We get to start today’s article with a quiz – 1,000 bonus points to anyone that can tell me the first recorded instance of use of a fly rod and artificial fly in the American West. Hint, it was July 8, 1847.
Wilford Woodruff had recently returned from his mission trip to England (where fly fishing was invented and perfected). There, he learned the art of fly fishing and came to love it so much he bought a rod and flies to bring with him to America. He was with the expedition company for the Mormon Pioneers in Fort Bridger, Wyoming.
At the old stockade, the company took a day to rest, and Wilford Woodruff rigged up his rod and headed out. His journal entry that night is one of my favorite passages of literature of all time. He says:
“I went & flung my fly onto the water And it being the first time that I ever tried the Artificial fly in America, or ever saw it tried, I watched it as it floated upon the water with as much intense interest As Franklin did his kite when he tried to draw lightning from the skies. And as Franklin received great Joy when he saw electricity or lightning descend on his kite string in like manner was I highly gratified when I saw the nimble trout dart my fly hook himself & run away with the line but I soon worried him out & drew him to shore.”
Woodruff continues that he fished the Black’s Fork River in Fort Bridger for three hours, catching 12 fish. That is the same river and the same location that I grew up fishing. Whenever I get the chance, I love to go back to that spot and imagine Wilford Woodruff coming back to camp to show off his catch.
This past week, I was able to attend a family reunion up in the Snowy Range Mountains. I took many of my nieces and nephews out on the creek to teach them how to catch fish with the “artificial fly.” Most of them had never caught a fish before, and all of them had never used the fly.
I watched their faces as they concentrated on that fly, and watched the excitement and pure exhilaration as they saw the nimble trout dart at their fly and hook themselves. We had a fabulous week. Everyone that wanted to catch fish caught as many as they wanted. One niece that was particularly excited about fishing said, “Thank you, Uncle Matt. This is the best thing that has ever happened to me.”
It has been almost three years ago that the paper approached me and asked me to start writing a monthly column on Wyoming politics. This month, I just cannot do it. When did it become that everything is about politics all the time?
My political advice for this month is to take a break. Shut off your phone. Turn off Facebook. Delete Twitter entirely. Go to the mountains. Get away from the division and the vitriol and constant drumbeat of people trying to manipulate us to hate each other. Go on a hike. Go on a picnic. Take your niece fishing. Watch a nimble trout dart at your fly. Life is infinitely better.