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Lasting Relationships

Nov 12, 2015 | Mike Lawson

A J Campbell with Rick Lawson and a 27 inch Hybrid this October


In early October I spent a couple of days fishing with A J Campbell, Tim Stamm and my brother Rick. All of them guided for Henry’s Fork Anglers in the late 1970s and early 80s. Rick is now a CPA in Pocatello, Idaho; A J is a surgeon in Columbus, Ohio and Tim is a cardiovascular perfusionist in St. Louis, Missouri. We had great fun fishing together at a spectacular time of year. We also spent a lot of time talking about the old days when Henry’s Fork Anglers was a mom-and-pop operation in its infancy. One thing they all had in common was they talked about how much they enjoyed their guiding days, the experience it provided working with the public in their professions today, and perhaps getting back into the game after they retire. Rick still maintains his guide license and runs a few trips for us when we’re in dire straits and need another guide.

Smitty nets a nice rainbow caught by Barry Austin


Later on one of our great friends and customers, Barry Austin, came from Texas to fish with us as he has often done over the past 35 years. His son Chris guided for Henry’s Fork Anglers in the early 1990s. I fished with Barry and my brother Rick for a couple of days. Barry also booked a couple of days with Smitty. He was alone so he invited me to fish with him. What an opportunity it was to spend a couple of days with one of the premier guides in the industry. Smitty has guided for us for about 30 years now. Before that, he worked for Will Godfrey, who had a shop just up the street. His son Tyler, who now guides in Alaska, also guided here.

In late September another good friend and customer Bill Horn, had two of our senior guides, Tom Grimes and Dom Traverso booked to fish the South Fork. One of their group couldn’t go so Bill invited me to fill the other slot. It was an incredible experience to join two guides with a combined level of more than 60 years of experience guiding for Henry’s Fork Anglers. I couldn’t help but think about how fortunate I am to have such men working for me for over thirty years but to also count them among my closest friends.

Bob Lamm has been getting it done for 40 years


In early June Deven Ence joined my son Chris and me for a day on the Henry’s Fork below St. Anthony. Devan worked for Henry’s Fork Anglers as our assistant manager before Kast Gear swiped him away from us to become their national sales manager. We had a great day using dry salmonfly patterns. There were eager browns and rainbows in every run and riffle. We lamented the fact that we didn’t have more guide trips out on such a great day. Early June offers some of our best fishing yet it isn’t a very popular time. Even though we lost Devan to Kast, he still guides weekends on a part-time basis.

This week Bob Lamm joined me for a duck hunt on our ponds just off the Henry’s Fork near St. Anthony. Bob is a champion caller winning the Idaho State championship the only years he had time to compete. We had a great hunt with a resulting limit of fat mallards but most important, we had time to spend together that we don’t often get these days. Bob, along with Curt Barker, has worked with me for all but the first year our shop opened in 1977. It’s hard to believe we’ve worked together for almost 40 years.

Hootie dragging the raft 1500 feet into Cardiac Canyon


In the old days I spent a lot of time fishing and hunting with these exceptional men because business was quiet and we had more time to do it. Today, all of our senior guides are booked to guide every day or they have other commitments on the days they don’t guide. Spending a day with any one of them is truly a treat and a privilege.

It was also my pleasure to spend some time on the water with some of our guides who haven’t logged as many years as our old-timers. Early in June my wife Sheralee and I arranged a day to float Cardiac Canyon below Lower Mesa Falls with John Mauldin (Hootie as he is known in these parts.) What fun we had hooking rainbows and fat browns that seemed to hold in almost every spot you expected them to be. I was especially thankful for Hootie’s youthful body which allowed him to drag the raft down the steep trail and for his knowledge of this special section of the Henry’s Fork. I thought back of years past when I was young and we slid our hard drift boats down the big slide, something that is not legal today. Now I feel fortunate to drag my own body down the steep trail to the river.

Matt Murphy nets a nice cutthroat for Robert Dotson


Later in the summer Sheralee and I joined Robert and Kelli Dotson for a two-day float through the South Fork Canyon where we stayed in our designated camp on the river. Robert is a former chair with the board of the Henry’s Fork Foundation. Check out his photos at Our guides were Matt Murphy and Colton Schofield. Both guides got us into a number of nice fish and were especially patient with the girls. In fact, I think I was hung up and tangled up more than the girls and they were patient with me as well. The camp was fun, very comfortable and relaxing. It had been a few years since I’d stayed in the camp which was upgraded this year. The new tents have hard bottom carpeted floors, beds with comfortable mattresses, soft pillows and down comforters. The food, catered from the South Fork Lodge, was exquisite.

Tom Grimes doing what he does best with client Bill Horn


In Idaho all rivers are designated for a specific number of outfitters. Last year we were fortunate to acquire a legal outfitting permit for the Teton River. Chris and I spent quite a bit of time helping our guides gain experience on this important trout stream. This year I had the privilege of guiding Mikey Langford and long-time friend Twinkle Chisholm, on one of the sections of the Upper Teton. Mikey worked for us in our shop in the late 1980s and started guiding soon after that. He guided each summer until he acquired his law degree and he is now a very successful criminal defense attorney in Salt Lake City. It was cold and rainy which made the fishing difficult but we all enjoyed reminiscing over 40 years of guiding and outfitting.

This year we will celebrate our 40th year. We incorporated Henry’s Fork Anglers in November 1976. Whether they have worked for us from the start or started guiding later on, all of our guides are proud to be a part of our legacy. Most of my closest friends and men I respect the most are current and former fishing guides. Last week I attended the Henry’s Fork Foundation board meeting and reception held in San Francisco. It was great to see two former Henry’s Fork Anglers’ guides, Chris Brand and Dan Kappes.

Getting personal time on the water with any of our guides is difficult as they work almost every day. One of the reasons I still personally guide is so I can work together with our guide staff. I still like to be part of the game. I love it as they do. My personal time to guide is very limited. We have always tried to follow the advice I received from Bud Lilly many years ago and that is to spend as much time as possible in the shop. With that in mind we have some guidelines with regard to our managers including Chris Lawson, Todd Lanning, and me. First and foremost is to make sure that we don’t bump one of our full-time guides out of a trip. Therefore, we can only guide if everyone on our staff is already booked and we do not take request trips. Our retail shop comes first so we also must make sure at least one us can be in the shop at all times. Yet this still allows us to be on the river a few days each summer working with our clients and fellow guides. Those are days we cherish.