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Living the Dream

Feb 2, 2021 | Mike Lawson Mike_Ranch_III.jpg

It’s been awhile since I’ve written a blog. Usually I write a season review but I’m going to wait a week or so for that. I woke up this morning feeling a bit melancholy. I think it is mostly a result of our cold gloomy weather, facing more of it for the next 6 weeks or so and the political division and unrest in our country. Above all COVID-19 continues to dig its ugly claws in which has had a dire effect on everybody in one way or another.


I’ve always believed happiness is a choice, not an involuntary result. Even though I get down on occasion I’m a glass half full kind of man. I agree with the late Andy Rooney who stated “Life is like a roll of toilet paper, the closer you get to the end the faster it goes.” At my age there is no reason to rush things along. Winter will pass and we’ll beat COVID-19. I expect the country will pull together, at least I hope it does. In the meantime I can reach inward to resurrect my own happiness. I’ve found the best way to do it is to be grateful. As I sit at the window in our beautiful new home looking down the Henry’s Fork I look back on all of the turns my life has taken over the years. Sometimes those turns went the wrong way but in every situation I gained more experience and knowledge to help focus on where I was going.


I was born and raised in the middle of some of the finest trout water in the world. My dad and both of my grandfathers loved to fish. Our family was tight. Even though I lost one grandpa when I was seven and lost dad when I was twenty-one, I had the chance to share time on the water with the other grandpa in his extended years. I married a beautiful local girl who always lived up to my dreams and has been a wonderful mother to our three children. One of my greatest joys in life has been to be a grandpa. I cherish the memories I’ve shared with my children and grandchildren. Indeed the rivers run through our family legacy.

I graduated from college with a teaching degree and spent 6 years teaching shop at South Fremont Junior High School in St Anthony. What a blessing it has been to live in a town with a world class river running through it. Our small fly tying business supplemented my meager teaching salary and eventually led to the organization and development of Henry’s Fork Anglers. With the help of Sheralee’s dad, we jumped into it all the way and gave up the security offered by my teaching job.


We struggled and sometimes floundered which resulted in more sleepless nights that I care to remember as I wondered where our next meal would come from. I’m grateful for our two sons, Shaun and Chris, and our daughter Jeanette who bucked it up and supported us in every way they could. They have each shared and lived our dream in their own way.

Our river has experienced its own peaks and valleys. Thankfully I think it is as good today as it ever was due to the efforts of the Henry’s Fork Foundation and other organizations and individuals who have given everything they can in its behalf. Our most difficult years were when the river was down. Thankfully the down years have been left in the taillights and my hope is it stays that way.


It quickly became evident that it would be very difficult to make a go of it relying on our seasonal business. I had to find other income opportunities in order to make ends meet. I wrote magazine articles and a couple of books. I also conducted fly fishing presentations for fly fishing groups and sports shows. One of my dearest memories was teaming up with Jack Dennis and Gary LaFontaine as the Traveling Fly Fishermen. We were together almost every weekend during January, February and March. It was a great experience sharing time with Jack and Gary. We connected with old friends and met new ones. One thing I took away from those days is that no matter who we are, what we do, what we believe, we’re all the same when it comes to fly fishing.


The path I’ve followed has led me to many of the great fly fishing destinations across the globe. It has given me a greater appreciation for what we have right here in my backyard. I couldn’t have done it without the support and sacrifice of my wife, Sheralee, who was often left to run the business and take care of our family and our home when I was gone. Now that our family is raised she can accompany me on my travels. This year we’re staying close to home. It will be our first winter in some time without going to a warm place to fish.


Most of all I can go fishing. I spent more time on the water this past season than I can remember. I fished all of our rivers except the Madison. They’re so stirred up there that I decided to stay away. The Henry’s Fork was terrific this year. So was the Teton and the South Fork. I get quite a few invitations to fish distant waters but I’d rather fish here than drive somewhere else. If I can’t get there in an hour, I don’t go. I also enjoy sitting in my house, listening to John Prine, and watching the river.

If you’re reading this, you are connected in some way to fly fishing. It is my hope that if you get a little down you’ll focus on all of the great things that this great pastime provides. It will get better. We’ve got a great season ahead.