There’s a couple of ways to look at this. First off, nobody has called, emailed or written that they have missed my blogs. Maybe nobody reads them anyway. Secondly, there are several viable excuses that include fishing too much, working too much and moving too much.
No question it was a crazy summer for us. We sold our home and property on the Henry’s Fork upstream from St Anthony after purchasing a smaller piece of property on the Henry’s Fork downstream from St Anthony. We moved out of our old place the end of September, rented a place for a month, and now live in the guest quarters while they are building the house.
Fishing also severely cut into my blog writing time. If you’re going to write a blog, you need something to write about. While I didn’t write about it this past summer, I fished enough on enough different waters to write lots of blogs.
I spent as much time as I could in the shop. I like to show up in the morning so I can work with the guides and spend a little time with our clients. I usually head back down the hill in the early afternoon. People often ask when I’m going to retire. I turned 73 this year and for now I’m about as retired as I plan to get.
This time of year is the time to reflect on the past season while looking forward to the upcoming year. It has been my experience that while folks are interested in what happened last summer, they are more interested in what to expect for the upcoming season. Both are relative. What happened last year can often give us a good view of what we might see for the upcoming year. Over the course of the upcoming weeks and months we will reflect on what happened last year but our primary focus will be on what to expect this year.
The most important message I want to share today is that of Thanksgiving. While our holiday is past the time of gratefulness and appreciation extends throughout the holiday season.
One thing for sure, our business could not function the way it does without the efforts of my wife, Sheralee. For the first few decades we were truly a “mom and pop” operation but it was mom, behind the scenes, where much of the positive energy originated. As our business grew Sheralee took on increased responsibility to merchandise our inventory and keep everything neat and clean both inside and out. She has always made sure that the signage and landscaping are attractive and welcoming. Inside she sees things none of the rest of us notice like dust on a shelf, a tee shirt out of place, or a dirty toilet in the restroom. She runs errands from the post office, to the bank, to purchasing supplies in Rexburg or Idaho Falls. She does it all and she has continued to do it since we first opened the shop over 4 decades ago. Along with this she enjoys spending time with our customers and is eager to help in every way she can. When I reflect back on the year and the past years before that, our success as a business as well as your enjoyment as a customer have resulted in some way from her quiet efforts behind the scenes. If you walk into the shop and find me behind the counter, you will almost assuredly find Sheralee somewhere about the shop quietly going about her duties.
I also sincerely appreciate our managers, our son Chris Lawson, Todd Lanning and the newest member of our management team Kerry Almond. They complete the day to day functions of running the business so that when I come to work, I can focus on what I do best – talk about fishing. In fact, they usually shudder when they see me on one of our point of sale stations. I usually create trouble if I try to sell a fishing license. It always amazes me how things seem to almost always fall into place during the morning chaos of getting 12 – 14 guides and our clients out the door and to the river.
Season after season I have gained a greater appreciation for our seasonal employees. They often don’t get the credit they deserve. They aren’t listed on our website. They are the ones who sell fishing licenses, help customers pick out the right fly patterns and other fishing gear and most importantly share their wealth of fishing information to help make your trip more enjoyable and successful. They are required to work 4 days a week and spend the other three days fishing which they can’t get enough of. Over the years we have used our seasonal employee program as sort of a fishing guide internship. The greatest percentage of our guide staff started out working in the shop. I’m especially grateful for the shop staff last summer of Max Hamlin, Sam Miller, John Cooper and our grandson Tanner Lawson.
I’ve written about our fantastic guide staff a number of times in the past. I’ve fished with guides all over the world and I’d stack these guys up with any guide I’ve ever met. We’re fortunate to have several of our guys that have worked for us for forty years. On a worldwide scale, what I think a lot of guides don’t have in this day and age is mentorship. Not a problem here. Over the past few years I’ve tried to personally fish with as many of our guides as I could. This past summer was no exception. We are fortunate to have great mentors, not only working here but for the other local fly fishing businesses as well. Overall, I think the quality of guiding here in the Henry’s Fork region is as good as it gets, not only with our own staff but also our competitors. My hat goes off to all of the guides.
I am thankful for our owner Mark Rockefeller. It was exactly 20 years ago this fall that we were approached about selling the business to Mark. Both Sheralee and I had very strong reservations but we listened and learned about Mark. From his football days at Princeton University, to his legendary grandfather and his famous father, to his own family and his love for fly fishing and the outdoors, Mark has honored his family name in every way. From day one he has asked us to continue to run and operate the business to the best of our abilities. He has earned the respect of our managers, guides and shop employees. He has the upmost respect for all of us and what we do. He has never tried to micromanage anybody. What he enjoys most is to come out whenever he can and fish our great waters with us. We are sincerely grateful for everything he has done to help make this business comfortable and enjoyable.
Most of all we thank you, our customers. Whether you drop in to purchase a fishing license and ask for fishing information or you take 20 guides trips and buy 5 graphite rods, we love and appreciate you. What a gratifying experience it has been to work closely with customers who love fly fishing. It’s the common bond we all share. I’ve never met a bad one (well, maybe one.) Whether you own a giant corporation or you’re a school teacher we’re all the same on the water. (I rank school teaching here because the rewards are not financial. I know because I was one for 6 years.)
From the bottom of our hearts we thank you and we wish you the best of the upcoming holiday season.