Here, there’s no such thing as luck.


I always say there’s no such thing as a lucky catch on the South fork of the Snake River. Every fish is earned — even if they are small, especially if they are big. It’s a holy water out there that renders every trout powerful with a divine and beautiful strength making it a fair wrestling match between man, river current, wind and trout every single time a fella hooks up.

Robert caught this lovely cutthroat at near dark, just off the gravel bar we parked our raft on for the night. I had built a fire and was pulling out the stove to cook dinner when I heard him call out the words, “Loo, I have one on!

 I left what I was doing to watch him carefully play this fish and eventually bring it to hand. The sun had set. All was dusky. I looked out over the water and saw trout after massive trout rising like porpoises alongside an ocean going ship; backs humped, slick and shining, rising up against the river current to take bugs off the surface in a full fledged feeding frenzy. It was the witching hour for fish — something I have been privileged to see so often in this blessed life of mine.

 This cutthroat was a dapper old dandy, such a honor to catch, inspect and release back into the night to once more do his bug slurping from the surface of holy waters. I watched him leave Rob’s hand, kick his spotted tail in reckless contempt of the August breeze, disappear into the river, and I whispered to myself, “Amen.”

Green River, Utah

I’m currently writing a personal essay on river travel and water.  It’s not ready for publishing here (and frankly, I may save it for something else I am working on).  However, I think these images tell the story of our Green River trip quite well!  I would love to say that it was a trip of a lifetime, but the fact is, Rob and I are going to run this river over and over and over again.  Sometimes a place changes you, gets in your heart and soul.  Some places are unforgettable, little homes away from home.  The Green River is one of those places for me.  I’m tethered to it now, for all of time.

Please note, any images that I appear in are courtesy of my husband Robert.  I didn’t take a single self portrait on this trip!  Unusual for me!  I must have been in vacation mode or something…

A Worthy Fish

[Worthy Fish Ring :: sterling silver]

It was my father who taught me to use a spinning reel.  Oh, I don’t know, I must have been four or five years old.  In return, I taught my dad how to catch Northern pike.  I schooled him.  I showed him how I could cast my trusty five of diamonds long and far, reel it in steadily, adding a little herky-jerky action with a repetitive wrist flick.  Reeling, reeling until the leader ran up fast to my rod tip and bumped into the smallest eye on the rod.  Then I’d cast again.  And again.  And again.  Until I caught a fish.  I had the patience and faith of a saint.

The rest is history, as they say.  I brought them in little.  I brought them in big.  Those pike snapped their heinous teeth at me, howled at the moon like water wolves.  They bit me and drew blood.  Oh.  It was a wild battle every time I caught pike.  Every now and again I bonked one on the head, cut it to pieces with my little red Swiss army knife and cooked those white, shimmering fillets over a fire on an outcropping of rock, by a set of rapids on the Churchill River system of Saskatchewan or a quiet shady lake.  I cooked my fish.  Slapped at mosquitoes.  Listened to the wind in the jackpine and birch.  Then I ate that hot fish, picked the bones off my tongue tip, watched the rapids, heard the water thunder, and felt that wild pike in my belly willing me to reach up, shining and narrow, to snap at the clouds in the Northern sky.

That’s why I ate them, you know, especially the fierce little ones that tried to bite my fingers off.  I ate them because I wanted that wild ferocity inside of me, mingling with my DNA, billowing my lungs like the pedals on an old Anglican church organ.  I wanted the fuel of fierceness, the wild and insane fight of a pike in my belly.  I ate a lot of pike the first twenty years of my life.  It’s  probably why I’ve such a stalwart spirit of rebellion inside the cage of my bones.

After pike, I moved on to walleye.  You know you have walleye on the line when you feel them slam into your hook and then fall suddenly silent.  You wonder if you bumped a rock with your lure, or a big patch of weeds.  You wonder.  You wonder.  You reel in some line, carefully, tentatively and suddenly your walleye will begin to fight.  And it’s a good fight.

Walleye.  Pike.  The fish of my younger years.


Somewhere in New Zealand, on a backcountry hike lit up at night by the Southern Cross and glow worms, I fell in love with a boy when I saw him fly fish for the first time.  Imagine A River Runs Through It, but cut and paste a handsome photograph of Robert’s face over top of Brad Pitt’s and you’ll be able to imagine what I saw.  I sat down in tall grass, biting bugs be damned, and I silently watched his manly poetics as his fly line flashed like yellow silk ribbon between 10 and 2.  Rhythmic.  Controlled.  Effective.  Oh, heck.  I was hooked.  That boy caught me a twenty two inch rainbow trout one day when I was very hungry and we were out of food while hiking the New Zealand backcountry.  That was the best fish I ever ate.

He loved fish.  I loved him.  The fish loved me.  It was a bizarre love triangle.  Eventually, I married him, because I knew if we were ever starving to death he would go out and catch us a fish.  Well, that, and he’s quite handy.

After I married Robert, we moved to Alaska to work for a rafting company.  We lived at the confluence of the Klutina and Copper Rivers — both wild and legendary waterways.  When the salmon started running, we ate fresh caught fish every single night.  Robert was salmon obsessed.  Oh, he had a terrible fish fever.  But me?  In Alaska I fell in love with trout.

It was never too late to go fishing in the land of the midnight sun.  We thought nothing of loading the canoe on top of the rafting van at 11PM, driving for two hours to a lake or river, and fishing until the tiny morning hours.  We were mad for fish.  Robert bought me my first fly rod and taught me how to use it.  He’s still teaching me but I no longer look like a ridiculous bumpkin while casting, as we all do, right when we get started with a fly rod.  Robert was patient and freed my hooks when they caught rose, alder, birch, black spruce on a sloppy backcast.  In point of fact, for the first couple of months, I caught many more trees than fish.  He coached my rhythm a bit, showed me how to give a little action to a wooly bugger as I stripped it in.  He taught me how to tease trout.  How to wiggle a parachute adams above their hungry noses.  How to set a barbless hook in a cold lip and keep tension on the line until I had a fish in hand. He taught me to read water on rivers and lakes.  He taught me so much and I loved landing trout.

At first, I fished with Robert.  After a while, if he was out running errands for our rafting company, I started driving to the small lakes outside of Chitna, just to catch a fish or two, just to see them rising during the dusking hours.  No fish leaps for joy like trout.  I fell in love with their shining, shimmering, silver joy.

We eventually moved, that fisherman and I, from Alaska to Northern California to Arizona — where Robert was a fish biologist for the federal government.  Life in Arizona was pure fishes, every hour, every day, every month, for almost four years.  Robert was growing and researching a crop of 60 000 threatened and endangered fish in outdoor earthen ponds.  At night, while the Arizona sun was setting, I would watch him walk out on the levies with his fly rod.  He’d fish for his endangered fish, in order to inspect them for disease and record their growth.  His casting was as lovely as ever, even in a waterless, troutless land that man found something to catch on the fly.

Eventually, we moved North to Idaho, land of rainbow trout, cutthroat trout, steelhead and salmon.  And then we began to divide our life between Idaho and Washington, a state made of the same kind of fishes.  I am happy to be here.  The fishing is very fine, indeed.


It occurs to me that my life could be measured in fishes.  I can remember fish I have caught in specific places, the weather of the day, the mood of the water, what I was wearing.  Robert is similar.  We can hike a river together and he will point out the eddies and deep bends he has taken fish from.  I wonder sometimes if Robert loves to see a trout in my hand, the way I love to see a trout in his.

Trout.  They’ve been a steadfast part of our life.  A reason for travel and adventure.  A cherry on top of the desserts of life.  I think they’ve made me a better woman and Robert a better man.  Maybe it’s a slippery, rainbow flanked trout between us that ties and binds us like a golden band on a ring finger.  They are noble things, trout, a worthy fish.