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Personal Highlights of 2017-Part 2

Dec 29, 2017 | Mike Lawson Brown_Trout_Vertical.jpg

I had a chance to fish with several of our former guides who have moved on to other professions that now privilege them the bow of the boat instead of the middle seat. Chris Austin, who guided for us in the early 1990s, brought a group from Texas where he now lives. I don’t do much guiding anymore but it was really a pleasure to share the Teton from the old dam down to Hog Hollow with Chris and a friend, Jeff Askew. They each caught some fish up to 20 inches or so but the highlight of that trip was a back gainer with a twist performed by Jeff into a deep pool near the end of the float. I think he would have scored high on the difficulty of the dive but he would have been severely penalized for the size of the splash.


In late August four veterans including Steve Bennett, Eric Cetovick, Daniel Ortiz, and Jake Thacker fished with us. They were recipients of a trip we donated to the Henry’s Fork Foundation for their Boise reception. The trip was purchased by the Help Up Foundation an Idaho based organization to help veterans cope with the many challenges they face. Originally the donation was for one guide for two days but when we realized who these guys were we threw in two additional donated days. I sincerely appreciate Todd Lanning who is a Marine himself, Tyler Treece and Tom Provost for donating their time to help these guys by taking them fishing. They had a blast and caught a bunch of very nice trout. They stayed with us in St Anthony. They cooked some very fine meals on our outdoor grill and spent hours into the night sitting around our fire pit. What an experience it was for Sheralee and me to be a part of this. Not only to these veterans but to all who are now serving and have served in our military we salute you, we honor you and we thank you for your service.


I also had a chance to share Smitty’s boat with former guide Mikey Langford. Mickey insisted on fishing the South Fork above Smitty’s protests. In the end I think Smitty was really happy we made the drive because we had a great day of fishing. It was an education to me watching Mikey rip fish with a Golden Stone Nymph, something I rarely fish. I also was invited to share a day with long-time customer, Charley Pettigrew on the Lower Teton with Curt Barker. Curt and I both congratulated Charley on the great job he did keeping a 2 foot brown from eating his fly. The big fish gave it an honest try but couldn’t finish the task before Charley pulled the fly out of his mouth. Charley got back at us landing a 23 inch brown on a dry fly his last cast of the day at the take-out.


In early September Todd Lanning and I spent a day on the South Fork rowing my friend Simon Dickie and his New Zealand team mates as they tuned up for the Jackson One Fly. Their team had never finished higher than the bottom 4th of the pack of 40 teams and this year they wanted to change their luck. In New Zealand they never fish from a moving boat and they almost never fish streamers. We had a fun day and they caught lots of nice fish. After the event Simon reported that their team finished 3rd. Sadly I now look back on that special day with the realization that I will never see him again. As I reported earlier he died suddenly not too long before Christmas.


In early October one of our highly requested guides, Colton Schofield, invited me to join him and a friend to fish the Teton Slide. We only allow members of our guide staff who are young, eager and physically fit to guide this challenging and demanding trip. Colton is young, lean, tough and more than capable of handling the demands of sliding the raft down the deep gorge and rowing the whitewater. While we likely could have caught trout on big dries with nymph droppers it was a streamer only day. I’ve rarely seen large fish but this stretch is loaded with 14 – 18 inch Cutthroat Trout that act like they’ve never seen a fly before. Unlike my two young buck friends, I was literally tired of catching fish by the time we hit the take out.


Along with the Ranch I spent a lot of time on the Upper Teton in September and especially October. Not only does this section of water get heavy hatches of blue winged olives but there are also big Gray Drakes. These mayflies are as large as a size 8. The hatches aren’t heavy but the larger trout are often on the prowl for them. I shared some memorable days with my wife Sheralee and our grandson Tanner. I also focused on water that is walking distance from my house. It always amazes me how good fishing can be at St Anthony. There are other towns with great trout rivers running through them like Ennis and Livingston, Montana. They promote the heck out of this while St. Anthony quietly looks away. Some of the local realtors build on this but otherwise St Anthony doesn’t commercialize this great resource.


By mid-November I traded my fly rod for my Mathews bow and spent most of my evenings in a treestand. While I never pulled the string and took a shot, I saw some nice whitetails. Rather than take a questionable shot I’d I opted to wait. It never happened but there is always next year.

My last cast of the year was for bull redfish in Louisiana. I donated the other seat in my boat to the Henry’s Fork Foundation which was auctioned at Henry’s Fork Day. It was purchased by Robert Dotson. Robert is strong supporter of the Foundation, a past board chair and a master photographer. You can check out his work on his photography website. Our weather was less than ideal but we each managed at least one 20 lb+ bull redfish as well as plenty of smaller fish. It was really a pleasure having Robert join me on the trip.


Looking back there are always things I wish I could have done different. To start with I didn’t get enough time with my favorite fishing buddy, my wife Sheralee. We got out a few times but not nearly enough. I missed fishing with a couple of close friends who I have always fished with at least once or twice a year. Hopefully I can change that this year. I wish I would have taken more photos. I didn’t spend as much time as I would have liked to in the shop. I always enjoy meeting people and sharing whatever I can to help them get the most out of our fishing. It’s also fun for me in the mornings when everything is hopping with guides and their clients getting ready to go to the river.


One of the best things about our year was having our grandson Tanner working with us in the shop. There aren’t many businesses of any kind where there are three generations of the same family working together. While I wish I had more time to fish with Tanner, we had some great days fishing together. I had the chance to fish with about half of our guide staff and I hope I can fish with the others this year. They each have special talents, abilities and personalities. I always learn something whenever I fish with one of them. As I look to the New Year the prospects point toward an epic season. The flow from the Island Park Dam has held at almost double the long term seasonal average while it has been well below normal for the past three winters. The work on the Hebgen Lake Dam is complete which should greatly improve fishing on the Upper Madison. The reservoirs are almost full. We’ll provide a detailed prognosis later on. Until then we wish you a happy, prosperous, great fishing New Year.