should do if I expected her to come back fishing with me.

Her list, repeated several times for me to remember, included nice accommodations, room service, air conditioning and good food; a nearby Nordstrom would be a plus. On the water, it can neither be too hot nor too cold and the insects must keep their distance. A Starbuck by the creek somewhere along the way would be a plus. Of course, she also expected to catch fish.

My quest ever since has been to find that perfect place.

In the meantime, I negotiated a compromise. As long as the food was good and the accommodation reasonably comfortable, and the weather and bugs weren’t too oppressive, she would join me on fishing trips. In turn, I agreed to alternate destinations, featuring the things she liked the most. Along the way, she became a very good fly fisherman and withstood less than perfect conditions. I have enjoyed his vacation choices and have always enjoyed the company of many good friends and fellow travelers.

But I never gave up trying to redeem myself from my original sin by bringing it to the “Bates Motel” of fishing lodges.

I have visited many fly fishing shows, met dozens of lodge owners and read their brochures. However, this perfect “Fly Fishing Camelot” stayed just out of sight. But early in my research, I heard of Henry’s Fork Lodge. It sits not far from Yellowstone National Park on the Henry’s Fork River, one of the largest dry fly streams in the world.

I showed the brochures to Dottie. Even without Nordstrom nearby, she agreed this could be the one. But there was a big problem. It was very expensive. During those early years, as we worked and raised our four children, Henry’s Fork Lodge was well over our budget.

Year after year, we would review the latest brochure or magazine article to decide that it was always over our budget. It still does, but we decided this year to go anyway.

No place will ever match the fishing Camelot of my dreams, but I hope Henry’s Fork Lodge comes close.

Watch this place.


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