The one that got away

Mike Stone fishing the South Fork of the Boise River.

By Mike Stone, 2009 Volunteer of the Year

“We need a bigger net.”

Even in the middle of winter those words, exclaimed by my wife from the banks of the South Fork of the Boise River last summer, haunted my dreams.

The inversions of winter paint the Treasure Valley sky a dirty gray, this in stark contrast to the bright blue seen on days of late summer. I love the late summer in Southwest Idaho. The days were long, and the waters of the South Fork of the Boise River just below Anderson Ranch Dam flowed clear and teemed with hungry fish. Looking for great action and great scenery, my wife and I often travel there from Boise. Sixty miles from Boise does not disappoint, and the vista of a deep desert river canyon presents an exciting and promising opportunity for the angler.

As we floated several early rapids, my wife took a turn at the oars as I loaded my rod and shot a hopper with a beaded dropper into a relatively calm pool. Barely allowing the fly to sink I lifted the rod to carry on.


I thought I’d hooked the bottom, but then noticed the wake, a powerful swell leading away from the eddy, and my line zipped from the reel, confirming it was no rock I’d hooked.

The aesthetic visuals of fishing are what draws me to the sport, and those pictured memories serve me well months later. The gin-clear waters of the South Fork of the Boise River make it easy to spot fish, and often a hooked trout will rise above the surface, counting on his acrobatics to free itself from hook and line. This fish, however, had another strategy, and that was to torpedo in the other direction. Getting a good look would require landing him.

A dorsal fin a great distance from the tail was all I could see as my wife rowed us to shore. Taking in line as fast as I could gave way to repeated moments of letting it play out. I was humbled as the fish continued to signal that I was not in charge. I began to lose hope that the tiny barbless hook would hold long enough to land the disobedient athlete. I asked my wife to grab the net. She grabbed it, stepped beside the boat, and then I heard those haunting words: “We need a bigger net.”

Unable to fail tradition of any good fishing story, I must report that the biggest ones do elude our landing nets and camera lenses. In my mind’s eye, I can clearly view the moments of that day last summer. If only I could edit a single moment: a longer flash of sight at a creature wondrous to behold.